The rapidly growing hyperconverged infrastructure industry is starting to consolidate, with tech giants HPE, Juniper Networks, Cisco and Red Hat all buying promising HCI startups. But there remains a strong group of young, independent companies focused on HCI and surrounding technologies that has attracted big financial investment.\nThe 10 hot startups selected here have pulled down nearly half a billion dollars in venture capital. They're developing everything from full-stack HCI to scale-out NVMe, and from HCI for containerized environments to memory converged infrastructure. It\u2019s a safe bet that at least a few of them will be coming to a data center near you very soon.\nApeiron Data Systems\nYear founded: 2013\nFunding: $35 million\nHeadquarters: Folsom, Calif.\nCEO: Chuck Smith, who spend 20 years at HPE, including a stint as VP and GM of Datacenter and Hybrid Cloud\nWhat they do: Provide scale-out NVMe over Ethernet (NoE).\nAccording to Apeiron Data Systems, the majority of enterprise NVMe storage technologies build scale-out storage to work over fabrics (NVMeoF). These still run up against legacy bottlenecks inherent in SAN environments, however.\nApeiron argues that NVMe over Ethernet (NoE) offers several advantages, including superior performance, linear scale-out, and better TCO because of higher density utilization per rack unit. However, even NoE faces such legacy bottlenecks as storage controllers and external switching hardware needed for routing data among clusters.\nApeiron\u2019s ADS NoE platform is intended to deliver the performance of server-based scale-out storage with the manageability of enterprise-class external pooled storage. Apeiron ADS\u2019 architecture scales processing and storage resources independently. ADS provides elastic management over large pools of NVMe SSDs running under software tools like OpenStack, Docker or Hadoop.\nApeiron claims ADS\u2019 lossless Ethernet architecture can scale to thousands of external NVMe drives that look to the server as direct attached storage. ADS\u2019 data path uses high-speed FPGAs over Ethernet and passes NVMe commands natively across the fabric.\nApeiron argues that native transport is critical to making sure no performance is lost in the pooled environment. By removing all of the IO blocking components and software and passing the data transport in its entirety over an Ethernet tunnel, Apeiron says that it breaks through bottlenecks and maintains performance at scale. The main application Apeiron targets with its storage system is Big Data analytics.\nCompetitors include: Cohesity, Dell EMC, E8 Storage, Excelero Software, NetApp, Rubrik, Vexata, Zadara and Zstor\nCustomers include: L3, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and NEC\nWhy they\u2019re a hot startup to watch: Smith, the company\u2019s recently landed CEO, knows this industry well, having spent nearly 20 years at HP\/HPE.\nFounder Lee Harrison moved from CEO to CTO after Smith came aboard. He previously served as Director of Planar Magnetics at Tyco Electronics, and had been CEO of PlanarMag, Before that, he was VP of Operations for KeyEye Communications and GM of the Optical Ethernet Group at Intel.\nE8 Storage\nYear founded: 2014\nFunding: $18.3 million\nHeadquarters: Santa Clara, Calif.\nCEO: Zivan Ori, former Chief Architect at Stratoscale\nWhat they do: Provide shared NVMe storage.\nE8 Storage argues that latency at the storage layer, rather than the network layer, is often the bottleneck causing major problems for data-hungry applications.\nE8\u2019s storage platform consists of NVMe storage controller appliances (the top of the line includes RAID 6 data protection) and storage software that can be installed on any NVMe-capable server.\nTo boost performance, E8 separates the data path (E8 Agent) and the control path (E8 Controller) operations. The E8 Agent offloads 90% of the data path operations to its host, providing additional compute for each host added to the system, while the E8 Controller ensures availability with RAID 5\/6.\nThis approach differentiates E8 Software from other NVMe and HCI vendors that have not directly addressed the legacy I\/O bottleneck that torpedoes shared-storage use cases.