Viva iVivity?

Storage processor startup banks $13M inside round and hires ex-HDS exec David Coombs as CEO

July 8, 2003

4 Min Read
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After keeping its head down for two and a half years, storage processor startup iVivity Inc. today announced that it has raised $13 million in a second round of funding and has recruited storage vet David Coombs as its president and CEO (see iVivity Lands $13M and a CEO).

But will fresh dough and a new CEO be enough to help iVivity break out of the pack in this still-competitive area? And will the transition to 10-Gbit/s storage networks happen fast enough -- that is, while the startup still has money in the bank?

The inside round, which brings iVivity to around $24 million in total funding, came from previous investors LSI Logic Corp., HIG Capital, Commonwealth Capital Ventures, Kinetic Ventures, Cordova Ventures, and Bergman & Associates, headed by Bruce Bergman, iVivitys chairman and former CEO of Brocade Communications Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCD).

Zulfiqar Qazilbash, iVivity co-founder and chief strategy officer, says the company is aiming to deliver wire-speed application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) that can perform so-called intelligent services -- such as provisioning, quality of service, and snapshots -- for 10-Gbit/s Fibre Channel or Ethernet storage networks. It’s designing chips for the target side, so iVivity is pitching its silicon to switch and appliance vendors.

"We think the problem of putting intelligence in the data path will be solved by the storage guys," he says. "We’re skeptical of the networking folks."The Atlanta startup says it will hold headcount steady at the current 45 employees and will use the funding to produce its first ASIC, due out in late 2003 or early 2004. Sanjay Sehgal, COO and co-founder of iVivity, says the funding should last until its customers start shipping products based on the iVivity chips in the second half of 2004.

Currently, iVivity has six beta sites testing out its iDISX technology implemented in field-programmable gate array (FPGA) chips, which use a less optimized architecture than ASICs. The iVivity technology supports multiple protocols, including Fibre Channel and iSCSI at the network layer and SCSI and Serial Attached SCSI at the device end.

The company sees its main competitors as other startups that are producing "intelligent" SAN silicon, including Aarohi Inc., Aristos Logic Inc., and Astute Networks Inc. (see Aristos Logic Raises $20M and Smart SAN Switches: Not This Year).

Qazilbash [ed. note: bless you!] downplays any competitive threat from the likes of Trebia Networks and Silverback Systems, both of which have been actively pursuing OEMs: "We differentiate from the Trebias of the world because we’re not doing just wire-speed performance -- we have more functionality," he says.

Tantalizingly, Qazilbash claims iVivity has already "confirmed a Tier 1 OEM." So who is the one signed-and-sealed customer? Predictably, iVivity, won’t say. "It’s one of the top eight guys in the storage networking industry," he says. [Ed. note: Ooooooh, boy! A guessing game! We love guessing games!]All told, the startup appears to be in the right place at just about the right time (although it’s obviously not alone). All the major industry players -- including Brocade, EMC, Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp., and Cisco Systems Inc. -- have been driving hard to deliver more intelligence in the network, and it’s clear that with 10-Gbit/s network technologies some type of specialized processors will be required (see V-Switch Alliances Take Shape, Brocade Loads Code, Signs EMC, HP Opens Doors to CASA, and IBM Plays With Self (Virtually)).

As such, iVivity is hoping that Coombs, who officially started at the company in June after a six-month CEO search, will bring his industry connections to bear as the startup upshifts into aggressive sales mode. He was formerly executive VP of operations at Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) -- where he had a hand in boosting HDS’s competitive edge against EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) in the high-end RAID array business.

Most recently, Coombs was president of Ricoh Silicon Valley Inc., a subsidiary of Ricoh Co. Ltd. that makes document-scanning appliances. He also was VP of storage sales and marketing at Digital Equipment Corp. (subsequently bought by Compaq, now part of HP).

Founded in November 2000, iVivity was originally planning to have operations in three locations -- Silicon Valley, Atlanta, and India -- but decided to consolidate everything in Atlanta, says Qazilbash. "We don’t have the turnover we would have had if were based in California," he says.

— Todd Spangler, US Editor, Byte and Switch

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