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Wozniak Aims to Improve Data Centre Storage

Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, has joined up with his former colleagues from flash storage creator Fusion-io at a new company called Primary Data. The aim of this new start-up operating out of Silicon Valley is to put all the data from a business in a single virtual pool, all while maintaining the same hardware they already have and using it in combination with the public cloud if desired.

Primary Data’s software is then able to allocate the suitable amount of resources to each application, according to the company.

Wozniak is taking on the same role he had at Fusion-io as the chief scientist. According to the man himself, it’s obvious where this company fits into the market because there’s already a demand for simplified storage.

Elsewhere in the Primary Data team is the co-founder and CTO David Flynn, who was the CEO of Fusion-io until the middle of 2013. The CEO is Lance Smith, previously an executive at Fusion-io, which was acquired by SanDisk earlier this year for a cool $1.1 billion.

The staff at Fusion-io found that enterprises needed help dealing with all the different types of data they had, along with dealing with cloud storage. “Customers had a difficult time adopting this new tier,” said Smith. “That’s where the lightbulb went off. How do you make all those work?”

While storage has often remained linked to specific hardware platforms, server virtualisation has proven for more efficient computing and network virtualisation is also going down the same route. Vendors like EMC are beginning to offer some tools that will collect all those systems together virtually for simpler management, but Primary Data say they have taken virtualisation all the way.

Primary Data’s software is special because it takes the control of the data away from the mechanics of the device that it’s stored all. Every bit of storage capacity – from the cloud to flash – becomes part of a unified space that be assigned as needed for high performance or high capacity.

This virtual space handles all data as files, but is capable of dealing with block, object and file storage systems, all while maintaining transport protocols like Fibre Channel. Primary Data’s software also uses the Network File System (which is widely used), rather than developing a proprietary protocol.

The Primary Data software uses a Data Director, a system which retains metadata about what is being stored and the specific policies for each application. A hypervisor then exists in the application server that distributes any changes. This Data Director will initially be released as an appliance, but it will also offer software versions of it that could be distributed through a cloud infrastructure. Currently, the product is proof-of-concept and should be available for wider consumption in the middle of 2016.

“Where are the hugest amounts of data on the Internet right now?” asked Wozniak. The answer is apparently in media companies because of the data that is always flowing through their businesses. But Wozniak thinks Primary Data’s offerings will come in even handier – multiple users can use the same universal file, rather than worrying about where it’s actually stored.


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