10 hot storage companies to watch

Offerings from these young storage companies include the likes of hybrid-cloud storage, tiered caching, zero data loss after recovery and even distributed storage on free disk space.

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CEO: Madhan Kanagavel. Prior to FileCloud, he founded a startup that built Tonido, a personal cloud platform, which has been white-labeled by D-Link, Corsair, Freecom, Intel and Samsung for distribution on their hardware.

Problem they solve: Many information-centric organizations are nervous about losing control over data when it resides in the cloud or in third-party apps. These organizations are also concerned about vendor lock-in, which can exacerbate the data-control issue.

Info-heavy organizations continue to have petabytes of data stored in legacy on-premises infrastructure such as files servers, NAS and homespun databases. Currently, there is no easy way to migrate that data to the cloud in a cost-effective way that maintains a high level of control over that data.

How they solve it: FileCloud’s cloud-agnostic enterprise file services platform helps organizations maintain control over their data as they migrate to the cloud. Conceived of as an alternative to centralized platforms like Google Drive or Box, FileCloud allows enterprises to keep data on-premises, where they can enforce appropriate policies, while sharing, syncing and collaborating just as easily as with public cloud services. Enterprises without robust in-house IT resources may host their data with FileCloud. Hybrid infrastructures are also supported.

Competitors include: Box, Citrix, Dropbox, Egnyte, Google Drive, OwnCloud, NextCloud, Microsoft.

Customers include: NASA Kennedy Space Center, City of San Diego, Stewart Title, Fiserv, US Army (ERDC), Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property, UAE Prime Minister Office.

Why they’re a hot startup to watch: As a self-funded startup, FileCloud had a steep uphill climb to make this roundup. The evaluation process probably overvalues VC funding because it is a granular and publicly available data point. Yet FileCloud summited this competition with plenty of breath left in its lungs. They have a solid leadership team, an impressive and long list of on-the-record customers and they’re positioned in a fast-growing market sector that is still chaotic enough to offer newcomers plenty of room to maneuver. FileCloud finished a strong third in Round 2 (online voting).

Reduxio

What they do: Enterprise flash storage.

Year founded: 2012

Funding: $60M

Headquarters: San Francisco, CA

CEO: Mark Weiner. He was previously CEO of Exanet, a clustered NAS vendor, leading it to an acquisition by Dell.

Problem they solve: Legacy storage platforms separate data storage and management into separate silos, creating a number of challenges for storage adminsAccording to IDC, nearly two-thirds of organizations are not fully confident that they could recover their data in the event of a significant disaster. IDC has also found that the most common recovery-point objective (RPO) is one hour, while the most common recovery-time objective (RTO) is four hours.

In the race to zero, businesses seeking 100 percent uptime with zero data loss (and 0 RPO/RTO) aren’t getting there with legacy approaches.

How they solve it: Reduxio’s platform unifies primary and secondary storage as well as data management. With Reduxio, end users are able to recover data to any second, while the startup claims to be able to deliver “near-zero RPO and RTO.”

Here’s how it works according to a company spokesperson: “When an IO first enters the Reduxio system, it is cached and time-stamped the moment it falls onto the cache. If the data matches an existing set on the system, the IO is discarded, and its metadata is updated with the timestamp. If it doesn’t match, the IO is compressed and stored on flash.” All hot data is stored on flash, while cold data is stored on HDDs.

Competitors include: Dell EqualLogic, Nimble Storage.

Customers include: Barnstable Police Department, Evercom, Halski.

Why they’re a hot startup to watch: With $60M in VC funding and enough on-the-record customers to prove they’re for real, Reduxio poses a serious challenge to incumbents in the “race to zero.”

Reduxio’s leadership team has a ton of experience in this space, including leadership stints at NetApp, Dell, DEC and F5 Networks, as well as successful IPOs and exits to ATT, Dell, IBM and Oracle. Reduxio was also the runner-up in Round 2 (online voting).

Rubrik

What they do: Cloud-based data and storage management.

Year founded: 2014

Funding: $292M

Headquarters: Palo Alto, CA 

CEO: Bipul Sinha, who was previously a founding investor of Nutanix and a Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners.

Problem they solve: Legacy storage presents several challenges for enterprise IT, such as management complexity, lack of scale, inability to integrate with the cloud and rising costs due to the need to integrate a variety of point solutions. Moreover, with the rise of new security threats like ransomware, the enterprise needs continuous backups, instant recovery capabilities and streamlined management.  

How they solve it: Rubrik’s cloud-based, software-defined storage platform unifies backup, instant recovery, replication, search, analytics, archival, compliance and copy data management in one secure solution. Rubrik secures all data through end-to-end encryption from the source to the target location.

According to Rubrik, end users’ applications and data are “instantly accessible in an immutable format.” Immutability is the key, the startup argues, to recovering from a disaster or malware attack without losing data. “Immutability allows our customers to recover from a Ransomware attack with no data loss. Our customers have resumed day-to-day operations within minutes of an attack,” a company representative said.  

Competitors include: Dell EMC, Veritas, Cohesity, Commvault, IBM, Veeam.

Customers include: France Télévisions Publicite, Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Navy CNIC.

Why they’re a hot startup to watch: Rubrik was the overall number-one-rated startup in this competition, finishing at or near the top in all assessments. Rubrik finished first in online voting, has raised more VC funding than anyone else in the competition, and their list of named customers includes such security-conscious organizations as the DoD and Navy.

