Maxta Exits Stealth With Software Solution Tying Virtualized Environments To Clustered Storage

Converged infrastructure technology developer Maxta on Tuesday came out of stealth mode with the unveiling of software the company said eliminates the need for storage arrays in virtualized data centers.

The company's Maxta Storage Platform, or MxSP, software is aimed at overcoming issues related to tying traditional enterprise storage solutions to virtualized infrastructures, said Yoram Novick, founder and CEO of the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based developer.

"Our mission is to simplify and streamline IT by going after what we believe is the primary pain point: enterprise storage in virtualized environments," Novick said.

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Maxta's MxSP is a software-only virtual storage solution that leverages a server's storage, whether internal or direct-attach external capacity, for use as a global pool that can be accessed by virtual machines on the server, Novick.

Multiple servers can also be clustered together to provide a larger storage pool, allowing any virtual machine on one server to access any storage across the cluster, he said. All the storage can be managed with the same user interface used to manage the virtual machines, regardless of which hypervisor is used.

The software automates access of the storage capacity by the virtual machines, Novick said. "While the storage connects to one server, all the storage in a cluster can be accessed by any virtual machine based on which storage is fastest for the application," he said.

Performance is competitive with midrange storage arrays, Novick said. "Partners can tune performance by choosing a mix of flash and hard drive capacity. We suggest using SATA hard drives for capacity with consumer-class flash for performance."

Steve Thomsen, a solution consultant at Sequel Data Systems, an Austin, Texas-based solution provider that sold its first Maxta implementation before the vendor came out of stealth mode, said his company has had experience with various other virtual storage appliances but found them underwhelming in terms of performance.

"Most virtual storage appliances are not designed to be intelligent enough to offer good performance," Thomsen. "We've actually banned them from our business."

Maxta, however, is different, Thomsen said. "It can use cache or SSD for performance while storing data on SATA drives or whatever else is connected," he said. "And it performed very well. We installed it for one customer on older HP ProLiant Gen6 servers and it was still impressive."

NEXT: Understanding The Maxta MxSP Technology

The Maxta MxSP handles compression and deduplication very well, and it offers fast data snapshots, Sequel Data Systems' Thomsen said. "VMware slows down when you take one snapshot," he said. "With Maxta, we can do dozens or hundreds of snapshots very fast. And the snapshots use links instead of adding capacity. With VMware, a lot of capacity is required for snapshots."

It also sets up very quickly, Thomsen said. "Buy a server, add VMware, turn on Maxta, and you have a strong value proposition at a much lower cost."

Thomsen said VMware's upcoming Virtual SAN, or VSAN, also interfaces virtual machines to a server's storage, but not in as elegant a fashion as the Maxta MxSP.

"VMware VSAN validates what Maxta is doing," he said. "But VMware VSAN doesn't have all the feature of MxSP. For protecting applications, Maxta is probably the better solution. Also, how does VMware's decision to offer VSAN impact its relationship with its parent company, EMC, which is trying to sell storage? VMware probably will not go too much further in the near-term or mid-term because of its EMC relationship."

Traditional enterprise-class storage was designed for physical infrastructures, but server virtualization was designed for virtualized infrastructures, Maxta's Novick said. For instance, he said, it is hard to know which virtual machines are connected to which storage devices. IT administrators have to deal with different interfaces for storage and virtual machines, which adds to the complexity, he said.

"Maxta redefines enterprise storage or virtualized data centers rather than following SAN and NAS constraints," he said. "It simplifies IT by letting customers manage virtual machines, not the storage, while providing a full enterprise storage solution including replication, cloning, continuous data protection and more."

The target market for the Maxta MxSP includes both enterprise and SMB applications, Novick said. For enterprises, it can be used to replace arrays in branch or remote office installations, as well as for test and development, disaster recovery, and virtual desktop infrastructures, he said. SMB customers can use it for primary storage, he said.

Maxta's initial sales are typically done direct to customers but fulfilled via channel partners, Novick said. The company is moving to get sales to be channel-led. Eventually, the company also hopes to build an OEM channel, he said.