A Roundup of Storage Startups

The enterprise storage market has been a hotbed of innovation and entrepreneurship in the last several years.  While the storage industry has consolidated with acquisitions (such as HP’s purchase of Nimble) or otherwise simply shutting down, there always seem to be new companies waiting in the wings to take over.

These latest new companies are hoping to prove that they have a new and better way to address the increasing challenges of managing the huge amount of data growth by implementing their own take on enterprise storage technology.  They all come to the market with both the hope and the potential to change how the enterprise business market stores their data.

An up to date list of storage startups is hard to maintain, as the ranks are growing fast and companies can appear seemingly out of nowhere.  This latest crop has some game changing ideas and I look forward to seeing how their technology will shape the future of enterprise storage.  Some have been around for several years and are starting to mature, others started less than a year ago.

Many new companies are hoping (betting?) that the market will see a need for a new data managing layer of software that provides improved management capabilities across  multiple silos of data both on-premises and in the cloud.  Some of the emerging suppliers for data software management are Actifio, Avere (now part of Microsoft), Catalogic, Cohesity, Delphix, Druva, Rubrik, Scality and Strongbox. I’m going to be focusing more on the hardware suppliers in this post, so let’s take a closer look at some of the rising stars in the enterprise storage market.  I’m going to take a look at 23 companies in total in this post, in no particular order:  E8 Storage, Igneous Systems, Komprise, Portworx, Primary Data, Reduxio, Talena, Alluxio, Aparavi, Attala Systems, Datera, Datrium, Elastifile, Morro Data, Excelero, Minio, Nyriad, ScaleFlux, StorageOS, Storj Labs, Vexata, Wasabi and WekaIO.

I have no affiliation with any of these hardware vendors, this is simply a compiled list I generated with some basic online research.  The data presented is based primarily on marketing information that I gathered.  For more detailed information I recommend reviewing their individual company websites, links are provided for all of them.

     E8 Storage | CEO: Zivan Ori

E8 Storage focuses on shared accelerated storage for data-intensive, top tier applications that require a large amount of IO. Their scalable solution is well suited for intense low latency workloads,  real time analytics, financial and trading applications, transactional processing and large scale file systems.  Their patented high performance shared NVMe storage solution delivers much higher performance, improved storage performance density, and lower costs when compared to legacy systems.   They promise NVMe performance without giving up reliability and availability.  The company is privately held and based in Santa Clara, CA with R&D in Tel Aviv, and they have channel partners in the US and in Europe.

Their hardware is built on industry standards, including converged ethernet with RDMA and standard 2.5″ NVMe SSDs.  Up to 96 host servers can connect to each storage controller, and each controller is concurrently linked to shared storage to deliver scalability into the petabytes.

Potential customers can purchase their software separately or as an integrated system if an appliance based solution is a better fit. Bought independently, their software allows the use of hardware from any vendor, as long as the vendor is on their pre qualified list.  It also allows businesses to take advantage of economies of scale within their own supply chains and purchase new units at a pace that suits their needs.

  Igneous Systems | CEO: Kiran Bhageshpur

Igneous Systems is a Seattle-based, venture-backed company that designed a secondary storage system designed to support massive file systems. Their Hybrid Storage Cloud solution provides enterprises a consolidated secondary storage tier with cloud support and scalability.  Igneous remotely manages all on-premises cloud infrastructure, which includes monitoring, troubleshooting, and non-disruptive software upgrades.

Their infrastructure scales from 100TB to 100PB and uses their RatioPerfect architecture, which consists of distributed nano-servers that make the infrastructure resistant to hardware failures. This cloud-like architecture enables Igneous to offer cloud economics in the enterprise data center.