Finally, Rubrik has a seasoned leadership team that includes a founding engineer of Google Fiber, a founding investor of Nutanix, and a co-founder of Oracle Exadata. The team also has experience with successful acquisitions (Tagtile sale to Facebook) and IPOs (FireEye, Atlassian).

Storj Labs

What they do: Blockchain-based encrypted cloud storage.

Year founded: 2015

Funding: $35.4M. Storj is a unique case, having raised both seed/VC funding and $30M in an ICO (Initial Coin Offering).

Headquarters: Atlanta, GA

CEO: Ben Golub, who joined Storj Labs in early March as Chief Executive and Interim CEO. Golub is the former CEO and co-founder of Docker.

Problem they solve: Blockchain technology is sparking an increasing demand for decentralized applications. To be truly decentralized, however, these applications need cloud storage that spreads data over many nodes, rather than relying on a single, centralized location. 

How they solve it: Storj Labs provides a decentralized, zero-knowledge cloud network that spreads data over many storage nodes without seeing it, neither the file itself nor the file type.

Instead of storing data on a centralized node, the Storj platform takes files, incorporates Reed-Solomon erasure encoding (which enables a file to be rebuilt from only 50% of its shards), and breaks the files into shards. These shards are then stored across an array of different nodes and backed up to additional nodes for redundancy.

Files are encrypted end-to-end when they are uploaded. When a file is downloaded from the Storj network, shards are sent to the user, compiled into one file and unencrypted after transit. 

Storj also enables end users to share their excess computer hard-drive space in exchange for a “STORJ token,” an ERC 20 token on the Ethereum network. These blockchain-powered payments are how Storj pays tens of thousands of end users for their contributions to the network, all with minimal effort and overhead.

According to a Storj spokesperson, this capability could enable the startup to, in theory, run the “world’s biggest cloud storage platform without ever owning a datacenter – similar to how Airbnb rents more rooms than any other hotel chain without owning a single property.”

Competitors include: AWS, Google, MAIDSafe, Microsoft, Protocol Labs, Sia.

Customers include: FileZilla.

Why they’re a hot startup to watch: New Chief Executive Golub knows how to lead startups to successful exits. Besides co-founding Docker (which currently has a $1B+ valuation), he previously served as CEO of both Gluster (acquired by RedHat) and Plaxo (acquired by Comcast).

Storj occupies a unique, if unproven, market sector. Despite the fact that blockchain’s biggest success story to date – Bitcoin – occupies a bubble market that has “Tulips Pt. 2” written all over it, the technology itself has undeniable appeal.

Paying end users for excess drive space in crypto-currency is a brilliant idea, and Storj is also the only startup in the competition to tap into an Initial Coin Offering (ICO), raising $30M.

Wasabi Technologies

What they do: On-demand cloud storage.

Year founded: 2017

Funding: $19.7M

Headquarters: Boston, MA

CEO: David Friend, who previously founded Carbonite.

Problem they solve: While cloud computing is sparking plenty of technological and business innovation, the cloud-storage industry still relies on first-generation architectures, which hold back adoption. Gartner notes that enterprise cloud adoption is only about 30 percent, yet the research firm still predicts that the cloud adoption rate will climb to over 80 percent by 2022.

Gartner is obviously bullish on next-generation storage technologies, and storage startups like those in this roundup help explain why. According to Wasabi Tech, while the storage services from cloud storage pioneers (Amazon, Google, Microsoft, etc.) offer cost and operational advantages over traditional on-premises storage, these services are still too “expensive, complicated and slow-performing for many digital era applications like IoT, video, research, surveillance and most anything that produces enormous amounts of Big Data.”

Consumers of traditional cloud storage must cope with unpredictable costs, vendor lock-in, complex storage tiers and a loss of control over their data, which could expose it to malicious hacking or accidental deletion due to human error.

How they solve it: Wasabi Technology’s hot cloud storage platform offers on-demand, pay-per-use storage. Wasabi has done away with storage tiers, eliminating costly management and retrieval fees. Wasabi gives companies the ability to treat all data as hot data, so they can store and retrieve critical data in a dynamic way, allowing them to proactively respond to market conditions.

To handle highly sensitive data, Wasabi has what they call an immutable-bucket feature, which protects data written to that bucket. According to Wasabi, this feature makes applications built on it HIPAA-, FINRA- and CJIS-compliant, while also protecting data from accidental deletions, application software bugs, hackers, malware, viruses and malicious destruction or alteration by employees or consultants.

Competitors include: Amazon, Dell EMC, Google, Microsoft.

Customers include: 7 Wonders Cinema, the Kim Komando Show (a nationwide radio talk show), IQ Media.

Why they’re a hot startup to watch: Wasabi’s founders have a solid track record in this market. Wasabi is the fifth venture co-founded by CEO Friend and CTO Jeff Flowers. Most notably the two co-founded Carbonite, and together they have more than 30 years of leadership experience in the storage market.

Launched only in May 2017, Wasabi has already raised an impressive amount of VC financing, nearly $20M. Wasabi already has on-the-record customers for their hot cloud storage and finished in the top 5 in the online voting round of this competition. Not bad for a year’s work.

(Jeff Vance is the founder of Startup50.com, a site that discovers, analyzes, and ranks tech startups. Follow him on Twitter, @JWVance, or connect with him on LinkedIn.)

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