Amidst all the venture investments this year in startups that generate gobs of data -- from those focused on everything from apps to drones to the Internet of Things to Big Data -- are a batch of newcomers aiming to help organizations store and access all that information. Yes, storage companies are pulling in big bucks in 2015, as they did in 2014, and a couple have even double-dipped this year and announced two rounds of funding.
What's more, these new storage companies actually have a bit of flair. Rubrik, for example, cites the "industry luminaries" backing it, channels H.G. Wells by referring to its product as a "time machine" and claims to be able to "eliminate backup software." Tachyon, out of UC Berkeley, gets to play the open source card with its lab-hatched technology. Others, such as Kaminario and Tegile Systems, are heavily into flash storage, while SimpliVity and Rubrik go beyond storage as "hyperconverged" players.
These companies are largely clustered in California and Massachusetts, though a solid Israeli influence can also be seen.
We've only included companies in this roundup that have announced venture funding in 2015, and together they've snagged more than half a billion dollars so far this year (see our enterprise networking & IT startup funding timeline here). So we're not ignoring the likes of IPO-ready Nutanix (see an Infoworld product review here) and Pure Storage (whose CEO we recently interviewed) -- they just don't fit the criteria we've used to contain the list. Neither is this roundup intended to be all-inclusive, but rather a sampling of some of the hottest young storage companies around:
Headquarters: Santa Clara
Focus: Software-defined enterprise storage
Why they're worth watching: Hedvig has already announced two rounds of funding in 2015, and we're only in June. The company announced a seed/Series A round of funding in March, upon coming out of stealth mode, valued at $12.5 million and led by True Ventures and Atlantic Bridge. Then in June Hedvig revealed an $18 million Series B round of financing led by new venture fund Vertex Ventures. The company's CEO, Avinash Lakshman, is a serious draw given his expertise in distributed systems: He was one of the co-creators of the Dynamo NoSQL database service while at Amazon and of the open source Apache Cassandra distributed database management system while at Facebook. The company's Distributed Storage Platform exploits the cloud and commodity hardware to make its storage affordable. (Note: We actually included Hedvig in a roundup of cloud companies to watch earlier this year, after its first round of funding.)
Headquarters: Needham, Mass.
Focus: Enterprise storage systems
Why they're worth watching: This company, led by influential EMC and IBM storage veteran Moshe Yanai, started in 2011 but only revealed itself to the public in May upon receiving a $150 million funding commitment from TPG Growth. That brings total funding to $230 million, and the company's valuation is $1.2 billion, leading industry watchers to believe Infidat is headed toward an IPO (Yanai previously sold two storage startups to IBM). The company's InfiniBox arrays combine hard disks and flash technology to deliver up to 2 petabytes of usable capacity in a standard 42U rack. Yanai boasts: "Infinidat is on the verge of revolutionizing the enterprise storage market with a dramatically simpler, more cost-effective storage solution offering unparalleled performance, capacity, and reliability." The company also sells tools for storage and applications managers to maintain efficient virtualized data centers.
Focus: Network-based storage controller.
Why they're worth watching: Okay, we've made one exception to our criteria about companies on this list having announced funding this year. These guys are privately funded to date. But they're still worth watching because of their management team's pedigree, plus in June the company introduced an intriguing initial product dubbed the NSC-110 into beta testing, with general available slated for Q3. Infinite io is headed by CEO and co-founder Mark Cree, who previously led Cisco into the storage networking market. The company's aim is to help customers exploit the cloud by using metadata-informed policies to store reams of inactive data where it's cheaper to do so and to make frequently used data easier to access. What's more, the NSC-110 is designed to save space on existing NAS filers.
Headquarters: Newton, Mass.
Focus: All-flash storage arrays for midrange enterprises
Why they're worth watching: Launched in 2008, Kaminario was an early player in the all-flash storage system market with its K2 arrays, and has now raised $143 million in funding and lined up dozens of partners (it added $15 million of that funding earlier this year). The company, whose CEO Dani Golan served as a fighter pilot and officer in the Israeli Air Force and formerly led new ventures at EMC, has a management team brimming with storage industry experience (CTO Shachar Fienblit, for instance, held storage leadership positions at IBM). The company is a regular at trade shows run by the likes of Citrix and VMware, and isn't shy about touting the scale-up and scale-out options of its products that it boasts bring customers like Dot Foods and Taboola performance and flexibility. Nor does it hold back in critiquing the latest developments from rivals like Pure Storage.
Headquarters: Woburn, Mass.
