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May 1, 2015

Who’s ‘Cool’ In Storage Now?

Storage hardware may not get the glory in our software-dominated world, but it’s a critical element of a big data environment nonetheless. So when Gartner trotted out its “Cool Vendors” in storage last month, Datanami had to take a look.

Five storage vendors made the cut in the analyst firm’s report, including  DataGravity, Infinidat, Infinio, Maxta, and Storiant. We’ll take a look at each of these vendors, as well as why Gartner thinks they’re so “cool.”

DataGravity — This Nashua, New Hampshire company’s Discovery series of appliances provide block as well as file storage, giving it the capability to support NFS, CIFS/SMB, and iSCSI data sources. The appliances features solid state drives (SSDs) and are designed to support unstructured data formats, such as PDF and XML sources, and come with data replication, backup, compression, encryption, and de-duplication capabilities built in. The company builds what it calls a “data-aware” storage platform that’s designed to help administrators understand how data storage is being used.

Gartner was impressed with DataGravity’s “clean UI” and the way it allows users to search and filter data based on metadata types. With $92 million raised in funding, the company has a strong financial base, Gartner says; it’s been shipping product since the fall of 2014.

Infinidat – This Israeli startup targets the high-end of the storage market with its InfiniBox line of appliances, which deliver block- and file-level storage capabilities. The storage arrays are based on a “triple-controller mesh” architecture that incorporate lots of DRAM and flash (SSD) caches, and can deliver upwards of 12 GBps and 750k IOPS of throughput, the company says.

Gartner likes the firm’s “clean sheet” design, its low cost, and the density of its solutions, which can deliver 1PB of storage in a single 42U rack that consumes 8 kilowatt-hours of electricity. Chief challenges revolve around getting the word out via marketing, the analyst group says.

Infinio –This Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company develops a unique software product designed to boost the performance of server applications (or virtual desktop apps) running under ESX Server hypervisors. The software, called Accelerator, does this by effectively borrowing a small amount of RAM from each ESX host and then creating a shared pool of storage that applications can tap into.

Gartner is impressed with Infinio’s aim, which is “to decouple storage performance from storage capacity” by inserting an I/O optimization layer on the server. Its chief concerns lay in the competitiveness of the “nascent but fast moving” I/O optimization market, as well as NAND flash manufactures and legacy storage providers. The addition of block-level support later this year will complement Infinio’s file-level (NFS) compatibility, and support for SSDs will also give it a bigger market.

Maxta – This Silicon Valley player in the software defined storage (SDS) market develops a distributed file system that, when installed on a storage array, enables customers to create “hyperconverged” storage environments. By controlling the storage block sizes for applications when those apps’ virtual machines are created, it can improve performance. Maxta’s software supports thin-provisioning, deduplication, compression, snapshotting, cloning, read/write caching, mirroring, and remote replication

Gartner saw benefits in Maxta’s agnostic approach to SDS, which leaves customers free to choose among different storage hardware vendors, hypervisors, and containers to use. Indeed it partners with Cisco, HP, Intel, and Supermicro for customers who want a “turnkey” SDS solution. That agnosticism can also be a negative, however, for customers who desire “one throat to choke,” Gartner notes.

Storiant – This Boston-based cloud provider exposes an object storage file system that’s capable of handling datasets that scale into the petabyte range. The Storiant cloud, which uses the OpenZFS file system and leverages a Cassandra NoSQL database to handle metadata, features APIs for OpenStack Swift and Amazon S3 REST APIs, as well as NFS/CIFS.

Gartner says Storiant’s low-cost (less than $.01 per GB per month) makes it compelling for long-term storage of huge data sets, such as those that are found in geospatial, seismic, or machine-generated realms. However, Gartner notes that, without a large network of managed service providers (MSPs) to partner with, Storiant may struggle to gain brand recognition against the elephant in the cloud (Amazon).

Storiant was kind enough to host a copy of Gartner’s report, “Cool Vendors in Storage Technologies, 2015,” which you can find here.

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