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Zforce: A start-up to watch

Apr 21, 20033 mins
Data Center

These young vendors offer fresh approaches for addressing today's enterprise network challenges, from setting up secure wireless LANs to virtualizing data center resources.


Company name: One of the founders liked the word G-Force because it sounded powerful. One day he saw a restaurant called Z-Pizza. Combining G-Force with Z-Pizza, he came up with Z-force.

Origin: Founded in November 1999 by Vladimir Miloushev, CTO; Peter Nickolov, vice president of software engineering; Krasimira Nikolova, director of projects and programs management, all formerly of Object Dynamics; and Gary Johnson, former CEO of graphics acceleration company S3.

Funding: A $16 million first round closed in November 2001.

Investors: Allegis Capital, Alloy Ventures, Quantum Technology Ventures, Rock Creek Capital and Shoreline Ventures.

CEO: Gary Johnson.

Product: Z-force File Switch.

A newfangled storage device is what Z-force has in mind to help users simplify and speed the way they view files stored on network-attached storage (NAS) appliances or Windows, Linux or Unix file servers.

The Z-force File Switch aggregates files contained on different locally attached file-oriented storage arrays and presents them to the user in a single management view. The switch, which works with Microsoft’s Common Information File System or Unix/Linux’ Network File System, is designed for businesses in the rich content or high-performance computing market that want to deal with data that is often too large to fit on a single NAS device.

The Z-force File Switch, which can accommodate as much as 47 terabytes of data in a single file system, streams data as fast as 2G byte/sec, the company says. The device is earning its stripes at Stanford University, where it is supporting a large-scale graphics project consisting of as many as two billion polygons that are defined by shape, number of points and color, and 7,000 color images.

The Santa Clara company, which is operating on a little more than $17 million, expects to attract a third round of funding when its $36,000 Z-force File Switch ships this quarter.

Z-force’s key advantage, the company says, is in the uniqueness of its technology – the Z-force File Switch connects to a Layer 2 Ethernet switch, then to as many as 256 NAS appliances or file servers. This eliminates the latency concerns users have about virtualizing file-oriented devices. Even though other vendors, including start-ups Scale Eight and LeftHand Networks, aggregate NAS storage with a distributed file system or volume manager, Z-force is the first company to relate the concept of switching to NAS virtualization.