back to article SAN-free, NAS-free? Scottish PHDs lift kilt on how they'll pull storage out of the aether

Two years back, The Reg took a look at a New York startup developing a tech it claimed would change the storage game for networked workstation shops that don't want to buy a SAN or filer. Now the three graduates of Scotland's University of St Andrews who run AetherStore say they are nearing product delivery. The product …

  1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    What happens when...

    that file you need for an urgent meeting has got corrupted, and you try and pick up the backup from another machine on the network, only to find that it's been switched off and taken away on holiday by your colleague?

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: Pen-y-gors Re: What happens when...

      ".....from another machine on the network, only to find that it's been switched off and taken away on holiday by your colleague?" Worse, imagine the fun when that colleague takes that laptop abroad, only to be stopped and asked for the key for the encrypted partition on his laptop:

      UK BORDER GRUNT: "Sir, can you tell me what is in this encrypted partition we found on your laptop?"

      COLLEAGUE: "Er, no, I have no idea." (He really doesn't, the software sticks encrypted copies of whatever files it likes on the drive.)

      UK BORDER GRUNT: "But it is your laptop, sir? Do you have the key to decrypt it, sir?"

      COLLEAGUE: "Er, no, we have this software at work that shares files-"

      UK BORDER GRUNT (getting excited): "Shares files? What kind of files, sir? You do realise, sir, that Her Maj's Gov has the powers to lock you away if you cannot provide when requested a key to decrypt any encrypted devices."

      COLLEAGUE (remembering his sysadmin's preference for dodgy manga pr0n and 'creative' software licensing scheme): "Oh crud!"

      1. Timmy Cratchit

        Re: Re: Pen-y-gors What happens when...

        Good God man, you nearly gave me a massive Connery.

        Have you had a stroke? ..or stopped reading The Daily Mail? ..or discovered (dietary) fibre? ..or something?

        Please tell! ...and whatever it is, KEEP IT UP!

  2. thondwe

    Marginal use case?

    So a SMB of 25 PCs, each with a spare 100GB? 2.5TB across a 1GB network. It's not going to be a performance solution is it? So archives maybe, but then how much does a similar NAS cost? And is it' as Eco? 25PCs left on to keep the array running, versus 1 NAS??

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Pooling the storage resources of 100 machines with AetherStore will cost you less than $500"

    How many Groats will that be when they vote to become the Republic of Scotistan?

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Get a calculator!

      Easy - at 60 groats to the Pound (or Poond), and at $1.61 to the pound, that would be 18633.5 groats.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Wont use groats. Will use Ferraris and Lambos when the Scottish Sheikhs come down south with their oil money. Call it what you want, oil money is usually a good thing.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        Re: Anonymous Celt

        "Wont use groats......" True, the people in Scotland will use Sterling whilst Salmond is forced to apply to join the Euro. Using an actual independent and sovereign Scottish currency would leave Scotland with zero ability to raise loans on the financial markets, especially if that numpty Salmond tries to walk away from a share of the UK national debt (which would be like starting a new economy and currency with an immediate default - not appealing to the financial markets).

        ".....Will use Ferraris and Lambos when the Scottish Sheikhs come down south with their oil money......" Oh dear, you really have been listening to too much SNP propaganda. Currently, the SNP are basing their amusing claims for uber oil cash (the Norway envy model) on the idea the rest of the UK will stick with the rather convenient idea that the sea boundary in the North Sea will stay along the 55th parallel, giving the Scots the majority of the developed North Sea fields. However, this is an UK parliamentary ruling and could be undone (with glee) by the rest of the UK the second Salmond gets his way. After that, the boundary would revert to the UN's regulations, which decree the boundary would project into the North Sea at the angle of the boundary on land, giving the UK the majority of the current producing fields. Salmond and chums then like to pretend the North Atlantic undeveloped fields will make the Scots oil-rich like Norway is with their developed fields, ignoring that Scotland will have a fun time raising the cash to develop those new fields (and ignoring that Rockall will remain with the rest of the UK, giving us a 200 mile diameter circle smack dab in the best bits of what Salmond and chums want to claim for Scotland). Whilst Scotland is still negotiating entry to the Euro, the rest of the UK will have no problem raising the finances to develop the North Atlantic fields. The remaining North Atlantic fields will then be squabbled over by tiny Scotland with a lot of bigger European countries with the ability and finances to open those new fields. And then there is Northern Ireland, part of the rest of the UK and able to claim a big chunk of the sea floor Salmond desperately needs for his fantasy oil-based economy. In short, there will be no Scottish oil sheikhs in the foreseeable future, not unless they've emigrated to the Falklands.

