Data Storage the Web 2.0 Way

By Nicole Hemsoth

November 26, 2007

GRIDtoday recently spoke with Layered Technologies president and COO Todd Abrams to get the scoop on the company’s DynaVol on-demand storage solution. Utilizing virtualized containers and based on LayeredTech’s popular grid hosting platform, Abrams believes it offers more than competitors such as Amazon’s S3.

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GRIDtoday: Can you explain DynaVol to those who might be unfamiliar with it?

TODD ABRAMS: DynaVol is a Web-based remote data-management solution based on Layered Technologies’ robust grid hosting infrastructure. Whether used to store data, or serve static content, DynaVol offers a reliable, affordable and secure environment. It is extremely cost effective, easy to manage and ensures data will always be available.

Gt: How does DynaVol work?

ABRAMS: The DynaVol solution stores data in “virtualized containers” which can be accessed by servers in a manner similar to network attached storage, or alternatively by end users via simple “drag and drop” from desktop to the DynaVol platform. Either method safeguards valuable data at an offsite location (within our world-class datacenters).

Customers can access DynaVol through a large selection of supported applications and protocols using either VPN (Virtual Private Network) or Public IP based access systems. The DynaVol package is built and uses open source solutions so it will work out of the box with little or no modifications needed.

Gt: What kinds of uses did Layered Tech have in mind when designing it?

ABRAMS: DynaVol was created as a flexible solution for storing and serving data for customers both large and small. From large organizations who want to share useful documents, presentations or any large static files between co-workers, peers and customers, to Bloggers who want to store and serve static content for their hosted blog site, DynaVol provides a flexible, scalable and affordable data management solution for varying needs.

Gt: How does it deliver on its promises of high availability, reliability and security?

ABRAMS: Hosted in our world-class datacenters (Tier IV), DynaVol is based on Layered Technologies’ Grid Layer, which has 99.9 percent availability and is highly scalable to meet customer demands. 

DynaVol managed data is protected by full redundancy with all data stored in a RAID1 mirrored configuration, which transparently stores customers’ data on two physically different hardware nodes at all times. Thus, data is mirrored to a different server at a different location as backup, with almost instant automated backup recovery.

This architecture provides for complete failure protection of each node and ensures customer data will still be intact and automatically re-provisioned on a fail-over mirror.

Gt: What kind of control does the user have over the storage environment?

ABRAMS: Flexibility is one of DynaVol’s competitive advantages. Customers can choose from a large list of applications and protocols to control their serving and storage of data: Layered Tech’s belief is that customer’s should be allowed to choose their data storage app, not be limited to a forced interface.

Gt: How does DynaVol leverage Layered Tech’s other utility offerings? 

ABRAMS: The DynaVol package is setup in a VPS (Virtual Private Server) environment within Layered Tech’s grid computing solution — the Grid Layer.  It easily scales within the grid environment if/when additional resources are needed.

Gt: Layered Tech seems to have targeted DynaVol toward Web 2.0 sector. Why?

ABRAMS: DynaVol was created to provide a flexible service for storing and serving data: We do expect DynaVol will be attractive to Web 2.0 users because for about the same price as standard data backup clients can now choose a storage solution that also includes the ability to serve static data.

Gt: Of course, it is useful outside the Web 2.0 realm, right?  

ABRAMS: Absolutely. Although we believe this solution offers a strong value proposition to Web 2.0 users, we also feel it is attractive to any other user with storage needs.

Gt: How has customer adoption been since announcing DynaVol in October? For what purposes are customers using it thus far? 

ABRAMS: Customer adoption has so far pleasantly exceeded our expectations. 

Although new services generally require an initial adoption period, DynaVol doesn’t seem to be facing the traditional challenges most product introductions face. Clients innately seem to understand the benefits of a simple, affordable and scalable storage option.

So far, we’re seeing early adopters choose DynaVol to replace their current data backup solution, serve popular static data on the Web, and replace existing FTP and archive servers. We can’t wait to see what other creative solutions our clients dream up for this new service.

Gt: How does DynaVol compare with other on-demand storage offerings, such as Amazon’s S3, on a technical level? What are the key differences?

ABRAMS: DynaVol offers more value and flexibility, as well as greater security.

One primary benefit to DynaVol is that it can be bundled with a wide range of other Layered Technology services such as dedicated hosting, VPS or grid offerings. Amazon simply doesn’t have the breadth of offerings to compete. DynaVol customers also have the ability to choose their desired backup application rather than be forced into the “one size fits all” model. Customers can use existing control panels, such as cPanel, Direct Admin and Plesk.  All DynaVol data is redundantly stored on a different server at no additional charge. Customers also will have the ability to push or pull data as they see fit.

From a pricing perspective, DynaVol packages include free bundled bandwidth with flat rates for additional usage, regardless of whether the customer is storing or serving data: this makes the pricing model far simpler and easier on the budget. Customer’s also can set bandwidth alerts so they will be notified whenever they reach their predetermined bandwidth allotment. 

Gt: Speaking about pricing, what is DynaVol’s scheme, and, in your opinion, how does it compare — for better or worse — with other similar offerings?

ABRAMS: As a whole, DynaVol is competitively priced for low data storage users, but becomes the price leader the more it is used. Layered Technologies is targeting small and medium customers with a need for robust data storage and serving solution.

DynaVol, combined with a backup application (like R-Sync), will allow convenient scheduling of backups and only copy files that have changed since the last back-up occurrence — thus significantly reducing bandwidth needs and backup execution times. This increased functionality relieves the hassle of backing-up large files and provides significant cost savings.

DynaVol blends the on-demand benefits of paying for additional bandwidth as needed with simplified pricing. DynaVol customers will not have surprises each month when paying their bill. Since each package includes free bandwidth, there is no guess work. If customers think they may be close to exceeding their monthly bandwidth allotment, they can get a real time bandwidth usage status simply by logging into the Layered Technologies client portal. 

The bottom line is, the more data a customer serves on DynaVol, the more expensive competitors like Amazon S3 will seem.

Gt: Overall, how do you feel DynaVol fits into the on-demand storage landscape?

ABRAMS: Layered Technologies’ believes we are defining the on-demand storage landscape.  DynaVol’s functionality is simple, robust, cost-effective, and ensures our customer’s data is always available when they need it.

There is currently no other offering on the market that can match DynaVol for price/performance.

Gt: Are there any capabilities you’re working on for future versions?

ABRAMS: Layered Technologies is always developing new product versions and will announce new capabilities in the future, but for now we’re keeping the details under wraps.  Be assured that we maintain close relationships with our customers and frequently receive input and requests for product enhancements which work their way into future revisions.

Gt: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

ABRAMS: DynaVol is available to businesses with or without a Layered Technologies server.  Although existing customers receive a discount, anyone considering a data backup solution should keep DynaVol in mind.

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