Start-up unveils storage platform for large-scale Web applications

New storage company offers cloud platform for social networks and SAAS applications.

A storage company emerged from stealth mode this week with software designed to efficiently manage the file serving needs of Internet applications such as social networks, online ad serving and software-as-a-service.

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MaxiScale announced the Flex Software Platform, which is installed on commodity gear, such as a bank of Apache Web servers. The goal is to improve performance and reduce cost, space and power requirements for Web companies that have to deal with large numbers of small files.

"We think people deploying Web applications have been paying too much money and we're out to change that," says Gary Orenstein, vice president of marketing for MaxiScale.

Retrieving a small file with the MaxiScale system requires just one I/O operation, a feature that eliminates bottlenecks caused by systems that require multiple I/O operations for each small file retrieval, says IDC storage analyst Noemi Greyzdorf.

"They built a very interesting file system that handles small files – files that are one megabyte or smaller – incredibly efficiently," Greyzdorf says

Configurations start with as few as four nodes but can scale up to 50,000 servers, the company says. Instead of using expensive storage boxes with interconnects like InfiniBand or Fibre Channel, MaxiScale recommends using Flex with 2TB SATA drives and says the Flex system relies on IP and Ethernet connections.

"We're using standards-based, commodity hardware for everything," Orenstein says.

Flex uses a patent-pending Peer Set architecture that replicates file data and metadata across SATA drives, allowing for load balancing and resiliency to multiple hardware failures.

Maxiscale's first publicly named customer is AdMob, a mobile advertising marketplace that has served more than 110 billion ad impressions in the last three years.

Based in Sunnyvale, Calif., and founded in 2007, MaxiScale has $17 million in venture financing from investors NEA, El Dorado Ventures and Silicon Valley Bank.

MaxiScale was co-founded by CEO Gianluca Rattazzi, who previously founded Meridian Data, Parallan, P-Com and BlueArc; and CTO Francesco Lacapra, who previously held executive roles at Olivetti, Quantum and BlueArc.

Flex software is available now and pricing starts at $6,000 for four nodes allowing up to 32TB of storage.

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