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9 enterprise storage start-ups to watch

9 enterprise storage start-ups to watch

Young storage companies are innovating products that range from storage arrays to mainframe storage management to cloud storage and more.

Credit: Dreamstime

Model9

Year founded: 2016
Funding: US$13.8M
Headquarters: Tel Aviv, Israel and New York, New York
CEO: Gil Peleg, who previously worked in storage development roles at INFINIDAT and IBM

What they do: Develop cloud storage-management software for mainframes.

According to Model9, most mainframe data is hosted in proprietary storage silos, most often in expensive tapes and virtual-tape libraries. The siloed data is difficult to access, manage, and analyse. In addition, IT professionals with the requisite skills and experience to manage the infrastructure operations are a dying breed.

Model9’s software is designed to unlock mainframe data and open up a variety of options for cloud or on-premises object storage, data management, and integration with BI and analytics tools.

With Model9, enterprises are able to run standard mainframe backup, archive, recovery, and space-management operations. All functions are offloaded to zIIPs (IBM z Integrated Information Processors) using any storage system connected over TCP/IP, including object storage, NAS, and SAN.

Competitors include: IBM, Dell EMC, and Broadcom through its acquisition of CA
Customers include: America First Credit Union, Sirius, France Galop, and RELX Group

Why they’re a hot start-up to watch: The mainframe market tends to be overlooked by entrepreneurs spinning up storage start-ups. Model9’s focus on transitioning mainframes to the cloud may shake up a slowly evolving market dominated by a handful of incumbents.

Even if the mainframe market isn’t as flashy as new niches like NVMe, it’s still massively important to the world’s computing infrastructure, providing the core computing platform of many of the world’s largest and most critical businesses including banks, insurance carriers, and retail, health and government organisations.

Model9 has raised sufficient funding to compete for a solid foothold in the market, and it has already lined up several named customers in varied verticals.


Nyriad

Year founded: 2014
Funding: US$21.8M
Headquarters: Cambridge, New Zealand
CEO: Herb Hunt, former GM at C3 AI

What they do: Develop storage controllers.

Nyriad software enables enterprises and cloud data-centre operators to replace RAID controllers with graphics processing units (GPUs) for all Linux storage applications. Thus, GPUs are tasked as both I/O controllers and compute accelerators, a technique that minimises data movement during the processing of large data sets.

Competitors include: NVIDIA, Qumulo, VAST Data, and Zadara
Customers include: Nyriad has yet to name customers.

Why they’re a hot start-up to watch: The software behind Nyriad’s storage solution was originally developed as part of New Zealand’s effort to host the large radio-telescope array Square Kilometre Array (SKA). New Zealand lost out to South Africa and Australia, yet key technical innovations of the project live on, including some incorporated in Nyriad.

In late 2019, Nyriad shook up its management team, raised US$11M in Series B funding, and brought in serial entrepreneur and investor Guy Haddleton to reshape the business. Nyriad has since launched an early adopter program, with named partners and participants that include HPC Systems, NEC, and Supermicro.


Pavilion Data Systems

Year founded: 2014
Funding: US$58M
Headquarters: San Jose, California
CEO: Gurpreet Singh, previously VP of product management for Pure Storage

What they do: Pavilion Data’s storage platform consists of two components: 1) control software, HyperOS and 2) NVMe storage, HyperParallel Flash Array.

Each HyperParallel Flash Array delivers performance of up to 120GB/s read and 90GB/s write. The global namespace capabilities of HyperOS’ clustered, distributed file system expand storage capabilities across any number of flash arrays.

HyperOS supports block, file, and object protocols to run natively on any combination of controllers, across any number of its HyperParallel Flash Arrays. Each Flash Array supports up to 20 independent controllers, each of which runs its own instance of HyperOS. Unlike traditional arrays, that enable multiprotocol by running one protocol on top of another, HyperOS runs each protocol (iSCSI, NVMe-oF, NFS, S3) natively.

Competitors include: Apeiron, Excelero, Fungible, Lightbits Labs,  and Pure Storage
Customers include: Sony Innovation Studios, Pixit Media, and Holley Performance Products

Why they’re a hot start-up to watch: Pavilion Data targets key trouble spots created by the explosion of data associated with new technologies such as AI and edge computing. The start-up has secured US$58M in funding and locked down impressive named customers. The start-up is also led by a senior team with experience at Pure Storage, Veritas, SeaMicro (acquired by AMD), and Hitachi Data Systems, among others.


