The Search for the Holy Grail of Storage

September 25, 2001

  ContinuStor, Bergsten
Jim Bergsten with ContinuStor Director stacked units.  ContinuStor uses a single interface and can support the continuous growth of storage, from hundreds of gigabytes to tens of terabytes.
As e-commerce and other business-critical information continue to grow throughout the enterprise, customers are seeking the assurance of uninterrupted, round-the-clock storage. In this arena, a concept called "virtualization" is being hailed as Holy Grail of the storage business.

LSI Logic is leading this enterprise quest with its recently announced ContinuStor™ Director, an independent replication and virtualization storage system. Virtualization is the process of breaking the relationship between host computers and physical data at the storage device.

"The ContinuStor Director enables storage administrators to transparently manage the data-replication process, giving them more control and efficiency," said Bob Collar, LSI Logic Storage Systems Senior Product Manager. "The system reduces the total cost of storage ownership across a distributed, heterogeneous computing environment."

Key applications of the ContinuStor Director include storage consolidation, data migration, offline backup, remote mirroring, online testing, and remote backup and recovery across LSI Logic MetaStor ® and other storage systems.  In light of the recent tragedies and devastation, this technology is even more vital because it is ideally suited to help companies recover lost data resulting from terrorist attacks or natural disasters.  Due to its ability to mirror data remotely in real time, the ContinuStor Director can assist affected businesses as they get reestablished.

In the Beginning

The technology behind ContinuStor Director was the brainchild of Ark Research, a small San Jose-based company. LSI Logic Storage Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of LSI Logic, acquired the company last year.

James Bergsten, now Senior Director of the LSI Logic Storage Systems Milpitas Development Center, founded Ark Research in early 1995, using family funds and working out of a bedroom in his home. His vision to create a high-end storage controller led to the company's name.

  Ark Research logo
"The technology concept revolved around multiple copies of data for disaster recovery," recalled Bergsten. "My wife said 'Two of everything, like Noah's Ark,' and the name stuck."
"The technology concept revolved around multiple copies of data for disaster recovery," recalled Bergsten. "My wife said 'Two of everything, like Noah's Ark,' and the name stuck."

Bergsten illustrates the importance of data storage with a story he heard about how the Loma Prieta Earthquake extensively damaged the energy provider, Pacific Gas& Electric's circuits and systems.

" I was told that the company's method of backing up data offsite was to drive a file to Sacramento every night at midnight, so when the disaster struck they lost 24 hours of data and the staff was scrambling to reenter information from memory," he continued. "I thought to myself, 'There must be a better way.'"

After receiving outside funding in 1997, Bergsten hired a few employees and the company was up and running. Aware that it was embarking upon a several-year project, the Ark Research team focused its efforts on software development. This would provide more flexibility if the market changed or if someone else created a similar technology.

"We wrote 100 percent of the software, including the operating system, application and drivers," Bergsten said. "We knew that our tailored solution would offer more flexibility and higher performance."

A Match Made in Heaven

After several years of product development, the Ark Research team knew it was time to find a "big brother" with the infrastructure, sales force and name recognition to achieve fast time-to-market.

"LSI Logic was the ideal choice, because it could provide a global sales channel, experienced storage engineers and state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities to make Ark Research products even more competitive in the rapidly growing information-based economy," said Collar.

"We had several offers on the table, but the chemistry with LSI Logic just seemed right," added Bergsten. "The marketing, sales and engineering staff all seemed really positive and excited." Judging by the fact that LSI Logic has achieved 100 percent retention of all Ark Research staff during or after the acquisition, this chemistry is still alive.

  ContinuStor Team
The ContinuStor development team at the Storage Systems integration test research lab.
Back row (L-R):  Jim Bergsten, Bob Collar, Steve Anderes, Wilt Byrum
Front row (L-R):  Bob Lai, Bill Nadzam, Benny Tang

Through the acquisition, LSI Logic Storage Systems aimed to enhance its storage area network (SAN) product offerings through Ark Research's engineering expertise and the rights to remote mirroring technology for enterprise and e-commerce environments.

"If you want to do business with large enterprise customers, storage replication is a check-off item these days," said Collar. "If you don't have it, you won't get into environments with large, business-critical databases. We provided LSI Logic with the storage solution they needed to enter this marketplace."

"The replication and virtualization technologies that the ContinuStor Director brings to LSI Logic Storage Systems are critical to our plans to increase market share," added Steve Gardner, Manager of LSI Logic Storage Systems Product Marketing. "These technologies help deliver the SAN promise of making logical connections through virtualization."

Using a single interface, the ContinuStor Director can support storage and its continuous growth from hundreds of gigabytes to tens of terabytes. In addition, the product can migrate and replicate data across heterogeneous storage systems without disrupting business critical operations.

  ContinuStor at Gartner Conference
LSI Logic Storage Systems introduced the ContinuStor Director (far right) in June at the Gartner Storage 2001 conference held in Palm Springs, CA.

"In recent years, storage administrators have been overwhelmed by rapidly escalating quantities of storage that must be shared across more computers from more vendors," said Tom Georgens, president of LSI Logic Storage Systems. "With the ContinuStor Director, they can manage much more storage more efficiently, even in networked, round-the-clock, multi-vendor computing environments."

LSI Logic's Information Technology (IT) Department is currently testing the ContinuStor hardware and software for use throughout the company's IT systems.

"We want to make sure we can support the product and know how to use and deploy it effectively before we roll it out into production," said Bruce Decock, LSI Logic Vice President and Chief Information Officer. "This is a great opportunity for us to improve system uptime and data integrity in our systems."

A Mecca of Marketplace Opportunities

Target markets for ContinuStor Director include business continuance, disaster recovery, electronic vaulting, replication and distribution of Web content and data replication and migration services for the growing needs of Internet, application and storage service providers.

"There are very few mirroring and virtualization products out there, and we're the only solution that contains both features plus a lot of flexibility," said LSI Logic Storage Systems Product Marketing Manager Bob Lai, who also labels himself the "ContinuStor Director Evangelist."

  Bergsten, Jim
Jim Bergsten with the PC motherboard that more than 75% of the ContinuStor technology was developed on, "I'm actually thinking of framing it."
"The difference between mirror and copy data is that when you copy it, you do it one time. When you mirror data, there's an exact copy of that data in live mode," explained Lai. "So if you modify the data at one end, it's also reflected at the other end. If you're using this to back up data, you don't have to worry about any backup windows."

The future for this storage technology is promising. Because the technology is software-based instead of being tied to a hardware architecture, it's scalable by nature. LSI Logic Storage Systems is already working on ways to expand performance and throughput, put the technology into bigger machines, and rack and stack more individual units.

"We're virtually drowning in opportunities," Bergsten said. "Now it's just a matter of choosing which ones we want to pursue."


Copyright 2001 LSI Logic Storage Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.

Author Information

Arian Dasmalchi
Writer or (650) 289-9338.