Unlike traditional storage equipment, Igneous Hybrid Storage Cloud uses an integrated serverless environment designed for data centric applications.  It features integrated backup and archive applications that are designed to seamlessly integrate with enterprise NAS as well as tiering data to the cloud.  Integrated search capabilities are built directly into the infrastructure and therefore require no separate backup catalogs to manage. Igneous Hybrid Storage Cloud is specifically designed for massive file systems managing billions of files,  unlike legacy backup systems.

They provide easy to deploy  storage that is a cost effective alternative to cloud data storage.  They provide a managed hardware solution on-premises and look after everything from maintenance and provisioning to performance tuning. Their pricing model is based on consumption. With a background at EMC-Isilon, the Igneous team has a great deal of experience in building infrastructure for unstructured data.

They were recognized by Gartner as a 2017 “Cool Vendor in Storage Technologies”.

     Komprise | CEO: Kumar K. Goswami

Komprise aims to address the issues of storage sprawl and rising costs with storage analytics.  They contend that storage management requires getting as close as possible to realtime insight into what is happening, and their software addresses this by providing metrics together with analytic tools to build a variety of data policies.  They then manage data placement across storage tiers and multiple clouds. Their software allows for interactively modelling multiple scenarios before moving the configuration into production.

Their intelligent data management provides an alternative to more expensive solutions from larger, more established vendors. The company’s IDM platform enables customers to lower NAS costs and ongoing cloud operations by using analytics to intelligently automate archiving and disaster recovery. The  service also allows for transparent access of data across on-premises NAS storage and the cloud.

Their analytics processing identifies data that is most suited for the cloud and then transparently archives and replicates the data. User defined policies are automated to move and manage data across on-prem NAS storage tiers.

      Portworx | CEO: Murli Thirumale

Portworx provides storage for containers and brings persistent storage to all of the common container schedulers.  All of the most popular databases are supported in the container environment.  They are an early player in the persistent container storage field, but have signed up some big names like GE Digital and Lufthansa Systems.  They are betting on the recent trends to replace hypervisors with containers and see persistent storage as the wave of the future.

They provide scheduler integrated data services forproduction enterprise containers and allow users to deploy stateful containers on-prem, in the cloud, or in hybrid clouds.  In contrast to legacy storage that has container connectors built on key-value stores, they are designed and built for cloud-native applications, making container data more portable, persistent and protected.

Primary Data | CEO: Lance Smith

Primary Data’s storage is based on the idea of extensible metadata, using open ended tagging of data objects to control them (i.e. life-cycle management and priority of service), but they also add telemetry to the equation to allow real time automated data placement.

Parallel access to metadata and metrics processing has the effect of speeding up I/O performance, and they keep it cheap by implementing a “pay as you go” pricing model.  Their leadership team happens to include Steve Wozniak (how cool is that?), who is listed as as chief scientist. In 2017 they announced $40 million in new funding and a new version of their storage platform.

Reduxio | CEO: Mark Weiner

Reduxio’s TimeOS software delivers high performance enterprise storage solutions with unique data management capabilities.  They put data at the middle of their architecture and allow complete virtualization of all types of storage.

Their HX550 multi-tier storage solution with built-in BackDating allows customers to modernize and simplify their storage infrastructure and IT operations by deploying flash storage that is cost-effective and that can be used across all their applications.

Reduxio’s unified storage platform is designed to deliver near-zero RPO and RTO, while greatly simplifying the data protection process and providing built-in data replication for disaster recovery. The features in the TimeOS v3 released in June 2017 enabled a single platform for the end-to-end management of the life cycle of an application’s data.

They already have a global install base of more than 150 enterprise customers, many with multiple installed systems across a wide range of industrial sectors, including Managed Service Providers, Manufacturing, BioTech, Education, State and Local Government and Professional Services.  Their product seems to be catching on.

