Kaminario swallows $15m – ONE MONTH after last cash gulp

Upstarts get fatter but there's only room for so many

Comment Not content with raising $53m in a E-round of funding at the end of November, flash array performance king Kaminario raised another $15m at the end of December.

The startup’s K2 all-flash array business has now raised a total of $143m, getting close to Solidfire’s $150m but a long way behind Pure Storage’s $470m.

King K got the extra cash, it says, because investors were clamouring to pump in more money to the already over-subscribed round. How nice to be one of the girls at the prom that everybody and their brother wants to dance with.

Founder and CEO Dani Golan had a prepared remark for the news: “We’re both humbled and invigorated by how far we’ve come and will continue working to achieve our mission of making flash storage accessible, affordable and beneficial for every enterprise.”

You've got to be humble at the top these days – boasting nicely, so to speak.

In that vein, it says it more than doubled booking in the fourth quarter of 2014 compared to the third, “with the majority of customers choosing to expand their implementations following initial purchase.”

The firm says it increased its headcount by 25 per cent quarter-over-quarter since launching the gen 5 K2 in May last year, “ a rate that will continue through 2015.” It plans to enter another five regions in Europe this year.

One of the E-round funders, Brian Abrams, a partner at US-based hedge fund Lazarus, said: “More companies than ever are looking to implement flash in their data centres … This funding round strongly positions Kaminario to capitalise on its recent progress and grow exponentially in the months and years ahead.”

This all-flash array business has so many players now with no-one giving up, although Skyera has been bought by Western Digital. Who’s who in the AFA Hunger Games now?

  • Cisco with its acquired startup Invicta (Whiptail) arrays currently in hibernation - but it could do something
  • Dell with all-flash Compellents and modified legacy disk software
  • EMC with acquired startup XtremIO; forecasting a billion dollar run rate for this flash box in 2015, plus all-flash VMAX/VNX
  • HDS with flash accelerator inside VSP array
  • HGST with acquired Skyera array tech
  • HP with all flash 3PAR
  • IBM with acquired and high sales rate FlashSystem plus added SVC for data management software
  • Kaminario, needing, we think, to add lower-cost, lower performance down-range products
  • NetApp with a trio of products; all-flash EF series for fast and simple, All-flash ONTAP for fast and mature data management services, and developing all-new hardware/software FlashRay expected to get a second controller plus more software this year
  • Pure Storage with bold, confident marketing, and a product set anticipated to expand this year
  • Solidfire with twin service provider and enterprise markets in its focus and scale-out design with good quality of service
  • Tegile with AFA version of its hybrid array
  • Violin Memory with rounded-out product range and re-invigorated management looking to grow, grow, grow

Thirteen vendors. Is it going to be unlucky for some?

Actually there are a couple more. We have six mainstreamers: Dell, EMC, HDS, HP, IBM and NetApp, with large customer bases and channels to market. There are four startups left standing, more than standing in Pure and Solidfire’s case, standing tall in Kaminario’s, and leaving the walking wounded behind in Violin’s case.

Then there are three wannabes: Cisco with Invicta (come on Cisco, what the heck are you playing at here?); HGST with Skyera; and Tegile looking for some snappy sideways expansion from its hybrid array base.

Two extras sneak in at the end: Fujitsu has an all-flash Eternus DX200F which should do well enough in its customer base, and Nimbus Data with its Gemini arrays.

That’s fifteen AFA hopefuls. It’s too many, too many by far. Just having a faster-than-disk SAN array won’t cut it for the startups. They have to have great data management software and, if they can, take advantage of new server/storage trends such as converging storage and servers into converged and integrated systems with a scale-out architecture.

Slower and cheaper TLC flash is coming along this year and, maybe, that will enable different enterprise flash use cases like very fast-access archiving.

There are lots of interesting possibilities and questions.

For example, what is HGST going to do with Skyera? Produce a better AFA mousetrap? Somehow sell systems direct to hyperscale customers, with whom it has no track record at the system level? Combine Skyera tech with its object storage array? A TLC-based cold flash archive?

If the four startups (Kaminario, Pure, Solidfire and Violin) can make faster progress growing their business than one or more of the incumbent mainstreamers this year then that might prompt acquisition or partnering activity next year … by …. an incumbent without its own ground-up designed AFA.

It’s all-flash array musical chairs time, with 15 players dancing around for our business and the music is in full swing. When it stops, a chair is going to be taken away and a supplier will stumble. Who will it be?

Then we rinse and repeat, so to speak, because no way can the 15 current AFA players all grow and prosper for the next five years. No way, Jose. ®

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