Z-force Is With Us

Startup begins ramping production of gigabit Ethernet 'file switch' for NAS

December 14, 2001

3 Min Read
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Z-force Communications Inc. has won $16 million in second-round funding to fuel the delivery of its gigabit Ethernet storage switch.

Investors in the round were Allegis Capital, Alloy Ventures, Rock Creek Capital Ventures, and Quantum Technology Ventures, the venture capital arm of Quantum Corp. (NYSE: DSS).

We’ve obviously been in a heavy product development, and we’ll be scaling the company in all areas to deliver the product to market,” says Gary Johnson, chairman and co-founder of Z-force. The company, founded in 1999, is based near Los Angeles in Costa Mesa and is adding an office in Santa Clara, Johnson says, because of the location's proximity to potential partners in Silicon Valley.

Johnson would not say how much seed capital Z-force had previously raised, nor would he divulge an employee headcount. “Essentially, this is our first venture round,” he says. The company plans to ramp up operations and launch its switch sometime in 2002.

Z-force is building a Layer 7 gigabit-Ethernet-based switch for network attached storage (NAS) -- in which a server is attached to a network for backup (see Storage Networking Glossary). Z-force has dubbed its new product a “file switch.” Stephen Terlizzi, Z-force’s vice president of marketing, who recently joined the startup after 10 years with EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) in various sales and marketing roles, says the switch is designed to let NAS installations scale up painlessly.“In the past... each individual NAS device and file server has been separately managed,” Terlizzi says. “We’re coming out with a new class of product -- which we’re calling a file switch -- that effectively will allow us to manage the growth of that data [more effectively].”

Terlizzi sounds positively modest compared with the company’s Website, which claims the patent-pending technology “will enable NAS environments to transfer file data at terabit wire speeds” and also boasts that it will provide “unlimited, easy-to-manage scalability at a low cost.” Sounds terrific, no?

Based on that sketchy product description, Z-force’s positioning sounds like it’s in the same ballpark as other storage switch startups like 3ware Inc. (see 3ware Loses Its Head) and Pirus Networks (see Pirus Attains $9.5 Million Additional Funding). Another potential competitor is Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), which is prepping a new iSCSI (SCSI over IP) router (see Cisco Spills Beans on Next SAN Router).

Z-force’s founders are Johnson, previously president and CEO of S3 Inc., a PC graphics board manufacturer that has since changed its name to SonicBlue Inc., and three former executives of Object Dynamics Corp., a now-defunct software engineering firm that was folded into Z-force.

Vladimir Miloushev, Z-force’s president and CEO, held the same titles at Object Dynamics; Z-force CTO Peter Nickolov was Object Dynamics’ VP of engineering; and CFO Krasimira Nikolova was Object Dynamics’ VP of finance. That troika had previously founded the System Research Laboratory, a software shop in Sofia, Bulgaria.Z-force boasts storage industry blue-blood Larry Boucher as an advisor. Boucher -- who helped create the first SCSI interface -- is founder and CEO of Alacritech Inc. Previously, Boucher founded Auspex Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ASPX) and Adaptec Inc. (Nasdaq: ADPT)

Along with Boucher, Z-force’s board members include Charles Carinalli, chairman and CEO of Adaptive Silicon Inc., a silicon technology licensing outfit, and Adam Tachner, intellectual property counsel at Atheros Communications Inc., a wireless chip maker. The startup's advisory board includes Richie Lary, a longtime storage engineer with Digital Equipment Corp., and Shmuel Shottan, senior vice president of product development at network storage systems vendor BlueArc Corp..

“We think we have a world-class advisory board,” says Johnson.

— Todd Spangler, special to Byte and Switch

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