\nCompetitors include: Apeiron Data Systems, Cohesity, Dell EMC, Excelero Software, NetApp, Rubrik, Vexata, Zadara and Zstor\nCustomers include: Queen Mary University of London\nWhy they\u2019re a hot startup to watch: E8 Storage has used its $18.3 million in funding to get product to market, and recently announced reseller\/channel partnerships with Cognosystems in Canada, ClusterTech in Hong Kong and China, Clustar in China and Datera in the Czech Republic.\nE8 also has an impressive founding team, who all gained experience at IBM. Most notably, CEO Ori and CTO Alex Freidman held management positions there focused on storage.\nPrior to IBM, Ori also earned industry and exit experience serving as Chief Architect at HCI vendor Stratoscale, heading software development at Envara (acquired by Intel) and serving as VP of R&D at Onigma (acquired by McAfee).\nThe company has just one named customer,\u00a0 but its channel efforts should start paying off soon, and hopefully it will publicize wins it earns there.\nHiveIO\nYear founded: 2015\nFunding: The startup has not released funding totals, but it closed its Series B round in 2017. The round was led by Rally Ventures with Citrix Systems, Osage Venture Partners and El Dorado Ventures participating. HiveIO\u2019s Series A closed in 2016.\nHeadquarters: Hoboken, N.J.\nCEO: Dan Newton, previously GM and SVP of Rackspace\nWhat they do: Provide HCI services.\nHiveIO\u2019s Hyperconverged Fabric (HCF) platform enables users to build a software-defined datacenter on x86 commodity hardware. HCF combines an Intelligent Message Bus with a virtualized computing stack that includes everything from the hypervisor to storage to compute and networking capabilities.\nHiveIO\u2019s HCF platform is based on its Hive Fabric technology. At the end of May, HiveIO released version 7.3 of Hive Fabric, an AI-ready fabric solution that enables organizations to deploy vendor-neutral virtualization technology. Hive Fabric combines a KVM hypervisor with software-defined storage (SDS), software-defined networking, a VM broker, orchestration and virtual desktop management.\nHive Fabric consolidates disparate data into a single stream, so organizations can feed it directly into AI software. IT professionals can then quickly collect and analyze data without having to wait for data to be cleaned up, formatted and ingested into third-party software.\nHive Fabric is built with an Intelligent Message Bus and an intuitive UI that provides a real-time, all-encompassing view of the datacenter and its connected components, making it easier for administrators to find and act upon problems to reduce downtime.\nThe main use case HiveIO focuses on is VDI. Organizations can also deploy Hive Fabric for shared storage, HCI, virtual servers, and PaaS.\nCompetitors include: Citrix (also an investor), Exago, Izenda and TIBCO\nCustomers include: JP Morgan Chase, Northrim Bank, CDW, the U.S. Army, Tata and University Hospitals of Leicester\nWhy they\u2019re a hot startup to watch: HiveIO has a strong leadership team, and a good chunk of HiveIO\u2019s messaging focuses on eliminating multi-vendor complexity, which includes complicated licenses and SLAs. Also, multi-vendor environments invariably create data silos, which is a major problem at scale.\nHiveIO not only focuses on eliminating data silos, but also on transforming data into AI-ready streams, enabling data to be ingested by AI tools in real-time, so IT professionals can predict problems and intervene before potential issues impact uptime.\nMemVerge\nYear founded: 2017\nFunding: $24.5 million\nHeadquarters: San Jose, Calif.\nCEO: Charles Fan, former CTO of Cheetah Mobile\nWhat they do: Provide storage-infrastructure services.\nAccording to MemVerge, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day, much of it machine-generated data from AI, machine learning, IoT and analytics applications. These high-performance workloads require an infrastructure that can process the constant flood of data in real time.\nMemVerge argues that this problem forces enterprises to make trade-offs between speed and capacity, and its flagship Memory-Converged Infrastructure (MCI) system attempts to solve this problem.\nDesigned to run on Intel\u2019s new Optane DC persistent memory technology, MCI delivers memory and storage services from a single distributed platform. This approach eliminates boundaries between memory and storage to better support data-centric and\/or real-time enterprise workloads.