Coho Data says it can scale out storage big time

Coho Data, which began life in 2010 as, is coming out of stealth with a storage solution that pairs standard hardware with software smarts that it claims will scale storage to match company needs, regardless of the type of applications they run.

Coho CEO Ramana Jonnala

Coho CEO Ramana Jonnala

The notion of using software to help hardware scale linearly without hurting performance has been used before (and some companies get close to fulfilling that promise), but Coho CEO Ramana Jonnala swears that once Coho users run out of headroom on one box, they can double their storage without impacting performance at all by adding a new Coho box — the software sweats the details. He’s talking 100 percent more capacity with no performance dings.

Basically, Coho DrataStream melds networking and storage into one software-controlled layer. “We’re building more than a software storage controller but we provide a 2U white box equipped with 10G NICs, [an Intel] CPU, PCIE flash and hard disks which we run with our software.”

Each box comes with 40TB of storage and can operate at up to 180K IOPS.

Jonnala and Coho co-founders Andrew Warfield and Keir Fraser all come out of XenSource, where they worked closely with Amazon Web Services — which is largely based on Xen virtualization technology so they “get” scale.

That virtualization background also enabled them to build software that isolates workloads and different types of workloads on the same hardware.

Many companies now buy expensive specialized storage systems for their key SAP or Oracle implementations and cheap storage for less mission-critical stuff, a notion that Jonnala said is no longer operative. “We are building scale-out systems for storage that can grow and handle any application or any data. Buying storage with specific apps in mind and creating silos of storage is a remnant of the past.”

Coho DataStream has been in beta at several customer sites, including the University of British Columbia since July, he noted.

The fact that Coho nodes handle not only storage but also act as the controller for the software-defined switch eliminates a lot of the network traffic back-and-forth that adds latency in other scale-out storage systems, said Howard Marks, founder and chief scientist of Deep Storage LLC.

Mark Peters, analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, said Coho has bled out a lot of complexity by building very small, granular micro-arrays. “You end up converging networking and storage in a very granular fashion which reduces overhead and because it’s so granular, the software doesn’t have to be that complicated.”

Coho says DataStream will bring inexpensive scale-out storage to on-premises or private cloud deployment — a big claim. Pricing starts at $2.50 per GB before deduplication and compression.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company garnered $10 million in Series A funding from Andreessen Horowitz in August, 2012. At that time it had 16 employees; head count is now 37.

Coho DataStream, if it works as advertised, is an interesting concept, but there are lots of storage options out there — many of them marrying fast flash storage with software secret sauce — so let the games begin.