Pliops

Year founded: 2017
Funding: US$115M
Headquarters: Abba Hillel, Israel
CEO: Uri Beitler, formerly head of Samsung’s SSD Controller Development Centre in Israel 

What they do: Develop storage optimisation solutions.

The start-up’s flagship product, Pliops Storage Processor (PSP), is a key-value-based storage engine in a half-height, half-length PCIe card that can be deployed to accelerate a range of workloads.

PSP accelerates inefficient software functions to optimise management of data persistence and indexing tasks for transactional databases, real-time analytics, edge applications, and software-defined storage.

According to Pliops, while software-based key-value (KV) store operations perform core functions for nearly every database, software-defined storage, and analytics environment, they cause a combination of read, write, and space-amplification problems.

For typical database applications, write amplification can grow up to 40x and read amplification to 100x, consuming network bandwidth and hampering SSD performance, latency, and endurance. In addition, these applications generate space amplification in the range of two to seven times, wasting storage capacity on inefficient internal structures.

This amplification results in large part from the inherent inefficiency of typical storage blocks being uniform in size, no matter the variability of what they contain. Use cases such as transactional/time-series databases, real-time analytics, IoT/edge, and SDS applications have variable storage sizes smaller than the typical storage block size; therefore, all suffer from the inefficiencies caused by this data amplification.

Instead of a single storage-object size, PSP natively manages objects of different sizes, efficiently packing and managing those objects and contiguously mapping them to standard SSD blocks.

PSP cards can be plugged into existing servers and used to eliminate layers of the database, file, block, and storage management accumulated over decades by legacy architectures. With the PSP, enterprises can increase storage performance and capacity without requiring changes to most user-application software. 

Competitors include: DataCore Software, Fungible, and Scality
Customers include: Sakura Internet, Japan’s largest web hosting provider

Why they’re a hot start-up to watch: Pliops made noise recently with a funding round that pushed its total to US$115M. In February 2021 it closed a $65M round led by Koch Disruptive Technologies (KDT) and included Viola Ventures, Intel Capital, SoftBank Ventures Asia, Western Digital, and NVIDIA, among others.

The founding team gained leadership experience at Samsung, M-Systems, and XtremIO, and the start-up has already locked down Japan’s largest web hosting provider as a named customer.


VAST Data

Year founded: 2016
Funding: US$180M
Headquarters: New York, New York
CEO: Renen Hallak, previously VP of R&D at Dell EMC

What they do: Develop storage software.

VAST’s Gemini is managed storage software that is sold on commodity hardware. VAST’s disaggregated cluster architecture allows users to scale storage independently of CPUs and capacity only when needed.

VAST makes use of NVMe-over-Fabrics (NVMeOF) to enable commodity datacentre networks to function as scalable storage fabrics that combine the performance of NVMe DAS with the efficiency of shared storage infrastructures.

VAST allows storage servers to be loosely coupled in the namespace, and gives them equal access to shared, persistent NVMe devices over NVMeOF. This architecture enables VAST managed servers to be stateless machines that do not have to coordinate I/O requests with one another. By eliminating cluster cross-talk, VAST contends that its architecture scales better and is more resilient than legacy scale-out architectures.

Competitors include: Dell EMC, Pure Storage, NetApp, and WekaIO
Customers include: Squarepoint, AHEAD, and Enterprise Strategy Group

Why they’re a hot start-up to watch: In April 2020, a year after launching its first product, Universal Storage, VAST Data raised US$100M in a Series C round of funding at a $1.2B valuation. It has now raised a total of US$180M.

VAST Data has also recently shifted its business model to take itself out of the hardware supply chain. Since VAST no longer carries inventory costs, customers no longer pay its markup on the white-label hardware and can scale storage capacity at the same unit price for expansions as for large initial deployments.

(Jeff Vance is the founder of Startup50.com, a site that discovers, analyses, and ranks tech start-ups. Follow him on Twitter, @JWVance, or connect with him on LinkedIn.)


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