\nMemVerge\u2019s proprietary Distributed Memory Objects (DMO) software provides a logical memory-storage convergence layer that uses Intel\u2019s Optane persistent memory to allow data-intensive workloads \u2013 such as AI, machine learning, big data analytics, IoT and data warehousing \u2013 to run without errors at memory speed.\nMCI expands memory and stores data consistently across multiple systems so enterprises can analyze an enormous amount of data in real time.\nCompetitors include: Other storage, hybrid cloud and\/or HCI companies building on Intel Optane DC persistent memory include Cisco, Dell EMC, Google, Microsoft and VMware.\nBeta customers include: LinkedIn, JD.com and Tencen\nWhy they\u2019re a hot startup to watch: The company just emerged from stealth mode in April 2019 with $24.5 million in Series A funding from Gaorong Capital, Jerusalem Venture Partners, LDV Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Northern Light Venture Capital. Given that, it has an impressive list of named beta customers.\nCo-founders, CEO Fan and Chairman Shuki Bruck have the right backgrounds to lead a startup in this space. Fan was an SVP\/GM at VMware, where he founded the storage business unit that developed Virtual SAN. He joined EMC via the acquisition of Rainfinity, where he was a co-founder and CTO, and he founded EMC\u2019s China R&D center.\nBruck was the founding director of the Caltech Information Science and Technology (IST) program. He also co-founded and served as Chairman of both XtremIO and Rainfinity.\nNGD Systems\nYear founded: 2013\nFunding: $22.7 million\nHeadquarters: Irvine, Calif.\nCEO: Nader Salessi, former VP of Western Digital\u2019s SSD Business Unit\nWhat they do: Develop NVMe and SSD storage.\nIn March 2019, NGD Systems released its Newport Platform, which provides high-capacity NVMe SSDs that use in-storage processing to eliminate the need to move data to main memory prior to processing. NGD argues that in situ processing removes a major bottleneck that has prevented NVMe from performing in edge and hyperscale environments.\nNewport is an ASIC-based computational storage platform that accommodates up to 16 flash channels and delivers NVMe 1.3 PCIe Gen 3.0x4 optimized storage performance.\nCompetitors include: Western Digital (Tegile), StorCentric (Nexsan), Cohesity, NetApp, Actifio, Qumulo and Veritas\nCustomers include: None announced.\nWhy they\u2019re a hot startup to watch: NGD Systems has raised $22.7 million in funding, has a third-generation of its platform in the market as of March 2019 and a unique spin on how to use in-storage processing to extend NVMe storage to intelligent edge and hyperscale use cases.\nThe startup is also led by an executive team that gained decades of experience with such storage companies such as Western Digital, STEC, Memtech and Micron. Co-founders CEO Salessi, CTO Vladimir Alves and EVP Richard Mataya all came from Western Digital.\nOpenIO\nYear founded: 2015\nFunding: $5 million\nHeadquarters: Lille, France\nCEO: Laurent Denel, previously Head of Mail and Cloud Service Management at Worldline\nWhat they do: Provide hyperconverged storage infrastructure services.\nBased on the open-source OpenIO project, which OpenIO\u2019s team developed while at Worldline Global, this startup provides software-defined, scale-out object storage.\nAs users demand remote access to larger and larger files and as applications increasingly generate more of their own data, latency and bandwidth limitations undermine performance. OpenIO tackles this problem by decentralizing storage alongside distributed applications.\nWith OpenIO software uses commodity servers as large object-storage and compute pools.\u00a0By combining storage and integrated data processing on a single platform, OpenIO gives organizations a more flexible and scalable method for building backend application services. Its event-driven, serverless computing framework streamlines data access and simplifies complex workloads by offloading some tasks directly to the storage infrastructure. Use cases\u00a0include Big Data, video streaming, hybrid-cloud storage, IoT and machine learning.\nCompetitors include: Scality, Cloudian, Nasuni, Nexenta and StorPool\nCustomers include: Vade Secure, Internet Initiative Japan, Dailymotion and Reflex Solutions\nWhy they\u2019re a hot startup to watch: OpenIO proved out the concept for its storage platform while the founding team was still at Worldline Global. The open-source code for OpenIO is available on GitHub, and OpenIO claims that it currently serves up applications to more than 60 million end users.