Talena | CEO: Srinivas Vadlamani 

Talena developed the industry’s fastest data backup and recovery solution with built-in machine intelligence to handle huge data sets  with mission-critical applications sitting on top of modern data platforms such as DataStax/Cassandra, Couchbase, Hadoop HBase/Hive, MongoDB and Vertica.  Talena takes advantage of machine learning to ensure data resiliency in the event of disasters. They have the ability to back up and recover petabyte-sized and larger data sets much faster than other solutions on the market, minimizing the impact of data loss and greatly reduce downtime. Their growing customer base includes leading Fortune 500 businesses in the retail, financial services and travel industries, among others. 

Targeting the big-data market, They provides backup, recovery, archiving and test data management for major unstructured databases.  Their key features include deduplication and replication control via user-defined policies. The technology supports data-masking algorithms to prevent data exposure as data is moved around or used in testing.

     Alluxio | CEO: Haoyuan Li

Alluxio (formerly known as Tachyon) provides virtual distributed storage for Big Data.  They aim to become the storage abstraction layer for Big Data in the same manner that Apache Spark became the computation layer. Their memory centric architecture allows developers to interact with a single storage layer API without worrying about the configurations and complexities of the underlying storage and file systems.

Alluxio is a virtual distributed storage layer between big data computation frameworks and underlying storage systems that delivers data at memory speed to any target framework from any storage system regardless of its location.  They aim to address the challenge of data locality.  While in-memory stoage is usually  viewed as cache, their technology allows for separation of the function layer from the persistent storage layer.  Organizations can run any big data framework (like Apache Spark) with any storage system or filesystem underneath (like S3, EMC, NetApp, OpenStack Swift, Red Hat GlusterFS, etc.), and run it on any storage media (DRAM, SSD, HDV, etc.), and with that they support a unified global namespace by virtualizing disparate storage systems.

The company was founded by the creators of the Alluxio open source project from UC Berkeley AMPLab.

Aparavi | Chairman:  Adrian Knapp

Aparavi offers cloud data protection and remote disaster recovery as a service. Their cloud-forward solution offers a RESTful API, a policy engine, an open data format, and a multi-tenant architecture.  Their technology can reduce a customer’s storage footprint compared to more traditional methods while making sure compliance policies are adhered to.  They aim to address the issues of evolving global regulations and the huge amounts of data now being generated with long-term data retention solutions across modern, multi-cloud architectures.

At their core, they aim to better prepare their customers to meet the challenges of long-term data retention across multi cloud architectures. They designed and built a new software-as-a-service platform from scratch to allow companies to protect data on-prem and in in the cloud.  They also aim to break the typical barriers of cost, vendor lock-in, complexity and regulatory compliance requirements that cause businesses problems when utilizing more conventional solutions.  The company is run by management and engineers with a ton of experience in data retention, and the issue they are attempting to resolve is something I’ve seen directly in the companies I’ve worked for.  They may have something here.

         Attala Systems | CEO: Taufik Ma

Attala offers high performance computing and primary cloud storage.  Their product utilizes a scale out fabric running on standard ethernet to interconnect servers and data nodes in a data center.  Because they focus on scale out cloud storage and use an FPGA based fabric, they  are able to effectively eliminate legacy storage management layers. They tout that their product provides over ten million IOPS per scale-out node with latencies as low as 16 microseconds.

The Attala fabric includes the Model HNA host PCIe adapters, providing full hardware emulation of NVMe SSDs, thus allowing their solution to expose pooled resources as virtual SSDs. The host OS, hypervisor or driver see the virtual SSDs as real SSDs using standard NVMe drivers, so they can be used with any OS, hypervisor, ore bare-metal provisioning software.

The software also offers a fully automated orchestration layer, where the fabric dynamically and securely attaches volumes from storage resources from across the network directly to bare-metal servers, virtual machines or containers. No host agents or other software is required, so deployment and maintenance of the system across heterogeneous environments is fairly simple.

