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Zetta opens its storage cloud to all

A cloud storage provider that designed its system from the ground up to meet enterprise needs is ready to offer its service to the world.

The Zetta Enterprise Storage Cloud, from Sunnyvale, Calif., startup Zetta, is set to enter general availability today after months of beta testing, evaluations and use by a limited set of customers.

Zetta is designed as cloud storage specifically for enterprises, with features such as encryption and data integrity checks that set it apart from offerings such as Amazon S3, according to co-founder and CEO Jeff Treuhaft. But industry analysts say the Silicon Valley startup may find it hard going up against services that are expected from more established IT vendors.

Founded early last year, Zetta is going after a relatively new task in cloud storage, offering to handle enterprises' primary storage instead of just backups and archives. It's a daunting task to take on the original copies of customers' important data, but the realities of building and running an in-house data center are starting to weigh on enterprises, especially in a challenging economy, some analysts say. Still, companies are just starting to get used to the idea of handing off this component of IT to a third party.

Zetta claims it has solved the problems of enterprise cloud storage by building its software and hardware infrastructure specifically for multiple customers and for distributed computing. Vendors that have tried to offer such services in the past took equipment designed for individual enterprises and used a thin layer of software to adapt it to a multiuser service platform, according to Treuhaft. That prevented the earlier vendors from scaling up their services to meet demand, an issue that has only grown more important as the growth of stored data accelerates, he said.

Zetta began by developing its own file system, but not a special API (application programming interface) for sending data to the cloud. Customers can address Zetta's storage using standard file systems such as CIFS (Common Internet File System) and NFS (Network File System). Its platform also includes features most IT departments are used to in their own environments, such as encryption, data integrity checks, the ability to retrieve snapshots of data over time, and eventually replication between two specific geographically dispersed Zetta data centers.

Because of its robust infrastructure, the company can offer higher SLAs (service-level agreements) than can other cloud storage providers such as Amazon's S3, Treuhaft said. Enterprises have embraced the promise of that kind of service, he said. Nearly 50 companies participated in a beta test that began last December, and some of those plus other potential customers picked out by Zetta became paying customers after commercial service was begun in July.

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