StorageOS jumps on the 'storage for Docker' bandwagon

Where Docker add-on vendors have failed, StorageOS wants to succeed

As one of the earliest backers of recently shuttered vendor ClusterHQ, I’ve seen a long and torturous journey for Docker add-on vendors. Part of this is a timing issue—ClusterHQ was pretty early, and arguably burned a bunch of its hard-earned cash too early.

But some of the issues are more ecosystem related. When Docker, the commercial entity behind the eponymously named open-source project, was first founded, it received massive interest from funders. Multiple funding rounds saw Docker Inc. achieve incredible valuation levels that many predicted would be problematic in the future.

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That prediction would seem to have eventuated, and the recent high-profile rise of Kubernetes certainly increased the pain Docker feels. While many will be quick to point out that Docker and Kubernetes aren’t mutually exclusive, Docker’s valuation was arguably predicated on the company’s ability to expand its footprint far further into the orchestration aspects of containers. The fact that an open-source initiative came to bear, and one that has the proven track record of being directly descended from the systems that Google uses to run its own massive business, certainly put the pressure on Docker.

So one would be forgiven for assuming that companies would quickly try to find peripheral opportunities beyond the Docker one and that launching a Docker-centric product today would be difficult.

Apparently StorageOS didn’t get that memo, or if it did, it’s still bullish about what it is doing. The company is using Docker’s conference in Austin to launch a public beta of its software storage solution.

What StorageOS does

According to the company, StorageOS is a software-based, policy-driven, distributed storage platform designed and built by a team of architects, engineers and developers from major financial services organizations to solve the real-world problems they faced in their former jobs.

At its heart, StorageOS enables developers to build stateful containerized apps with fast, highly available persistent storage—precisely the proposition that ClusterHQ (yes, the dearly departed one) and Portworx, another player with momentum and significant VC funding were/are trying to solve.

So why will StorageOS succeed in the space? To be honest, I find it hard to understand. The company does a good job of justifying why it exists—at least from a “there is a real problem here” perspective:

“Containers have made app deployment lightweight and portable,” explained Chris Brandon, CEO at StorageOS. “We think storage should be just as reliable and flexible. StorageOS addresses one of the key stumbling blocks to taking containers into enterprise production: persistent storage. We expect our container storage solution to enhance the ability of developers to build stateful containerized apps.”

Yes, but I have two key gotchas to that assertion:

  1. Docker, in an effort to justify its valuation and own more of the space (and hence revenue), will likely deliver storage functionality natively sooner or later.
  2. Portworx, which has cash and momentum, is chasing the very same value proposition.

Of course, things are never quite that simple, and it may very well come to be that Docker—in an effort to build out that functionality—simply decides to acquire StorageOS, since as a very early stage company, it would be a simple (read cheap) acquisition. If that is StorageOS’s strategy, I’d suggest that it’s probably high-risk but generally makes sense. But as for building a viable business, I’m not so sure.

I wish StorageOS the best of luck, but I’m not holding my breath for a great outcome.

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