8 Hot Storage Startups to Watch

Wednesday Jul 6th 2011 by Drew Robb
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These eight storage companies are pushing cloud, SSD, big data and virtualization to the next level.

While far from the glory days of a decade or so back, there is a healthy abundance of storage startups around today. Though hardly a comprehensive list, here are some interesting candidates for which cloud computing, solid state drives (SSDs), big data and VMware-based virtualization is providing the basis of much of the underlying innovation.

1. Sanbolic

Sanbolic has been flying under the radar for about 10 years and just came out of stealth as an innovator in distributed data management. Its Melio version 3.5 addresses storage management and performance challenges encountered in virtualized application environments. It integrates complex storage concepts, including clustered file system and volume management, rapid resource provisioning, and quality of service (QoS) into a workload and storage agnostic offering.

"Customers benefit from increased levels of infrastructure flexibility and responsiveness, while minimizing storage related cost and complexity," said Momchil "Memo" Michailov, Co-Founder and CEO, Sanbolic. "Unpredictable application requirements are exposing the limitations of current storage topologies. The launch of Melio v3.5 enables a more application-aware, available and scalable shared storage architecture."

Analyst Terri McClure with the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) is a fan.

"While virtualization has delivered clear benefits to enterprise IT departments in terms of consolidation and efficiency, it has actually created more problems than it solved on the storage side of the equation," she said. "Sanbolic has been addressing this problem for years, with strong enterprise validation to show for it. Melio v3.5 builds off this momentum, adding an increased level of application and data awareness for an existing infrastructure, while minimizing storage related cost and complexity."

Pricing starts at $999 (for Melio Private Cloud).

2. Scality

Scality's RING Organic Storage targets the issue of how cloud service and email providers store unstructured data such as webmail, photo, video/file sharing and backup. It is object-based and scales to exabytes using x86 commodity server hardware with direct attached storage (DAS). Its organic design creates a system with distributed intelligence that has no single point of failure. As a result, RING Organic Storage can be deployed for a few cents per GB per month.

Scality has already garnered analyst plaudits.

"Solutions like Scality's organic storage and RING storage software will make it possible for organizations with large and fast growing rich content and unstructured data pools to adopt a lower cost and non-disruptive approach to deploying and expanding their storage assets," said Richard Villars of IDC.

"Scality views each instance of an x86 server and its DAS as a cell," said David Hill, an analyst with Mesabi Group. "The cells are connected together by a meshed network topology, typically with Gigabit Ethernet."

The software provides the intelligence to manage RING-attached assets and fulfill user requests. Each cell has an address, and there can be many thousands of them in a Scality RING. Queries take no more than 14 milliseconds.

"Scality claims its five-year TCO calculations show its solution costs a little over a third of a comparable SAN or NAS solution," said Hill. "Scality also says that RING solutions cost only half as much as similarly featured long-term storage solutions by existing cloud suppliers."

3. SolidFire

SolidFire has an all-SSD appliance it is selling to cloud providers. Founded by David Wright, who founded the online storage and backup service Jungle Disk (which Rackspace acquired in 2008) as well, the company has also picked up quite a few former Lefthand Networks employees. SolidFire just launched a few days ago and recently raised $11-million in venture funding from NEA, Valhalla Partners and Novak Biddle.

Built around a scale-out multi-tenant architecture, SolidFire delivers high-performance and high-efficiency primary storage systems for cloud service providers. One SSD system can achieve more than 1PB of capacity and provide more than 5 million IOPS. SolidFire's Element operating system enables storage volume performance to be prescribed and guaranteed. The system also leverages inline deduplication, compression and thin-provisioning technologies that operate in real-time. SolidFire's REST-based API management offers cloud providers to automate storage deployment, management and reporting.

4. cloudTP

Cloud Technology Partners (cloudTP) deals with the migration of business processes, applications and data to private, public or hybrid clouds. The company's co-founder and CEO, Chris Greendale, started systems integrator Cambridge Technology Partners in the 1990s. He brought several alumni from that firm into cloudTP.

"cloudTP acts as a CIO's trusted advisor, helping clients make the right cloud choices to gain competitive advantage," said Greendale.

The company is vendor neutral, but possesses intellectual property in terms of software and tools to facilitate cloud planning and migration. This includes an Application Profiling and Effort Estimation Kit and a SaaS Portfolio Analysis Road Map. Investors include State Street and Greylock Partners.

5. Virident

Virident Systems was founded by Silicon Valley veterans from Google, Sun Microsystems, Cisco, SGI and Intel. It has picked up some momentum in recent months due to a number of factors: The PCIe-based solid state storage market's rapid growth; a round of funding in fall 2010; a recent agreement with SGI; and new products coming to market in the coming months. Virident SSDs solve storage and server over-provisioning problems caused by limited system throughput. These SSD cards eliminate application-level I/O performance bottlenecks by delivering sustained performance and enable storage administrators to plan and reliably provision I/O bandwidth and capacity. The Virident cards deliver consistent performance even for heavy writes, being hundreds of times faster than enterprise hard disk drives. They are best for data-intensive workloads such as databases, business analytics, simulation, visualization and high-performance computing.

6. Panzura

One analyst (he who must not be named) reckons Panzura has the best cloud gateway solution on the market. The company received $12 million in a recent funding round led by Khosla Ventures. Other investors include Matrix Partners and CTTV Investments (the venture capital arm of Chevron Technology Ventures).

The Panzura Alto Cloud Controller manages storage through multiple cloud service providers, private cloud architectures and traditional on-premise NAS storage as well. Each controller delivers fast, reliable read/write performance and has built-in Cloud Provider API support, CIFS/NFS/HTTP, application awareness, data compression, encryption, deduplication, snapshots and more. It is available in either a virtual or physical appliance and can be used in a single controller mode or scaled-out in any combination and configuration to provide support for large/global environments while maintaining a unified view of the data.

7. Acunu

Acunu is a very quiet bunch of engineers and Ph.Ds from the United Kingdom who seem to be generating some buzz. It recently raised $3.6 million in funding from Pentech Ventures, Eden Ventures and Oxford Technology Management to bring an SSD-related product to market--software to help storage systems switch data around between RAM, SSD and hard drives more efficiently. As is the norm, the software runs on commodity servers.

8. Tintri

An ex-VMware senior engineer is behind Tintri's concept of VM-aware storage. It has raised more than $30 million this year from the likes of NEA and Lightspeed Venture Partners. Rather than software, the company has an appliance used only for VMs known as Vmstore. The purpose is to eliminate storage bottlenecks due to VMware having to interact with traditional storage systems so that a higher percentage of the overall infrastructure can be virtualized, including Oracle Financials and Microsoft Exchange, which have always been problematic when within a VM-rich environment.

Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in California, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).

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