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14 Storage Startups Breaking New Ground

  • The advent of very high-performance, high-capacity SSDs, coupled with new interfaces such as NVMe over Fabrics and software-defined networking give storage a major creative boost. We are migrating from RAID systems to compact appliances that deliver storage, and, in the form of hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) systems, compute as well.

    A number of innovative storage startups are helping drive this evolution. The list of startups is growing fast and new companies appear out of stealth mode on a regular basis. These are not companies chasing existing business with a better mousetrap. Many of them have game-changing approaches to how enterprises will implement and manage storage in the future.

    For some startups, the appliance and HCI models provide a standard COTS-based platform, which is essential to economies of scale and time to market. The resulting software is "portable" between platforms, with a consequently wider market opportunity, but also a tougher competitive environment.

    Portability and scalability are enhanced by software-defined storage (SDS), which abstracts the code from underlying hardware platforms and operating systems. As SDS evolves --  it’s still in its early days -- the agility provided by encapsulating storage microservices will create new ways to build storage software stacks, resulting in overall lower costs due to a competitive environment for each type of service.

    Another focus of the current batch of storage startups is data management. Addressing data sprawl and migration between memory tiers will radically reduce storage costs, which will become critical  as we add flash/Optane tiers in the memory bus and move to all solid-state storage. Making data in disparate silos or clouds look like one pool is another issue that startups are addressing.

    The challenges of replacing traditional SCSI-based networked storage to match the speed demands of solid-state drives and the performance/complexity of shared memory in the HCI model also is spawning startups. Here, the focus is on removing bottlenecks in the system and providing a mechanism for accessing the distributed storage pool. Given its complexity, this market is just emerging, but we can expect a good deal of future activity, especially with byte-addressable persistent memory on horizon.

    All in all, this is a good time to be a storage startup. Click ahead to check out some of new companies worth watching as the storage industry continues its remarkable transformation.

    (Image: ESB Professional/Shutterstock)

  • Alluxio


    One challenge in large clusters is ensuring data locality: minimizing network traffic and latency by placing storage and associated apps close to each other. This becomes a major issue in hybrid clouds, where the worst-case scenario is data in one cloud and compute in another. Alluxio, formerly known as Tachyon, offers a software-only solution to the problem, one that automates the co-location process. Alluxio also supports 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.

  • Datera


    Datera is tackling some of the leading-edge challenges in storage. With a novel key-value store approach, the startup utilizes NVDIMM (with Optane on the horizon) to speed up write operations, coalesce writes, and provide a cache for reads. Datera's access protocol can aggregate massively parallel reads, leading to high-load bandwidths. The company's tool provides most of the compression, snapshot and replication features enjoyed by established storage vendors, so it is already a powerful solution. The software also works with orchestration tools from VMware, OpenStack, and Docker, along with Kubernetes and Mesosphere.

  • Datrium


    Offering a new twist on hyperconverged, Datrium offers stackable appliances that act as servers with a flash cache, currently SATA SSDs, in each appliance. The appliances are linked to a back-end bulk storage unit with large hard drives that serves as the primary storage. Compression, deduplication and end-to-end encryption are included. Datrium has just released an advanced snapshot tool that includes a catalog of snapshots, which is very useful in searching and managing the image storms created by thousands of VMs. This product takes a somewhat different than a hyperconvergence vendor like Nutanix, which focuses on pooling only drives built into its servers.

  • E8 Storage


    Launched last year, E8 is a hardware provider aiming to centralize the NVMe drives in a rack of servers into a single 2U, 24-drive appliance, delivering data via NVMe over Ethernet. This product provides a SAN replacement with much higher performance and better storage utilization than typical in-server solutions. It could also be a vehicle for ultra-large bulk storage SSDs as these reach market in the next couple of years. With 100 TB drives that vendors such as Samsung are planning, the current E8 box could hold 10 PB of compressed data

  • Excelero


    Utilizing an SDS approach coupled with an NVMe over Fabrics mesh storage stack, Excelero addresses issues with hyperconverged infrastructure such as “noisy neighbors” while providing huge IOPS levels. With Excelero, accessing a drive takes advantage of the RDMA feature of NVMe over Fabrics, resulting in very low latency and placing the CPU load burden on the initiating system rather than the one holding the drive. Excelero has also moved on from using SCSI-based protocols, such as iSCSI. The company's technology could be the next SAN. Excelero emerged out of stealth in March.

  • Igneous Systems


    Igneous provides a storage “black-box” that's an alternative to storing data in a public cloud. The company provides a managed hardware solution on-premises and looks after everything from maintenance and provisioning to performance tuning. Pricing 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.

  • Komprise


    Komprise is tackling storage sprawl and cost issues through the use of storage analytics. Good storage management requires a near-real-time insight into what is happening and Komprise's software provides metrics together with analytic tools to build a variety of data policies. Komprise then manages data placement across storage tiers and multiple clouds. The software allows for interactively modelling a variety of scenarios prior to selecting the way forward.

  • Leonovus

    Launched earlier this year, this startup  tackles the hybrid cloud storage problems of synchronicity and governance with a software-defined object storage solution that focuses on data security and compliance across both private and public cloud storage. It is hardware and software agnostic and strongly supports geo-distribution. Data is seamlessly encrypted both at rest and in transit.

    (Image: bluebay/Shutterstock)

  • Nyriad


    This New Zealand startup is tackling the challenge of very high throughput storage systems and minimizing bandwidth and storage space with terabyte/second cluster data flows. Nyriad created software that can compress, encrypt, and erasure code data using a low-cost graphics card at tens of gigabytes per second and capable of keeping up with sets of ultra-fast NVMe SSDs. This effectively provides 500 GbE link performance, for example. Disclaimer: I'm a member of Nyriad's board of advisors.