Newly funded startup looks to partner with blade server vendors

April 29, 2004

3 Min Read
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Terrascale Technologies hopes its first round of funding, announced this week, will also be its last (see Terrascale Takes $2.75M to the Bank).

The Montreal-based startup, which also has a remote office in Albuquerque, New Mexico, just raised an "oversubscribed" first round of $2.75 million in financing from New York's Entrepia Ventures, Quebec's Innovatech Montreal, and some private investors. Its seed money, about CN$250,000, came from Innovatech and the founders themselves in May 2003, according to CEO Gautham Sastri.

Sastri says he's not interested in raising more money. Instead, Terrascale plans to grow sufficiently to reach profitability by the end of 2004 without selling its soul to its backers.

Is this genius, or madness? Sastri – who, like a couple of other key employees, including VP of engineering Iain B. Findleton, hails from Maximum Throughput Inc. (Max-T) – seems confident it's the former. "We allow partners to build something resembling a... cluster NAS box," he maintains.

Terrascale is offering software that enables companies to create a pool of stored applications on multiple servers without adding a separate distributed file system, such as those offered by IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), PolyServe Inc., Sistina Software Inc., and others, including "Luster" solutions adopted by government installations. The company claims to have put "intelligence in an iSCSI device driver" in order to make multiple servers act as a coherent unit.Sastri says Terrascale's software works with Gigabit Ethernet, InfiniBand, and Myrinet networks. At a recent trade show, Terrascale demonstrated its software working with gear from Voltaire Inc., for example. The solution should also work with Quadrics configurations, Sastri says, but it hasn't yet been tested for that.

At least one analyst says it's an impressive technique. Arun Taneja of the Taneja Group says Terrascale's solution appears to require substantially less effort to install and maintain than distributed file systems, while delivering comparable performance. But Taneja is trying to curb his enthusiasm, he says, until he sees more evidence from customer trials.

It's not clear how long Taneja will have to wait. Sastri says his company's plan is to grow a small but revenue-generating customer base. At least 75 percent of revenue, however, will come from indirect sales through partnerships, mainly with blade server vendors, which Sastri sees as the ideal adopters of Terrascale's solution. He says a major blade server maker, which can't yet be named, is on the verge of striking a deal with the startup.

All this on a fraction of what many startups feel they need to get going. And there aren't many employees, either: 12 today, which Sastri says could grow to a whopping 20 by year's end. There aren't any anticipated changes to management. Mainly, Sastri says, the new funding announced this week will go to helping the company grow its customer base. Also in the works is more involvement in industry standards bodies and forums such as Global Grid Forum (GGF).

Terrascale also has its future plans underway. It's gotten a CN$25,000 grant from the National Research Council of Canada to explore how its solution works with databases.— Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

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