Springpath Exits Stealth Mode With VMware-Focused Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Software

Springpath, a storage startup founded by former VMware engineers, came out of stealth mode this week with funding of $34 million and said it has already signed up over 30 customers.

Springpath develops software for turning industry-standard x86-based servers into hyper-converged infrastructure appliances, and it built its own code base from scratch, Andrew Perry, vice president of sales for the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based vendor, said in an interview Friday.

While this approach was time consuming, it will allow Springpath to work more effectively with future platforms, and it also means partners will be able to customize the software to meet their customers' needs, Perry told CRN.

The Springpath Data Platform software, which is sold as a subscription that starts at $4,000 per server per year, lets enterprises leverage industry-standard servers to manage and store data with a full set of enterprise-class features, Perry said.

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[Related: EMC Unveils Long-Awaited Hyper-Converged Infrastructure: VSPEX BLUE]

Ashish Gupta, head of marketing for Springpath, said the startup's initial goal will be to manage virtualized applications, which is one of the biggest issues enterprises face.

"Our solution lets customers run all those applications on a common hardware platform," Gupta told CRN. "It changes the game for enterprises, and better prepares them for future developments by consolidating to a common commodity server-based architecture, take advantage of scale-out compute and storage, and access solid enterprise features with flash storage performance."

Another selling point for the Springpath Data Platform is that it scales out both in terms of data management and storage, Ravi Parthasarathy, vice president of product management, said in the interview.

The software runs on a minimum of three servers -- which could include servers from Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Supermicro -- and can be shipped to the partner pre-installed by the company or a distributor or configured by the solution provider, Parthasarathy told CRN.

Adding a new server to the solution takes about 10 minutes to install and 10 minutes to expand the solution to include the new hardware, Parthasarathy said. The software automatically rebalances workloads across the servers as new hardware is added.

"Data from new virtual machines is striped across all nodes," he said. "Customers can scale performance and capacity separately. And they get enterprise features including granular snapshots and clones of virtual machines or virtual machine folders."

Springpath's founders were previously principal engineers at VMware, where they created that company's VMFS (Virtual Machine File System) and VXLAN (Virtual Extensible LAN).

NEXT: Channel Look At Springpath

The initial version of Springpath's software is aimed at VMware environments, Perry said, but the next version will work with any hypervisor. Future versions will included support for containers and other technologies, he said.

The attraction of working with Springpath stems from that company's non-proprietary hyper-converged infrastructure solution, said Zeki Yasar, CTO of Berkeley Communications, an Emeryville, Calif.-based solution provider and Springpath channel partner.

"While companies like Nutanix or Simplivity have been aggressive in the market, their technologies are very specific to their appliances," Yasar told CRN. "Those companies don't work with the servers customers already use. What I like is the ability to turn best-selling servers from Cisco, HP, or Dell into hyper-converged infrastructure appliances."

With Springpath, there is no need to "forklift" a new solution to a customer's environment," Yasar said.

"I also do a lot of FlexPods, which I like because we can use customers' existing infrastructures," he said. "Springpath also allows a no-risk implementation with its subscription-based software. If customers don't like it, they can cancel the contract and use their hardware for something else."

Yasar called the performance of the Springpath solution outstanding.

"I've been impressed by what I've seen so far," he said. "I hope to see them expand their technology to other deployments beyond server virtualization, such as into big data. They've built a really great file system, one that has good compression and deduplication capabilities.

Springpath has partnered with one distributor so far, Tech Data. But Tech Data has been working with Springpath for some time before it was unveiled as a distributor for the company, said Chuck Bartlett, senior vice president of the distributor's Advanced Infrastructure Solutions business.

Springpath's solution addresses the fast-growing hyper-converged infrastructure market, Bartlett told CRN.

"When we first started talking with them, we were excited about the fact that what they've developed is a software solution for the compute storage convergence part of the business, one that is totally a software solution that can run on any compute platform," he said.

Bartlett said Springpath is unique in the hyper-converged infrastructure market in that its technology can be implemented in existing environments and infrastructures.

"It's converged, and very flexible," he said. "That's one of the things we liked about it, the flexibility the client has. We look at this as an opportunity and an advantage for Springpath in the market."

Bartlett views most other approaches in the market as appliance-based, making Springpath's more flexible and cost-friendly solution a competitive advantage to the vendor's and distributor's solution providers.

"I think we all know that helping a solution provider sell more to its existing client base is easier than going out and finding brand new clients," Bartlett said. "(We have) identified a large number of partners who we believe have the ability to sell hyper-converged infrastructure solutions who are not selling it today. ... That's a win-win-win because it's a new business for the solution provider, new business for Tech Data, and new business for Springpath."