\nThe startup has more than 25 customers for its service, including several named customers.\nQumulo\nYear founded: 2012\nFunding: $222.3 million\nHeadquarters: Seattle, Wash.\nCEO: Bill Richter, formerly president of EMC\u2019s Isilon Storage Division\nWhat they do: Provide hybrid-cloud file-system services.\nThe Qumulo Core scale-out file system provides distributed cloud storage that spans on-premises data centers and the cloud. Running on commodity hardware, Qumulo\u2019s file system links storage clusters into a single, unified file system.\nQumulo clusters work together to form a globally distributed storage fabric that is tied together via continuous replication that automatically creates a copy of the data in a directory on the primary cluster and transfers it to a directory on a second target cluster.\nQumulo says this provides scale-out storage and also scale-across storage \u2013 storage that scales both capacity and performance across on-premises and cloud environments.\nQumulo storage subscription includes real-time analytics and capacity quotas, continuous replication and snapshots.\nCompetitors include: EMC, NetApp, CloudByte, Scality and Quantum\nCustomers include: Carnegie Science, Sinclair Oil and Hyundai MOBIS\nWhy they\u2019re a hot startup to watch: The company has raised more than $222 million in VC funding, including a $93 million Series D round that closed in 2018. Qumulo has attracted a seasoned senior executive team that gained leadership experience at EMC, AWS, IBM, Microsoft and Citrix, among others.\nQumulo has a solid list of on-the-record customers, as well as a wide arrange of published use cases that spans data analytics, genomic sequencing and self-driving cars.\nA core value proposition of HCI is that it enables organizations to deliver hybrid cloud services from private data centers. As hybrid clouds gain mainstream acceptance, a \u201cscale-across\u201d file system service fits together well with other modern infrastructure services like HCI.\nROBIN\nYear founded: 2013\nFinding: $51.2 million\nHeadquarters: San Jose, Calif.\nCEO: Rajeev Madhavan, who is also Chairman as well as a general partner at Clear Ventures, which he founded.\nWhat they do: Provide HCI for Kubernetes.\u00a0\nThrough operating system virtualization and container partitioning, ROBIN\u2019s HCI for Kubernetes enables organizations to quickly provision and deliver applications to both on-premises and cloud servers.\nROBIN\u2019s platform functions as a software-defined application-orchestration framework that combines containerized storage, networking, compute (via Kubernetes) and the application management layer into a single system. ROBIN says this approach makes Kubernetes suitable for data-intensive applications, such as Big Data, RDBMS, NoSQL databases and AI\/ML.\nThe platform is built on top of ROBIN Storage, container-native storage that provides automated provisioning, point-in-time snapshots, backup and recovery, application cloning, QoS guarantee and multi-cloud migration for stateful applications on Kubernetes.\nThe platform is designed to provide a self-service, App-store experience for the deployment of applications in private, hybrid or public-cloud environments.\nCompetitors include: Quoble, Docker, Flockport, Portworx and Diamanti\nCustomers include: Palo Alto Networks, USAA, Sabre, SAP and Lawrence Livermore National Labs\nWhy they\u2019re a hot startup to watch: With $51.2 million in VC funding, unique market positioning, and a long list of prominent customers ROBIN is already making waves.\nROBIN has an impressive leadership team, starting with serial entrepreneur Madhavan, who also serves as on the boards of Reflektion (as Chairman), Virtual Power Systems, Falcon Computing and UCLA Foundation.\nMadhavan has a long list of exits under his belt, as well, including Magma Design Automation (acquired by Synopsys), LogicVision (sold to Mentor Graphics) and Ambit Design Systems (acquired by Cadence Design Systems).\nOther C-level ROBIN executives gained leadership experience at the likes of Symantec, EMC, Red Hat and Microsoft.\nRStor\nYear founded: 2016\nFunding: $45 million\nHeadquarters: Saratoga, Calif.\nCEO: Giovanni Coglitore, former CTO of Sony\nWhat they do: Provide distributed multi-cloud platform services.