Datera | CEO: Marc Fleischmann 

Datera aims to solve what they see as some of the biggest challenges in storage. Their key-value store approach uses NVDIMM to speed up write operations, coalesce writes, and provide a cache for reads. Their access protocol can aggregate massively parallel reads, and their software tools provide many of the same compression, snapshot and replication features offered by the bigger and more established storage vendors. The software also works with orchestration tools from VMware, OpenStack, and Docker.

The product is focused on DevOps and cloud native apps use cases.  It runs on x86 servers with flash, and there is iSCSI-based native integration with OpenStack, CloudStack, VMware vSphere and container orchestration platforms such as Docker, Kubernetes and Mesos.

Some of the key features of DEDF include a RESTful interface, API-first operations to provide web scale automation with full infrastructure programmability, policy based configuration, self service provisioning, a scale out model, a flash first design that delivers high efficiency and low latency, multi tenancy and QoS for cloud-native and traditional workloads, and heterogeneous component support for easily scaling across commodity x86 servers.

       Datrium | CEO: Brian Biles

Datrium offers stackable appliances that act as servers.  Each appliance has a flash cache and they are are linked to a back-end storage unit with larger hard drives that then serves as the primary storage. Enterprise features such as compression, deduplication and end-to-end encryption are included.   They also offer an advanced snapshot tool that includes a catalog of snapshots.  Their product takes a slightly different approach than a hyperconvergence vendor like Nutanix that only pools drives that are built in to its servers.

They see compute, primary storage, secondary storage and cloud storage all coming together in a configuration that is scalable and easy to manage without the need for a silo for each storage class. As most IO requests will utilize the on-board flash cache on their nodes, they can deliver excellent performance without ever having to go to the data nodes.

Compute nodes can be supplied by Datrium, or clients can also use their existing infrastructure.  As persistent data resides on the data nodes, compute nodes are stateless and can go offline without risking data loss or corruption.  They supports a wide variety of environments including vSphere 5.5-6.5, Red Hat 7.3, CentOS 7 1611, and Docker 1.2.

They have a very unique spin on convergence, and their DVX system really enhances storage efficiency, which is critical to getting the most out of the flash in the data nodes.

Elastifile | CEO: Amir Aharoni

Elastifile offers file storage and scale-out file storage.  Their product employs the Bizur consensus algorithm, a distributed metadata model using an adaptive data placement methodology to provide cloud enabled storage services capable of handling transactional workloads with very low latency.

Their software is designed to help large and midsize enterprises scale up through the cloud to thousands of nodes and millions of IOPs for their most mission critical workloads. It will run on any server and can use any type of flash (3D and TLC included).  They claim to bring flash performance to all enterprise applications while reducing the capex and opex of virtualized data centers, and simplify the adoption of hybrid cloud by extending file systems across on-prem and cloud deployments.

       Morro Data | CEO: Paul Tien

Morro Data offers file storage and hybrid cloud solutions.  Their CloudNAS service combines an on-prem cache with S3 or Backblaze cloud storage, designed to give small/midsize businesses an alternative to using local file servers.

What separates them from others is a global distributed file system that synchronizes customer data between one or more on-prem CacheDrive hardware appliances and public cloud storage. The CacheDrives store frequently accessed data on site for better performance.

Their CacheDrive also serves as a cloud storage gateway to improve the performance of file transfers to object storage in the cloud. It is also designed to optimize bandwidth in order to accommodate less than ideal connections.  Morro also supports key enterprise storage features like the more established vendors, like data encryption, compression, retention policies and data recovery.

CloudNAS is designed to be used as primary storage, with the master copy of the data stored in the cloud and synchronized to the CacheDrives at local sites.

Excelero | CEO: Lior Gal

Excelero is a software-defined storage technology startup, and their primary offering is their NVMesh Server SAN software. They designed the software to pool NVMe storage from multiple servers.  The pooled storage then offers very high performance and is intended to be used as primary storage.

Using an SDS approach with an NVMe over Fabrics mesh storage stack, they aim to address issues with hyperconverged infrastructure.  Accessing a drive utilizes the RDMA feature of NVMe over Fabrics, which results in very low latency and shifting the CPU load on the initiating system rather than the one holding the drive.