        "......Call it what you want, oil money is usually a good thing." It will be, thank you, for the rest of the UK.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Anonymous Celt

          Not to mention that Scotland has almost no indigenous companies to speak of to actually extract any oil / gas:

        2. Aitor 1 Silver badge

          Re: Anonymous Celt

          Let's be fair.

          If Scotland doen't get the pound and 10% of the bank of England, etc, you can't blame them for not accepting the debt: you get both or none!!

          1. proto-robbie

            Re: Anonymous Celt

            So Wee Eck gets to pay many aging Scots' public sector pensions too, as well as their health care and prescriptions as they get older?!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Call it what you want, oil money is usually a good thing."

        Until it runs out. It's already declined from over 3,000,000 barrels a year to under 800,000 - and will be pretty much gone by 2050.

        Then how will you fund all your disability benefits and free prescriptions?

  4. Shady

    If you're running a company with 25+ PC's and you can't drop 2k on a NAS

    Then you've got bigger problems.

  5. Ragarath


    Is this not already accomplished by something like DFS. Surely the machines in this storage need some software that properly manipulates the files and stores them where needed?

  6. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    Seen something like this tried before.

    Several years ago, an in-house project in a financial house in the City of London, and I admit I was initially taken in by the technical cleverness of the idea. Every UNIX workstation was given an USB hub, four 1GB USB memory sticks and a program based on bastardised Beowulf code to mount it all as drives and then shared them to a Linux desktop that ran as the administrative node. The admin node grouped the 1GB chunks into RAID5 'disks' which were built up into larger LUNs, the LUNs were then presented back to the desktops as NFS shares. Users were told to only use it for non-critical files during the testing phase but you can guess just how critical that data suddenly could become when users lost fast access to it. Of course, the 1GB sticks (which were the largest size going then) promptly started disappearing, leading to efforts to superglue them in place, which then led to broken USB hubs and ports. Then there were the users that accidentally formatted or unmounted their sticks, causing restriping across the other sticks in the RAID set, which caused workstations to intermittently run slow and networks getting congested. The plan was that, if it all worked, each workstation would get an external hard disk and we could junk an existing setup of file servers, associated JBODs and workstation backup gear. But the final nail in the project's coffin was the loss of access when the admin node had to be taken down for updates and, instead of taking the few hours overnight expected, the admin node was down for a whole day, leaving users with no access to what they suddenly decided actually were critical files. Eventually the idea was abandoned with the move to Windows workstations and COTS NAS systems (NettApp at the time).

  7. Crazy Operations Guy

    Compliance issues

    So what will happen when a regulatory agency comes by for a quick audit and asks: so where is your information physically stored? I've been asked that a couple times from the German Works Council; my company has dedicated servers and encrypted network links and we still hear 'Gutentag' coming from our colons a month later... I'd hate to find out what would happen if that same data resided on a laptop that was later taken with a sales guy to China.

  8. DavidRa

    No block store == SANs not going away

    I see SAN-free in the title of the story but no mention of block access (only file). I'll bet it's not SMB3 either. So it's not going to be killing off the SAN any time soon, and probably not the NAS either since you're talking about getting the data off PCs with local disks that are already using many (most?) of their IOPS to support the local user.

    So this is a low IOPS store with 4 replicas per file according to the FAQ. With 25 workstations per store, 200GB each, you get just over 1TB of NAS which is continually restriping as people turn machines off for the night or restart, can't be backed up effectively, is slow in use - and depending on how it's done, could be useful only for small files?

    Yeah, that'll take off.

  9. crediblywitless

    I had this notion that I could distribute a main-fileserver backup, across spare disk on student-lab equipment, easily teens of years ago. As always with this sort of brilliant idea, though, the security angle is too unpleasant to make it a serious prospect.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, it creates a kind of encrypted volume (within its own partition and/or filesystem?) with in-line deduplicated files or was it blocks(?) and afterwards syncs this to four other hosts. Sounds not that secure to me. What about checksums, consistency checks, something like Copy-on-Write or something like that?

    For 500$ nevertheless I´ll probably get it...

  11. random_graph

    Oh man, not another one of these

    This thing has tried and failed and the past. is another one, fortunately at least with the good sense to go after the consumer space rather than commercial.

    One thing about P2P is that one must compensate for flaky and non-persistent end-nodes. 4x may sound like a lot of redundancy, but what happens when all the employees go home for the evening? Whoops! Even with things like erasure coding, P2P overprovisioning always needs to be prohibitively high. Try convincing that user he needs to contribute 100GB to get 25GB of p2p capacity (yeah but it's FREE!)