\nRStor\u2019s Multicloud Platform aggregates and automates compute resources from private data centers, public-cloud providers and supercomputing centers via its Connect fabric. RStor describes Connect as\u00a0a \u201clow-latency, high bandwidth network between private data centers, public-cloud providers and the RStor Multicloud Platform. It allows users to easily move large data sets with predictable performance and pricing.\u201d\nConnect looks a lot like SD-WAN, but on top of Connect, Rstor has layered a hyper-distributed\u00a0enterprise data-storage service. RStor Multicloud Platform\u00a0Storage resources are physically located inside Equinix colocation facilities. RStor argues that for applications like IoT, it is essential to store data and locate compute resources at the cloud edge. Remote access is granted via encrypted connections.\nRStor also gives customers a single pane of visibility into their computing and can determine the most efficient and cost-effective path for running and executing workloads.\nWhat differentiates RStor from SD-WAN\/SD-Storage vendors is its Singularity technology. To run applications and data across dissimilar platforms, RStor containerized them. A side benefit is that by adding workload-isolation, this approach makes it easier to reassign underutilized resources to the distributed cloud layer.\nCompetitors include: Aryaka Networks, Cisco, CloudGenix, Cohesity, Datrium, Flexera, Riverbed, ROBIN and Silverpeak Networks\nCustomers include: None announced.\nWhy they\u2019re a hot startup to watch: Coglitore has the strong industry experience including CTO at Sony, Senior Director of Hardware Engineering at Facebook, and co-founding and serving as CTO of Rackable Systems, which had an IPO in 2005 and acquired Silicon Graphics in 2009, assuming that name. SGI was sold to HPE in 2016.\nThe startup also landed $45 million in its Series A round, led by Cisco Investments.\nZeroStack\nYear founded: 2014\nFunding: $21.6 million\nHeadquarters: Mountain View, Calif.\nCEO: David Greene, formerly SVP and CMO of Aerohive Networks.\nWhat they do: Provide automated cloud-infrastructure software.\nZeroStack argues that IT teams waste far too much time struggling with backlogs of user demands, brittle data silos, delayed deployments, broken upgrades, unsanctioned applications, and mixed VM\/container environments.\nZeroStack addresses this with its Intelligent Cloud Platform, an automated, self-service private-cloud environment that is designed to increase application agility while eliminating challenges of operating an on-premises cloud.\nZeroStack\u2019s cloud software converts a cluster of servers into a web-managed private cloud. The platform enables multitenant, multi-cloud and containerized environments that are centrally managed.\nEnterprises may use whatever underlying hardware they choose. ZeroStack\u2019s Intelligent Cloud Platform software creates a web-scale cluster that pools all resources, while adding on a layer of service monitoring. The OS, KVM hypervisor, and cloud services are all included in the platform.\nZeroStack has built a control plane that manages, monitors, and auto-heals the system in case of service or hardware failures. It collects events and health-monitoring data from servers and runs analytics on the data to provide capacity planning, spot anomalies and help with operations. The platform is intended to deliver an AWS-like experience while keeping sensitive user data on-site.\nCompetitors include: Datrium, Google (Velostrata), HPE, VMware, Microsoft, Platform9, Scalr and Nutanix\nCustomers include: AddLogx, AuctionSoftware, Florida Atlantic University, Zimperium\nWhy they\u2019re a hot startup to watch: ZeroStack has raised enough funding to deliver its product to early on-the-record customers. It has a veteran management team that has gained industry experience at BMC Software, Cisco, Riverbed Technology and VMware.\nCEO Greene brings solid executive experience. Co-founder Ajay Gulati, now CTO, was a senior architect and R&D lead at VMware, where he designed products including Storage I\/O control, Storage DRS and DRS.\nOver the last year, ZeroStack has built out its channel, that includes entering the Asian market through a partnership with Hitachi Sunway. ZeroStack has integrated new features into its platform, including storage controls that prevent overconsumption, inter-cloud VPN-as-a-Service and AI-as-a-Service.