Coraid pushes SATA over the Ethernet

Posted by Humphrey Cheung

Los Angeles (CA) - System administrators who need a lot of network storage may want to look into Coraid's serial ATA over Ethernet. At the recently completed Southern California Linux Expo, the folks from the San Clemente-based company showed off their SR1521T 15-drive tower that can be accessed by Linux, Mac and Windows machines.

Unlike other network storage devices, the drives inside this tower can be configured in almost infinite ways. Jim Kemp, CEO of Coraid, told TG Daily that the individual drives, in each of the three rows of five drives, can be striped or mirrored with any other drive. RAID 5 and hot-spares can also be configured.

The RAID information is stored on each drive so the drive's position inside the tower becomes irrelevant. "You can take all the drives out, jumble them and pop them back in - and it still remembers which ones are striped or mirrored," said Kemp. Other devices usually require the drive to be replaced in the same slot as the dead drive.

The back of the SR1521T has two Gigabit Ethernet ports along with three power supply units. Only two power supplies need to be running and the unit will sound an audible alarm if a power supply dies.

Coraid uses a small protocol called ATA over Ethernet or AoE which was first introduced about three years ago. While the technology isn't that new, Kemp told us the company has refined its products to include Serial ATA towers. The protocol uses MAC addressing to find computers and drivers have been written for Linux, Mac and Windows computers.

Kemp acknowledged that Coraid's devices are mainly for local area networks with very trusted computers because the protocol can't get past a router. However determined companies could set up a VLAN to pass the data. Companies concerned about security could set up a blacklist that would block access by MAC addresses.

Coraid sells the SR1521T tower retails for $4500 while a 3U rackmount version costs about $4000. The drives are purchased separately.