HP Set To Dive Deeper Into Object Storage With Cleversafe OEM Agreement

Hewlett-Packard is teaming up with storage vendor Cleversafe on an OEM agreement that could be announced as early as Monday, sources familiar with the matter told CRN.

Chicago-based Cleversafe, founded in 2004, sells object storage technology, which is good at handling massive, petabyte-scale amounts of unstructured data -- such as email, video, photo and audio files -- as well as archival data storage.

Cleversafe's flagship product, called Dispersed Storage Network (dsNet), is available either in software-only form or loaded on a commodity hardware appliance that Cleversafe sells.

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HP and Cleversafe are already partners. They unveiled a joint offering in June that consists of HP's ProLiant SL4540 Gen8 server running Cleversafe dsNet, with HP's ProLiant DL360p Gen8 server handling storage management and access features.

Under the new OEM agreement, HP will sell Cleversafe's software on a wider range of its ProLiant server hardware, sources told CRN. It's not clear if this will include HP's new ProLiant Gen9 servers, based on the new Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 v3 family, which were unveiled last month.

HP and Cleversafe declined comment.

Object storage is getting lots of attention from service providers and large enterprises because it offers better performance and scales better than SAN arrays and other traditional types of storage.

"Object storage is very good for very large amounts of data that have to be spread across multiple systems, and consequently the scale-out datacenter guys use this heavily," Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst for Moor Insights and Strategy, said in an email.

"If this deal does happen, it will give HP a real shot in the arm for object-based storage," Moorhead said.

HP has an object storage platform called StoreAll which uses technology from its 2009 acquisition of storage vendor Ibrix. But sources told CRN that Cleversafe is more advanced than HP StoreAll, offering standardized API integration, secure multi-tenancy and the ability to disperse data across storage nodes.

While the HP StoreAll line of three appliances scales to maximum capacity of 16 petabytes of data, the Cleversafe technology allows scaling to exabyte-levels of capacity.

Object storage isn't a big deal in the channel yet, but Cleversafe launched a partner program last May aimed at MSPs, VARs, GSIs, OEMs and system integrators.

One large national HP partner told CRN he thinks the OEM deal could be a prelude to a potential acquisition of Cleversafe. "I am sure it is a trial balloon to see how much market demand there is for these solutions," the source said.

Rich Baldwin, CIO and chief strategy officer at Nth Generation Computing, a longtime HP partner based in San Diego, said it would make sense for HP to expand its relationship with Cleversafe.

Baldwin told CRN that Cleversafe has a case study with a customer that manages 80 petabytes of data with only four people.

"That's pretty impressive," Baldwin said. "The fact that Cleversafe has a file system that is practically unlimited in terms of scalability is big. This sounds like a great addition to HP's portfolio."

NEXT: How Cleversafe's OpenStack Support Also Fits HP's Vision

Cleversafe is also supporting OpenStack, the collection of open source cloud infrastructure technologies that HP is using in its public cloud and Helion private cloud products. This includes support for the OpenStack Swift object storage API which powers the largest cloud-based object storage architectures.

HP is making a big OpenStack push but lacks a scalable object storage solution for cloud service providers, one source familiar with the matter told CRN, speaking on condition he not be named.

"For HP to remain relevant in this time of transformation, they need to do something," the source said.

With object storage, data is stored as flexible-sized objects rather than the fixed block sizes used for storing data in traditional SAN arrays, making it more suitable for handling unstructured data or data in a cloud.

Cleversafe stores data by breaking it up into slices and distributing them across multiple storage nodes. This approach offers a high level of security since an unauthorized person who gains access to one slice can't access the full data set.

Cleversafe has raised $100.4 million in four funding rounds since its founding in 2004, including a $55 million Series D from New Enterprise Associates in August 2013.

Other investors include the CIA's venture capital arm In-Q-Tel, Motorola Solutions Venture Capital, OCA Ventures, Presidio STX, Harrison Street Real Estate Capital and Alsop Louie Partners.

Cleversafe's executive ranks include several former NetApp executives who've joined in the past year. These include Jeffrey Giannetti, senior vice president of global sales; Greg Palinckx, vice president of global systems engineering; Peter Howard, vice president of channels and alliances; and Chris Cummings, senior vice president of marketing and strategy.

Cleversafe hired John Morris, former head of sales and strategic alliances at Juniper, to replace founder Chris Gladwin as CEO in May 2013. Morris previously spent 23 years at IBM in sales executive positions.

Object storage is a fast-growing part of the storage market. IDC, in a study published last November, estimated that the market for commercial object-based storage devices would grow by a cumulative annual growth rate of 27 percent through 2017 to reach $21.7 billion.