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Backers stump up 'Amazon' $20m to fund Avere's cloud ascension

NAS-furtling filer biz pushes for cloud storage gateway bigness

Go-faster filer front-end box startup Avere wants to be a cloud storage gateway as well and has landed $20m in fourth rounding funding to grow its sales, marketing and international ops.

The public cloud back-ending of storage arrays is becoming more prominent, with NetApp extending its ONTAP software to control data access for both its FAS arrays and public cloud storage, and EMC buying TwinStrata to add cloud storage gateway functionality to VMAX and, no doubt, other products in its array arsenal.

To add interest to Avere's expansion, WD is one of the new investors, leading the funding round. Existing investors Lightspeed Venture Partners, Menlo Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners and Tenaya Capital also participated.

Here's Avere’s funding history;

  • Founded 2008
  • Autumn 2009 - $15m A-round from Menlo Ventures and Norwest Venture Partners
  • October 2009 - FCS of FXT product
  • August 2010 - $17m B-round led by Tenaya Capital with existing investors
  • July 2012 - $20m C-round led by Lightspeed with existing investors
  • July 2014 - $20m D-round led by WD with existing investor participation

Total funding is now $72m, with a 5x multiple giving Avere a valuation of $360m.

WD, Western Digital as was, has said it invested because it "is constantly developing strategic relationships with technology innovators in the broader storage ecosystem that enable buyers/customers to develop highly optimised storage solutions that meet their changing data management needs. WD Capital sees the potential of hybrid cloud storage as much as we do, so therefore it made sense."

We asked Avere CEO Ron Bianchini some questions about the new round and Avere's general situation.

El Reg: What will the cash be used for?

Ron Bianchini: Straightforward mid-stage expansion goals: grow the sales and marketing functions, and international operations.

El Reg: Panzura has announced free cloud storage gateway software. Do you see this validating the cloud storage gateway idea or commoditising the cloud gateway product area?

Ron Bianchini: A free offering is an interesting move to gain publicity. But Panzura and other gateway vendors will face very significant challenges in selling to mainstream companies until they figure out how to deliver enterprise NAS performance, system scalability and availability.

El Reg: If hybrid array startups like Nimble, Tegile and Tintri start building cloud storage backbends into their array software then they'll compete with Avere's Cloud Storage Gateway functionality. What do you think about that prospect?

Ron Bianchini: Hybrid arrays in the on-premise data centre and hybrid arrays across a hybrid cloud environment are two very different things. So far, Nimble, Tintri, et al, are succeeding with on-premise hybrid storage that uses Flash and disk in an-all-in-one box, typically in a SAN environment that has no remote WAN or cloud component.

Hybrid cloud is a very different problem – one that requires minimising latency from on-premises to the cloud in order to have acceptable storage performance. At this moment, we are the only company that has demonstrated (via recent SPECsfs2008 NFS testing results) that we can achieve enterprise NAS performance across a hybrid cloud environment.


Evere SPECsfs2008 results

El Reg: NetApp has its Cloud ONTAP project with a NetApp box front-ending cloud storage through its ONTAP OS. How would that affect Avere's market?

Ron Bianchini: NetApp and EMC have both made recent announcements on cloud offerings, but so far, they have yet to deliver tangible products that will allow customers to provision capacity at-will from major third-party public cloud providers. We are seeing NetApp and EMC in the large majority of our sales opportunities, and according to the prospects and customers we are talking to, both companies are not close with cloud offerings, and meanwhile, they are getting increasingly dissatisfied with the cost of traditional, single-vendor large-enterprise type storage.

Again, the issue is, hybrid cloud is fundamentally different than on-premise storage. To succeed in hybrid, you need enterprise NAS latency and software-defined file technology to figure out what data needs to be near the users and what can be stored in the cloud.

El Reg: In general I'm seeing the storage world is beginning to separate with an on-premises front end and backend storage in the cloud. Does you agree with this view and, if so, where is it going?

Ron Bianchini: This is precisely what we believe. And our recent sales success proves that there is a market for it when the technology delivers – at the levels of latency, security and cost/performance that motivates enterprises to make the move to a hybrid cloud storage environment.

El Reg: What do you think about the idea of the all-flash data centre?

Ron Bianchini: If you listen to flash pure-play vendors, it seems as if the future is all flash. But reality is, there are very few situations where an all-flash data centre makes sense today because of the costs involved. We believe that 99 per cent of large enterprises over the next 10 years will be using all types of storage technology, and more often than provisioning an all-flash data centre, they will seek to reduce costs through a hybrid cloud deployment while enjoying the benefits of high performance.

Migrating from NAS on premises to the cloud

Bianchini says this is easy: “Historically, organisations could not migrate from on-premises NAS to a cloud storage model without the painful effort of rewriting all of their enterprise applications for cloud, and then testing them in the cloud to ensure they are functionally equivalent.”

Averes FXT appliance is a transparent in-line device that sits in fromnt of filers and needs no application changes. Voila! It can sit in front of files in the cloud and apps don't need to change either.

"With software-defined file system technology from Avere, nothing has to be rewritten for the cloud, and it is now possible to make storage changes in real time, as business requirements change."

Chris says

In Avere's view, non-primary data disk slots are migrating to the public cloud with high-performance on-premises arrays giving you fast access to local data and automatically moving data to and from the cloud as needed. It's up to the cloud vendor to manage that storage effectively – with deduplication, thin copying, etc – to provide the right mix of access and costs and security. Security here means both data integrity and reliability of network access.

An all-flash data centre may come about, but we're seeing hybrid data centres arise, with an on-premises data centre being all-flash and solid state, and a public cloud component being both disk and solid state.

Here's a thought to take away. If virtual filers emerge, like virtual SANs which aggregate networked servers' direct-attached storage into a virtual SAN, do you need a separate cloud storage gateway? Shouldn't this be included in the VSAN or Vfiler functionality? ®

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