CTERA Intros Hybrid Local-Cloud Storage Appliance

CTERA Networks, a provider of technology that combines local data protection and cloud storage, on Tuesday unveiled a new local NAS appliance which can be used for bare metal recovery of downed servers.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based CTERA also introduced new server agents to make it easier to backup and recover data related to specific application, along with the ability to do multi-user collaboration on files or folders stored locally or in the cloud.

CTERA, which last year exited stealth mode with a hybrid appliance that combines local and cloud storage with a device which added NAS capabilities to a USB external hard drive, on Tuesday introduced its first 4-bay, rack mount NAS appliance.

The new C400 also adds RAID capability as well as the ability to do bare metal restores of servers, said Rani Osnat, vice president of marketing for the company.

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Before, CTERA's technology could only back up data, but not a bootable operating system environment, Osnat said. "Now we can do it," he said. "We can also restore to a virtual machine if the server hardware is lost or destroyed."

That bare metal restore capability is very important for customers looking to leverage cloud storage as an alternate to local disks and tape drives for data protection, said Christopher Phillips, president of Internet Managed Security Services, a Tucson, Ariz.-based MSP.

With the C400, customers have local and cloud-based copies of their data and the server environment, and if a server goes down, it can be back up and running virtually on the appliance, Phillips said.

"The fact that CTERA sells a NAS device with bare metal recovery really leverages cloud storage," he said. "It gets customers' backups online really quickly. They can then get incremental data changes from their storage cloud."

Many other companies providing cloud-based storage also allow recovery to a virtual server, but that server runs in the cloud, and not locally, Phillips said. CTERA instead restores the server to a virtual appliance running on the customer's LAN.

"The majority of server failures are just hard drive failures," he said. "The ability to restore to the NAS is a huge economic benefit because of the speed of the restore."

Next: Tools For Providing Storage Services

Also new from CTERA are server agents for backing up and recovering data from live backups of Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server, and Active Directory, Osnat said.

The company also introduced Cloud Folder, a "disk in the cloud" which allows users to share data, send large files, and collaborate with multiple users, he said.

CTERA's offerings are aimed both at solution providers and MSP, and include a portal which makes it easy to manage multiple backups and devices being used by multiple customers, he said.

"We built this for a multi-tier channel because we feel that, especially in the SMB market, the landscape is evolving in a way that addresses how everybody it taking on multiple roles," he said.

For instance, Osnat said, MSPs can use the CTERA technology to set up their own cloud storage infrastructure for public or private clouds that can be used as a SAN, NAS, or direct-attached storage device, and then provide that service to other solution providers.

"Also, we offer a multi-tenant environment with service providers handling the back-end, including charges, while the solution provider remains the customer's face to the service," he said.

CTERA also gives solution providers a choice of how to implement cloud storage, Osnat said.

"If a VAR has a data center, or plans to build one, they can buy our software and use their own infrastructure," he said. "Or they can work with us via our MSPs for their cloud infrastructure."

Next: Relying On Partners

CTERA does not provide the cloud infrastructure itself, but instead relies on its partners to either provide that infrastructure or work with public cloud providers including Amazon, Rackspace, Nirvanix, or Mezeo, Osnat said.

The CTERA hybrid local-cloud storage solution providers also provides solution providers with recurring revenue opportunities, he said.

For example, he said, a solution provider could sell a CTERA appliance with two 2-TB hard drives and 100 GBs of online storage capacity over a three-year period, with recurring revenue over that time of about $100 per month, or a total of $3,600. The appliance itself costs about $700, he said.

"Partners could also charge for the appliance separately from the service," he said. "But I believe most solution providers will bundle it."

Phillips, who has been working with CTERA for about eight months, and who worked with the founders of CTERA starting three years ago when they developed security appliances for use with Check Point Software, said CTERA makes it easy for an MSP to work with other partners.

"You go to the CTERA portal, and you can remotely control desktop agents, server agents, and storage devices all from a single portal," he said. "No one else can do this. For a LAN integrator managing 300 customers, think of the efficiency. It's like a toolkit for offering managed services for storage."