Focus: Non-volatile random access memory (NRAM)
Why they're worth watching: To call this company a startup would be a stretch since it launched in 2001, but it takes a while to build breakthrough chips using carbon nanotube electronics technology. Despite having been around so long, Nantero is more behind the scenes than the others in this collection. But its technology could find its way into consumer and enterprise electronics that need faster and denser memory to handle explosive data needs better than flash or DRAM can. SSG-Now Founding Analyst Deni Connor says: "NRAM, because of its low-power and performance, could displace DRAM and SSDs and be used in arrays and servers of the near future." Nantero says its technology has been installed in production fabs around the world and is making its way into products. Big name outfits such as Lockheed Martin
and Schlumberger are testing the technology, as are a bunch of "confidential" semiconductor and infrastructure companies. The company added $31.5 million to its coffers in a fifth round of funding announced in June.
Headquarters: Palo Alto
Focus: Converged data management
Why they're worth watching: Rubrik is among the new vendors whose technology fits into what some are calling the hyperconverged infrastructure market, which SSG-Now's Connor describes as hardware or software-defined "appliances or systems that consist of compute and storage built on industry standard x86 servers and may be clustered for scalability." While this one-and-a-half year-old company really slings around the jargon, its message about safeguarding and delivering data across hybrid clouds has gotten through to investors, who have ponied up twice already in 2015 in the form of a Series A round in March worth $10 million and a $41 million round in May as it made its hybrid cloud appliance generally available. With a team involved in building everything from the Google File System to YouTube to Facebook and Amazon's data infrastructures, when this company says its technology supports Web-scale environments, people are paying attention.
Headquarters: Westborough, Mass.
Focus: Hyperconverged infrastructure
Why they're worth watching: Along with Nutanix, SimpliVity is rated by industry watchers such as IDC and Gartner as being among the top players in the emerging hyperconverged infrastructure market (or Integrated Systems, in Gartner's lingo) that more established vendors such as EMC/VMware, HP and Dell are also pursuing. SimpliVity claims it is "assimilating all IT elements below the hypervisor" -- including storage -- within virtualized and cloud environments. While some might still be debating exactly what hyperconvergence is or isn't (SimpliVity hits you over the head with links to definitions right on its website homepage), investors are big believers in this company, which former EMC executive and current SimpliVity CEO Doron Shempel launched in 2009. The privately-held outfit scored $175 in Series D funding in March at a valuation of more than $1 billion, making it a so-called "unicorn." This 500-employee company is rolling, and unlike some of the others in this article, is naming big names of customers for its OmniStack and OmniCube offerings, including the MLB Network and Waypoint. It's also partnering with big vendors, such as Cisco, and recently announced support for Cisco's UCS Director to automate infrastructure management.
Headquarters: Berkeley, Calif.
Focus: Open source distributed storage system
Why they're worth watching: This March 2015 spinout from UC Berkeley's AMPlab is still stealthy, but what we do know is that Andreessen Horowitz has supplied Tachyon Nexus with $7.5 million in Series A funding for the project, which aims to commercialize the open source Tachyon technology co-developed by company founder Haoyuan Li. The UC Berkeley computer science Ph.D. candidate describes Tachyon as a "memory-centric storage system enabling reliable file sharing at memory-speed across cluster frameworks, such as Spark and MapReduce." (The term "tachyon" refers to a hypothetical particle that moves faster than light.) In about two years, Tachyon -- under the Apache license -- has attracted more than 80 contributors from 30 organizations, including Intel and Red Hat.
Headquarters: Newark, Calif.
Focus: Flash and hybrid storage arrays
Why they're worth watching: Like many other new storage companies, Tegile has embraced flash technology. But it differentiates itself by offering hybrid storage systems as well, to balance cost and capacity needed to support organizations' databases and virtualized servers and desktops via storage-attached networks and network-attached storage setups. The company's leadership hails from Perfigo, a network admission control company that Cisco bought 10 years ago, and in fact, Tegile exhibited at this week's Cisco Live conference in San Diego, so who knows....? But for now, Tegile is thriving as an independent outfit, having just raised $70 million in Series D funding to bring its total to $117.5 million. CEO Rohit Kshetrapal exclaimed upon receiving the most recent funding: "With this infusion of venture and debt capital, we will be able to satisfy the rising demand for our Tegile Intelligent Flash Arrays and methodically build Tegile into a sustainable multi-billion-dollar business that will deliver maximum value to our investors." The company is looking to double its workforce to 600 employees over the next 18 months, while expanding its reseller channel for greater reach in Europe and Asia.