Exablox Exits Stealth Mode With Channel-Only Play To Make Storage Simple

Storage startup Exablox Wednesday came out of stealth mode with a solution that brings enterprise storage capabilities to the SMB market in a package it says is very attractive to solution providers.

Exablox initially is targeting the management of unstructured data, one of the biggest pain points for both customers and channel partners, said Sean Derrington, senior director for products at the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based startup.

The Exablox OneBlox solution includes such storage capabilities as scale-out, deduplication, snapshots, failover, replication, ease-of-use, self-diagnosis and self-repair, Derrington said.

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"We've made this very easy for the channel to sell, with recurring revenue," he said. "We looked at all the different attributes customers need from storage but saw no one company offering them all while making it easy for channel partners."

The Exablox OneBlox is a 2U or 4U appliance that comes with eight drive bays. Customers can add any hard drive or SSD to the appliances, each of which serves as a scale-out node in what Exablox calls a ring.

"Users can add any disk drive or any node to the ring, and it is immediately available for use," Derrington said. "They can add performance or capacity drives. There is a maximum of six nodes totaling 192 TB of capacity per ring to start. However, architecturally, you can scale beyond that."

The Exablox OneBlox also features the company's own distributed object-base file system, which allows the appliances to be deployed without the need for partners to set RAID levels or LUNs, Derrington said. The file system provides inline deduplication for primary storage and disk-based protection, continuous data protection, and encryption and replication of all data, he said.

Also new is the OneSystem cloud-based management software, which allows partners to get the OneBlox up and running in less than five minutes, all without the need to do any configuration or answer questions. "In five minutes, public shares are ready for writing data," Derrington said.

Bill Connolly, business development director for the Northeast for Netrix, a Chicago-based solution provider, said he likes the simplicity provided by the Exablox OneBlox.

"If there's one thing storage people do, it's complicate things," Connolly said. "Sometimes I think fresh minds and fresh blood helps people think outside the box."

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Exablox is helping simplify the management of unstructured data, and as such may not be for every customer, Netrix's Connolly said.

"A traditional SAN has its place," he said. "If I have a database, or Oracle or SQL, that's one thing. But what about video? Where do customers put all that data from security cameras?"

One of Connolly's clients, an airport, just added 100 video cameras, thereby significantly increasing the amount of video data it has to store.

"They have to store videos for 30 days," he said. "Are they going to buy another SAN? They probably just bought one last year."

While Exablox is just out of stealth mode, Connolly said it can be an easy sell with customers. For instance, he told the IT manager at a local high school he is bringing in a new product, and what it can do, and then left a unit to try.

"Then the gears started running," he said. "He thought about 15 different use cases for it. If Exablox does what they say they're going to do at the price point they say, this will be a hot product."

Douglas Brockett, CEO of Exablox and former vice president and general manager at SonicWall, which was acquired by Dell, said he wants to do with Exablox and storage what SonicWall did for security.

"We want to deliver a full-featured storage product to small businesses which might not otherwise be able to afford them," Brockett said.

To do that, Brockett said the only choice was to implement a channel-only sales model.

"Over the years, I've found it hard to run a mixed channel model," he said. "I want to do what I did with SonicWall, which was 100 percent sales through the channel."

The Exablox OneBlox is scheduled to be available for general sales in June and is expected to be priced starting at less than $10,000 for a 32-TB solution and less than $40,000 for a disaster recovery solution featuring 64 TB of replicated data across four nodes.

It is in beta-testing with a number of customers, many of which were brought to Exablox by its channel partners, Brockett said.

"When getting started with the channel, it's important to demonstrate pull from the market and to show the products do what was promised. Some partners brought us the deals, while others we brought to the partners."