Got an interesting press release this morning about a Denver-area company, Atrato, announcing its existence and $18 million in funding. Their mission:

Based in Westminster, Colorado, Atrato Inc.’s ( mission is to help companies in entertainment, the Web, IPTV, HPC and VOD open up infinite new worlds of content for customers by offering them high-speed, high volume data access. Atrato’s high-density storage system with integrated data acceleration does nothing less than change the economics of high-speed/high-volume I/O processing.

So what do they have?
They say very little about their technology in the release:

. . . breakthrough technology, a high-performance storage platform that is designed to eliminate the barriers to high-speed / high-volume data access, unlocking revenue and opportunities for a range of applications and industries.

The web site makes some more specific claims which are excerpted below:

Speeds to support any load level. Easily handles traffic spikes with the power of hundreds of servers energizing your site.

Content is protected at both the stream and hardware levels (in flight and at rest) to ensure the security and integrity of your content while the sealed array eliminates most physical security vulnerabilities.

The industry’s only three year maintenance-free, fail-in-place operation available today and has been granted hundreds of patent claims with numerous others applied for.

. . . up to 10,000 I/Os per second or 3000 streams in 5RU . . . .

[bolding added]

How do they do it?
They say little about the secret sauce, but after looking their web site and some patent applications I’ll venture this much:

  • The core team is heavy on hardware guys. With the numbers they’re quoting this is an ASIC-enabled box – think BlueArc for I/O. Lots of internal parallelism, wide stripes and mirroring.
  • They’ve developed some innovative packaging technology for high-density disk – I’m guessing up to 400 2.5″ drives per enclosure. You can’t easily replace the drives, so they’ve made a virtue of necessity and “sealed” the enclosure.
  • Beyond the high-density packaging they’ve thought long and hard about how to ensure a 3 year operational life. Offset counter-rotating drive pairs to damp rotational and actuator vibration, high-flow cooling and ample hot-spare provisioning are key.

The StorageMojo take
Way cool! Hardware is cheap, labor and downtime expensive so their architecture works from a TCO perspective. Sticking these boxes in cable system head-ends will simplify content distribution and support at the same time.

The prices are likely to look high, but when you factor in the 3 year maintenance contract it should be persuasive. With 80,000 IOPS from a single 42U rack it may even find favor in more I/O intensive environments.

This is the kind of innovative packaging I would have expected from Xyratex. Congrats to the Atrato team for a thorough re-thinking of storage infrastructure.

Comments welcome, as always. Atrato team members?