Agami Systems

Startup sprung from Zambeel IP says it has the chops to take on NetApp and EMC

May 23, 2006

4 Min Read
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Agami Systems, a storage newcomer with deep roots that go back to a past life, is building out its NAS product line in hopes of blooming as a disaster recovery tool.

Agami came out with its low-end AIS-3000 series last November, and then added a midrange AIS6000 family in March. (See Agami Speeds Up NAS.)

Today, Agami upgraded its operating system to add high-availability capabilities. (See Agami Goes HA.) Agami 2.0 lets customers mirror file systems over the WAN for synchronous or asynchronous replication. The new OS also supports snapshot scheduling and snapshot rollback to make it easier to manage and restore from snapshots after a failure. With the new features, Agami is billing its products as "enterprise-class" systems.

But Agami, which claims around 20 customers, is still practically in the starting gate when compared to enterprise NAS leaders Network Appliance and EMC. Without a compelling product, Agami could find itself roadkill, like its technology ancestor Zambeel, the failed distributed file system startup that contributed the intellectual property for Agami.

NAS startups have been able to make headway attacking specific markets that enable them to avoid taking on the leaders head-on. For example, Isilon targets verticals such as media, broadcasting, and gas and oil exploration, and ONStor sells gateways that support any vendor's storage.But with its support of file replication and snapshots, Agami is going after the mainstream NAS market that NetApp and EMC dominate, although it can't scale to the size of those vendors' larger systems.

"Smaller companies have been able to find niches by trying to create a market and go after a vacancy. Agami's saying, 'We can play with the big boys.' It's a tough thing to do," says analyst David Hill of the Mesabi Group. Still, he notes that Agami must take this route if it wishes to stay in the enterprise space. He thinks it's possible to succeed if a startup is cost sensitive. Agami uses AMD Opteron chips instead of Intel, and uses off-the-shelf hardware to keep costs down.

At least one adopter is sold on Agami. Ketera Technologies, a supply chain and business intelligence services provider, uses an AIS3006 for backup and remote replication.

Ketera's director of managed services, Ron Leedy, says he switched over to Agami from a Rackable Systems NAS last year because of performance problems. He's since added a second unit to replicate between headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., and a collocation site in Secaucus, N.J., and he plans to add two more boxes when he brings up a third site for three-way replication.

Leedy estimates that when it came to throughput, the Agami NAS outperformed the Rackable system by nearly 10 times and cut his backup time from more than three days for 2 Tbytes to around 12 hours.Leedy says he looked at EMC and NetApp gateways before selecting Agami, but found the new guy cheaper and easier to use. The ASI3006 has a list price of $34,995 for 6 Tbytes.

"EMC was doing a NAS gateway in front of a SAN, and their replication was through their SnapView application at the SAN level," he says. "I wasn't ready to go out and buy SAN storage at that price just to have NAS."

Where Agami falls short as an enterprise play is scaleability. The largest AIS3000 system only goes to 9 Tbytes, and the ASI6000 goes to 19.2 Tbytes. Its highest-end system, the AIS6119, has a list price of $87,995 for 19.2 Tbytes.

"Each 6 Tbytes I'm going to buy, I need to buy another Agami," Leedy says. He doesn't see that as a problem, because he doesnt expect any file system to go beyond 4 Tbytes, but it could be a stumbling block for larger shops.

Agami's technology rose from the ashes of Zambeel, the clustered NAS startup that crashed in April of 2003. (See Zambeel Znuffed Out.) A startup called StorAD, heavily stocked with former Zambeel execs, bought Zambeel's IP out of bankruptcy, then changed its name to Agami Systems in 2004. (See From Zambeelians to Chameleons.)Agami chief architect William Earl and VP of product management Paul Speciale remain among the former Zambeel crew, and former Zambeel VCs, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and New Enterprise Associates (NEA), are among the investors that pumped $38 million into Agami. But Agami marketing VP John Wernke insists Agami is not Zambeel II. He says Agami's 85 employees include only seven former Zambeelians, and the technology has been retooled.

Agami executives appear to have learned from Zambeel's failure. Zambeel's major downfall was its concentration on the Network File System (NFS) protocol while ignoring the CIFS protocol that Windows uses. Wernke says Zambeel's original plan was to go after dotcom firms that relied heavily on Linux, but that market dried up before Zambeel pushed out product.

— Dave Raffo, News Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD)

  • Agami Systems Inc.

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC)

  • Isilon Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ISLN)

  • Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

  • Mesabi Group LLC

  • New Enterprise Associates (NEA)

  • Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • ONStor Inc.

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