  Leonovus | Chair: Michael Gaffney

Lenovus’ product is an advanced blockchain storage and compute solution with a marketplace for cloud applications.  Leonovus has invested over twenty million dollars in the development of distributed compute and distributed storage technology. They have been several granted patents, numerous patent claims and patents pending. Their unique software-defined storage solution has strong intellectual property protection.

Their software defined object storage technology is designed for enterprise on-prem, hybrid or public cloud users that have governance, risk management and compliance requirements. The software is designed to run on existing storage hardware.

        Minio | CEO: Anand Babu Periasamy

Minio is an easy to deploy open-source object storage server that uses an Amazon S3 compatible API.  They develop software for cloud-native and containerized applications to help businesses with the management of the exponential growth of unstructured data.  They also support Amazon AWS compatible lambda functions to perform useful actions like thumbnail generation, metadata extraction and virus scanning.

Their open source based object storage server is primarily designed to be used for cloud applications and DevOps departments. Application developers can containerize storage, apps and security simultaneously and use the same resources. The server enables applications to manage large amounts of unstructured data and enables cloud and SaaS application developers to more quickly and easily use and implement emerging cloud hosting providers like Digital Ocean, Packet and Hyper.sh.  It has proven to be popular in the Docker, Mesos and Kubernetes communities because of its cloud native architecture.

    Nyriad | CEO: Matthew Simmons

The core of Nyriad’s platform is their “NSULATE” technology, which uses a GPU to perform the processing. GPUs are specialized for floating point calculations, and Nyriad uses that enhanced capability to generate parity calculations that would otherwise be impossible with a CPU or a RAID controller.

They claim that NSULATE can handle dozens of simultaneous device failures in real-time and maintain consistent I/O performance.  Using Netlist’s NVvault non-volatile DIMMs to create a Linux storage platform, It can scale up to millions of IOPs and allow data to be directly sent to the GPU for storage processing.  As it directly bypasses the Linux kernel, it can offer improved performance.

NSULATE technology also allows for compute and storage to coexist on the same node. The idea is to enable storage nodes to be configured for computation in order to speed up I/O-related code, which can accelerate applications that typically hit a brick wall with storage IO bottlenecks.

ScaleFlux | CEO: Hao Zhong

ScaleFlux’s Converged Cloud Subsystem (CCS) is a tightly unified software and flash based hardware subsystem solution that easily and cost effectively integrates into Big Data, scale out servers. CCS collapses the traditional scale up storage hierarchy that usually bottlenecks data movement and processing performance by enabling high density, commodity flash to be used as an extension to memory.  Deploying CCS throughout the entire data center infrastructure is designed to provide a significant boost to application performance while reducing data center TCO.

StorageOS | CEO: Chris Brandon

StorageOS is a software-based distributed storage platform designed to provider persistent container storage.  It’s available on commodity hardware, virtual machines or in the cloud.  With the addition of a 40MB container, developers can build scalable stateful containerized apps, with fast, highly available persistent storage.

StorageOS offers simple and automated block storage to stateless containers, allowing databases and other applications that need enterprise class storage functionality to run without the normal complexity and high cost.

They aim to provide an enterprise class storage offering that is simpler, faster, easier, and cheaper than legacy IT storage. They also aim to provide automated storage provisioning to containers which can be instantiated and torn down many thousands of times a day.

So, how does the product work?  It’s a very fast and easy process.  It installs as a container under Linux and it locates accessible storage; be it direct-attached, network-attached and cloud-attached, or connected nodes. That storage is then aggregated into a virtual multi-node pool of block storage. Volumes are then carved out for accessing containers, and are then thin provisioned, mounted, loaded up with a database and started.

