Cirtas Unveils Appliance For Accessing Public Storage Clouds

Storage startup Cirtas Systems this week came out of stealth mode with news of a $10 million round of funding and the introduction of a new appliance that looks and feels like an enterprise array but which actually connects enterprises to a storage cloud.

Cirtas' new Bluejet Cloud Storage Controller makes public cloud storage work like an on-site storage array with such capabilities as storage, backup and recovery, and disaster recovery, said Josh Goldstein, vice president of marketing and product management for the San Jose, Calif.-based company.

"It's an appliance designed to look and feel and behave like a storage array," Goldstein said. "But it doesn't include any hard drives. Instead, it's tied into cloud storage available from companies like Amazon."

In addition to Amazon, Cirtas is also partnering public cloud storage provider Iron Mountain, and will also work with others, said Dan Decasper, Cirtas CEO and co-founder.

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Amazon is also an investor in Cirtas, and was a part of the company's Series A round of funding which totaled $10 million.

However, Amazon has no controlling stake over the Cirtas roadmap or any more knowledge about the company's technology, Decasper said.

"We are free to work with any other cloud storage provider," he said. "And Amazon is free to invest in other vendors."

The Bluejet Cloud Storage Controller lists for $69,995, and includes Intel Nehalem processors, 16 GBs of RAM cache, a 64-GB solid-state drive, and 5 TBs of raw hard drive capacity.

The cache, SSD, and hard drives are not used to store data. Instead, they provide automated three-tier cache to keep frequently-accessed data handy for high-speed reads and writes while the actual storage of the data is done on the cloud.

It can work simultaneously with multiple cloud providers without the need for specific proprietary cloud storage APIs. Also included are such features as thin provisioning, deduplication, and a built-in ROI (return on investment) calculator that also provides information for use in chargeback accounting.

The Bluejet appliance encrypts data while it is transiting to and from the cloud and while in the cloud, and provides such features as automated snapshots of data stored in the cloud for use in quick recoveries from user and application errors, Goldstein said.

"Data security is the number one concern for customers," he said. "The cloud is a multi-tenant infrastructure. Customers are concerned about data leaks. Our Bluejet appliance encrypts data stored in the cloud. The only way to decrypt it is to go through the Bluejet appliance. Cloud providers cannot see the data."

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The Bluejet appliance is primarily aimed at tier-two storage, which forms the bulk of customer data but which does not include on-line transactional data, Goldstein said.

"We are not targeting credit card transactions or Oracle databases," he said. "But other types of data accounts for about 80 percent of customers' data. Partners can help customers identify that data and move it to the cloud."

Cirtas has already signed up about 18 solution providers to work with its Bluejet Storage Controller.

One of them, Belmont, Calif.-based Bear Data Systems, has yet to sell one, but sees great potential.

Don James, CEO of Bear Data, said the Bluejet is not aimed at primary storage applications, but will work well for lower-tiered storage requirements.

The cost for the appliance and the public storage is low, and as long as it meets customer regulatory requirements, it will be a good message for customers, James said.

Bear Data already deals with other vendors of cloud storage technologies including i365, Barracuda, Rackspace, and NetApp, and has found that customers are ready to turn to the cloud for storage requirements, James said.

"If it's a midrange company or smaller, they're all over it," he said. "We as solution providers need to switch to a services-oriented model."

Bear Data likes working with cloud storage because it provides recurring monthly or quarterly revenue, James said.

"Our biggest challenge with this market in general is to make sure we get compensated on upgrades and renewals," he said. "All these companies are channel friendly, and are working with us on this. But down the line, things could change."

The Bluejet appliance is currently available from Cirtas' solution providers. Potential customers can work with those channel partners to get a Bluejet appliance to try in their own data centers free-of-charge during a 60-day trial evaluation period.