Not too long ago, data storage startups were a dime a dozen, but the last few years have seen the purse strings tighten, making startups relatively scarce.
Good ideas can still get funded, however, and VCs still seem to flock to the latest hottest thing, like the cloud. And there are plenty of strong prospects out there, some of whom might exert a significant impact on the IT landscape.
"It's been a relatively lean year for storage startups quantitatively, but there are a few that seem to be doing some pretty interesting things," said Mike Karp, an analyst at Ptak/Noel.
So here are 10 data storage startups worthy of note:
1. Fusion-ioThis company has been a darling of the solid state drive (SSD) market for some time, thanks in no small part to the addition of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak as chief scientist. The company just secured another $45 million in its third round of financing, a clear indication that its flash-based PCIe cards are a hit.
2. Violin MemoryViolin Memory may not have the profile of Fusion-io, but it has quietly gathered $33 million in backing, including funding from Toshiba, FalconStor and IBM. It offers flash-based appliances that can scale to tens of terabytes and millions of IOPS per second.
Karp notes that both Fusion-io and Violin Memory play in the very hot area of solid-state devices, although at different ends of the market.
"Their timing is very good for rolling out solid-state products, because the marketplace has evolved to the point where companies understand that this is not just expensive fast storage, but rather, when used properly, a solid-state device can be extremely cost-effective despite the price," said Karp. "Violin Memory offers a very fast rebuild time should one of its solid-state arrays die, which can be hugely advantageous for storage supporting key business processes."
3. AtmailAtmail is an interesting storage startup from Australia that provides "Webmail" appliances. Karp said Webmail seems to be an increasingly attractive alternative to the expense of running Outlook clients.
"What's held Webmail back in the past has been the clunky Webmail interface, but Atmail is improving on that and currently claims over 16 million mailboxes under management, which is no small feat," said Karp. "Almost all its business has been outside the U.S. until recently."
4. AprigoApringo offers a unified data dashboard for unstructured on-premise and cloud-based data. Its Ninja product is a SaaS solution that helps companies prevent data breaches, pass compliance audits, benchmark their data environment, and save on storage costs. With 15 employees, it is currently seeking its second round of financing for its low-cost approach to data management.
5. Pivot3Pivot3 has a couple of interesting plays. It has integrated server virtualization into a storage array via what it calls Serverless Computing, and it is making big inroads in the video surveillance marketplace which demands the retention of massive collections of video images.
"Pivot3 is doing well in the iSCSI security storage space," said Greg Schulz, an analyst with StorageIO Group. "The question now is how well it can compete in the much more crowded and aggressive mainstream iSCSI space."
6. ZettaThis on-demand cloud storage vendor claims to have combined the features of enterprise-class on-premise NAS with the business benefits of storage-as-a-service, with a 50 to 90 percent drop in storage ownership costs. Zetta presents itself as a NAS system with common protocol access, data protection, encryption at rest and snapshots without the hassle of installation of on-premise software or appliances. What makes this even more interesting is the people behind it. Zetta's founders are the team who helped commercialize the Web as the leaders of Netscape, as well as others from EqualLogic, EMC, RSA, Symantec and VeriSign.
"If you are looking for public or private cloud, these folks should be on your list for doing due diligence," said Schulz.
7. StorSimpleStorSimple is another hybrid, this time blending on-premise storage with WAN optimization, security, and an on-demand storage model. It couples automated data tiering and primary storage deduplication with a gateway to cloud storage. Its Armada Storage Appliance provides iSCSI storage capacity and an on-ramp to cloud storage services such as Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure, EMC Atmos, AT&T Synaptic and Iron Mountain Digital. Its founders hail from Rhapsody Networks, Brocade and Cisco. Launched last year, it has raised $8.2 million in funding.
8. ClustrixWith the recent Oracle acquisition of Sun giving the database giant MySQL, solutions such as the Clustrix distributed parallel database provide alternatives for meeting scale out and scale up transaction-intensive solutions.
9. SANpulseThese folks help streamline IT infrastructure resource management across server, storage and networking by providing insight, awareness, correlation and remediation as well as enabling data movement and migration across different platforms.
10. Who have we missed?Perhaps surprisingly in times like these, there are a number of good candidates in the storage space. Companies such as Pliant (SSD), Virtensys (I/O virtualization), Aprius (I/O virtualization), AutoVirt (distributed file system virtualization) and Viridity (infrastructure resource management and energy efficiency management) also show promise, but we ran out of room. So tell us — and feel free to post a comment below — who did we miss and who is under the radar who could fundamentally change storage? Give us enough compelling answers and we may do a follow up article in a couple of months. Call it Top 10 Storage Startups We Missed the First Time Around.
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