        Storj Labs | CSO: Shawn Wilkinson

Storj is based on blockchain technology and peer to peer protocols to provide secure, private, and encrypted cloud storage. Basically, it’s an open source decentralized cloud storage platform utilizing blockchain technology, and I looked at them in my previous article Blockchain and Enterprise Storage, where I dove in to what exactly blockchain is, how it works, how it may be applied in the enterprise storage space, and how it’s already starting to be used in various global industries.  Storj uses the spare storage capacity of its community members to store data that has been shredded and encrypted.  From a blockchain perspective, Storj uses their own storage coin token that is used to buy and sell space on the network.

For potential data farmers that are looking to share storage capacity, they will verify the integrity of your storage with a challenge that performs a remote audit. As a distributed storage system, it is a highly-available solution with data sliced up into multiple segments that are stored redundantly across at least five different systems.  The distributed nature helps accelerate data access because data is retrieved from multiple sources simultaneously rather than just one.

    Vexata | CEO: Zahid Hussain

Vexata’s active data infrastructure solution aims to improve performance at scale for I/O intensive applications.   The system presents a block or unstructured data I/O interface to enable applications to access and update large volumes of data at high throughput and low latency, and can be deployed as a fully contained or cloud deployed solution.  Based on their VX-OS software, their SSD systems can be deployed in both enterprise and cloud data center environments.

Their file storage system OS is well suited for business critical enterprise data architectures, media and entertainment workflows, and high performance data analytics.  VX-OS  is a scalable, resilient file storage system that supports industry standard protocols (like NFSv3 and GPFS), while providing over 1M random file IOPS, 50GB/s read and 20GB/s write bandwidth, and up to 180TB of protected capacity. It also supports enterprise class features such as file-based snapshots/clones and replication, as well as data-at-rest encryption without the huge performance penalty.

   Wasabi | CEO: David Friend

Wasabi offers cloud based object storage as a service.  You can read more about Object storage in my Primer on Object Storage article, but in a nutshell it refers to a data storage approach that stores information as individual objects in digital buckets, as opposed to storing files in a hierarchical or block fashion.  They claim that their storage service is significantly faster and cheaper than competing products and offers the same levels of reliability, and that their service can read and write data more than six times as fast as Amazon’s S3, while maintaining 100% compatibility with the Amazon S3 API.  Their prices are also claimed to be around 1/5th the cost of S3, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud.

   WekaIO | CEO: Liran Zvibel

WekaIO’s core product is WekaIO Matrix, which is a cloud-native scalable file system the that provides all flash storage performance with the simplicity of NAS storage. WekaIO Matrix offers dynamic scaling of resources based on application requirements. It is a distributed global namespace file system that can scale to thousands of compute nodes and petabytes of storage, and also provides integrated tiering to the cloud.

Their software deploys on industry-standard commodity servers. They have reference architectures for HPE Apollo and Dell EMC servers, with Supermicro and Lenovo in the pipeline.  It runs on bare-metal servers, virtual machines or in containers. The software scales from 6-240 nodes with little to no latency impact.  As a frame of reference, they note that a 30-node cluster can address up to 2PB of storage with up to 1.8M IOPS and 60GBps of bandwidth.  They also position themselves as a file access cloud storage option that sidesteps the limitations of existing Amazon storage services.

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2 thoughts on “A Roundup of Storage Startups”

    1. No problem, Paul. Morro Data’s offering is impressive, and you appear very well positioned in the market to be successful. I read your piece on Network World’s website in January and agree with your assessment, despite the benefits of capacity & scalability, security & DR, and an overall simplified infrastructure with cloud storage, I’ve also seen that the adoption of cloud based storage is slow primarily due to performance concerns. I’d also add that regulatory requirements play a role as well in the enterprise space. The Fortune 500 companies I’ve worked for in the last decade also have regulatory requirements surrounding the security of any data located off-site, in-country data stipulations, and the upcoming GDPR regulations, all of which can be complicated by cloud integration.

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