    And to use this as a VSAN built out of WAN-connected laptops? Yeah good luck convincing that the CEO whose Exchange server just died that saving $25K by skipping that array purchase was the way to go.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well you can actually build inexpensive and simple SMB HA Windows 7 clusters. Just put 1,2,3,4 computers together, put in any harddrive you like, configure whatever RAID-level is supported locally, install AetherStore, create new volumes, provide SMB access.

    If you think bigger, you can also take 1,2,3,4 4U/72x 3.5"HDD chassis...

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: AC

      "Well you can actually build inexpensive and simple SMB HA Windows 7 clusters. Just put 1,2,3,4 computers together, put in any harddrive you like, configure whatever RAID-level is supported locally, install AetherStore, create new volumes, provide SMB access...." Or just go and download FreeNAS for a richer feature set, for free, and not even need to fork out for Win7 licenses.

      "....If you think bigger, you can also take 1,2,3,4 4U/72x 3.5"HDD chassis..." Or just get the business version of FreeNAS. Or, if you have a real business, buy hp's Virtual SAN Appliance software and get a product with Worldwide support, 24x7, and real integration capabilities.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: AC

        "Or just get the business version of FreeNAS."

        - with Active-passive High Availability, only

        "Or, if you have a real business, buy hp's Virtual SAN Appliance software and get a product with Worldwide support, 24x7, and real integration capabilities."

        - But not for 500$

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

          Re: AC Re: AC

          ".....with Active-passive High Availability, only...." And that is a problem why? Oh, it's not, it's just the typical throw-away FUD you can expect from 'storage start-ups'. I suggest you update your FUD with a little research - Personally, I haven't touched FreeNAS since it got hijacked by the Sunshiner ZFS refugees and Borged by iXsystems, but it seems to have AetherStore beat on both feature-set and on track record.

          ".....But not for 500$." You get what you pay for. Pay peanuts and you'll employ only monkeys, buy monkey products and you'll realise only peanuts. If you really only have a budget of $500 then you could load CentOS onto two old PCs and get clustered NAS systems for free, and probably with a better performance than AetherStore, and spend the $500 on something else. Please do try and dig yourself a bigger hole by trying to argue $500 is cheaper than free.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    AetherStore sees themself as alternative to VMware´s VSAN. Is it propaganda only? Who knows? We will see. I applied for the beta some days ago and still waiting for a reply to test it myself.

    Of course I can take FreeNAS + ZFS + CARP + HAST and make some HA for free. . I like FreeBSD, I have PC-BSD running on my laptop with ZFS, compression, deduplication and full disk encryption turned on. That´s great. But with FreeNAS I do not have up to 4 replicas out of the box. Btw, the "Active-passive" is from

    Remember Tintri? They see themself as one of the vendors offering one of the best solutions for VDI. (hopefully this is right) Of course I can buy Supermicro´s CIB/SuperSBB chassis, Windows Server 2012 R2, put in Sandisk´s 2TB enterprise SAS SSDs and have a full flash storage with the same capacity as Tintri, HA, deduplication and can still buy a couple of VMWorld Full Conference Passes for me and my colleagues.

    So, why is AetherStore looking so interesting at least for me? It´s like Tintri, it´s about simplicity, i.e I do not have to care about e.g. LUNs any longer.

  14. boatsman

    link to user manual is not there, it is


  15. murphycoverdot2001

    they keep updating the manual... as of today, it is

    best tactic going forward is to go to the FAQ page and click the link there:

    too bad aetherstore doesn't make a fixed link for the latest doc.

  16. BuckRogers

    HP offered a product that did this 10 years ago

    I forget what they called it... needless to say it was a great conversational piece. Being able to merge unused capacity from the desktops... that is until you realize how often those bloody things keep going tits up.

    Maybe they can do this in a VDI architecture so the data is stored on high end enterprise storage.. they can call this new product "Storage Area Network". Now thats innovation!

  17. astrax

    Files on local machines?

    Sounds like one massive, security-induced headache to me. If your main building does inextricably blow up during the night, I'm not sure how you could continue working from a different location unless you've included several PC's at a different physical location during the setup of AetherStore. I imagine powercuts would offer several obstacles as well (multiple hardware failure, data loss/corruption etc.)

    Although I do understand it's clearly not meant to be used for mission critical data, I'm not convinced it even fills a niche market, especially when the price of centralised storage is so cheap (and the OpenSource tech to replicate the data off site is pretty reasonable as well ;) )

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021