The brains behind the ZFS filesystem – including Jeff Bonwick and Bill Moore – have been hard at work for several years at start up DSSD. What are they doing with Andy Bechtolsheim’s money?

Bill’s recent Usenix bio says that “. . . DSSD, Inc., [is] a stealth startup focused on creating the fastest and most reliable storage possible.”

That puts them in good company.

They also have a trademark on the term “Cubic RAID” which describes “Computer software for use in electronic storage of data.” That narrows it right down.

Patent search
The good news is that while they are still in stealth mode their 6 patents are out there for all to see. What looks interesting?

The “Method And System For Multidimensional RAID” uses something called “RAID grids” to enable reliable and robust data storage and access.

The “Storage System With Self Describing Data” adds to the multidimensional RAID idea and adds object storage-like constructs into the storage system.

“Storage System With Incremental Multidimensional RAID” expands on this idea. By distributing the data and parity across the grid the design intends to enable data recovery despite multiple instances of data corruption or media failure.

The grid, of course, is three-dimensional, turning it into something they call a RAID cube. Given the focus on data recoverability perhaps the D in DSSD stands for durable.

The StorageMojo take
Looking at the technology it seems that the folks at DSSD are focused on a very particular set of requirements.

Self-describing data sounds like object storage. The extreme durability and high performance suggests a system optimized for transaction processing.

The use of solid-state storage implied in the name also suggests a focus on high performance. But SSD costs mean a use case very different from the video storage that objects are commonly used for now.

So what are they building? They are taking a radically different approach to the problem of high-performance transaction processing storage. The use of flash is a given in TP, and the extra durability, scalability and guaranteed read latency would be very attractive in large TP applications.

The most surprising piece is the object storage-like characteristics suggested by the patents. But handling billions of small objects at high-speed in a flat namespace would make it easy to distribute object indexes among hundreds of users, reducing file system I/O latency. The 3D RAID could eliminate the encoding overhead inherent in advanced erasure codes while providing similar robustness, enabling way-beyond-RAID6 availability.

Going after the last stronghold of big iron RAID arrays may seem bold. But as Willy Sutton said of banks, that’s where the money is.

The key will be whether their technology enables them to come to market with a clear economic advantage, be it cost or performance. With some of the most brilliant and original minds in storage and Silicon Valley working the problem, whatever they come up with is bound to be innovative.

Courteous comments welcome, of course. A launch this year feels about right.