Australia's Moonwalk takes on the storage world

Australian company Moonwalk has come from nowhere to become one of the world’s hottest storage management companies. Simon Sharwood tells how it has achieved that status.

Peter Harvey knows that businesses aren't afraid to spend money on storage. But he also knows they are afraid of how much money storage will eventually cost them.

"The amount of money businesses spend acquiring storage is generally not an issue," he says. "But the total cost of ownership most definitely is."

Harvey believes those total cost of ownership costs are more-than-significant irritant because managing data requires a layer of tools that add complexity to the task at hand.

"Traditional storage architectures have indexes, store and forward tools "¦ a whole lot of other tools too. That makes another layer of technology that needs to be built, operated and maintained."

"But that layer also impacts throughput rates and introduces failure points "“ take it out and you cannot get your data."

These issues have long been an irritant to Harvey, Moonwalk's CEO, who developed the idea for the company's products during a long IT career that led him to the conclusion that "hierarchical storage management (HSM) is great if you are a programmer." But for the rest of the IT community which is either unable to code their own storage solutions or unwilling to wrestle conventional storage management tools, Harvey felt the benefits of HSM were out of reach.

By 2003 Harvey was working for Dialog Information Technology Work, a 450-strong Queensland-based IT services provider, where he participated in storage research and data modelling.

"We sat down with a blank sheet of paper and designed a new data management technology," he recalls."

"At the beginning of 2004 we built a first-generation solution based on those ideas and had a a product to pilot in July 2004. We looked at it, decided it was a good try for a first effort and decided to do it properly!"

"So we started again and built a new data management framework with no middleware."

That framework became Moonwalk's products, which Harvey explains "decouple all the components so that at the heart of our technology is the concept of data objects that know about one another and contain their own metadata."

Move data from one location to another and the metadata updates itself and also leaves a trail so that applications that may initially be unaware of the move can locate the data they need to operate.

"Everything you need to know about the data is in the metadata so that when you virtualise, you know where it went."

"If you need to change the relationships of applications to storage, we say make the relationship agnostic so that relationships between storage tiers can change on a day-to-day basis," he says.

The only limitations of this approach, Harvey says, are the input and output capabilities of storage devices. Networks are no barrier"“ Harvey describes them as "our backplane."

The company developed its software to the point where it felt ready to go to market, but to make sure it found a good reception looked for an especially susceptible group of customers.

"We identified Novell's Netware as having poor data management," Harvey recalls. "So we decided we would go to the global BrainShare conference to launch the company."

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