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Vast Data Gets $40M Funding For Its Universal Storage Architecture

The company is combining NVMe-over-Fabric with cheap QLC flash memory and 3D Xpoint in an architecture it calls Universal Storage, and claiming it can offer a single tier of storage with flash performance at a lower cost point than spinning disk.

Storage technology developer Vast Data on Tuesday unveiled a new $40 million funding round and introduced its Universal Storage system, which it said will allow high-performance all-flash storage be deployed for the cost of spinning disk-based storage.

With the new round of funding, Vast Data has now raised a total of $80 million. That includes funding from two strategic investors, Dell Technologies and Goldman Sachs.

Vast Data's Universal Storage was designed to break the trade-off between performance and capacity that has existed in the storage industry for 30 years, said Jeff Denworth, vice president of products and co-founder for the New York-based company.

[Related: The 10 Biggest Enterprise Data Storage Industry Predictions For 2019]

"We're talking about exabyte-scale storage at the same cost as traditional systems," Denworth told CRN. "This is an extinction-level event for today's hard disk-based storage. We're taking away tiers, and disrupting the data center as we know it today."

Despite the appearance of flash-based storage a decade ago, about 80 percent of all data is still on hard disk-based storage because of its higher capacity at a lower cost, Denworth said.

"Our intent is to decrease that gap, and let customers use flash to build something at a cost less than that of hard drives," he said.

Vast Data is doing this with a combination of three technologies, Denworth said.

The first is with NVMe-over-Fabric, which is a way to accelerate applications across storage, he said. Vast Data is taking a different approach to NVMe-oF by disaggregating the CPU from the storage so that al CPUs can directly access SSDs.

"It's a clustered architecture with high-density storage controllers, flash storage, and CPUs running in Docker containers across Ethernet, all with high availability," he said. "If a cluster has 10 servers, and nine fail, users will not loose access. Every CPU can participate in the global cluster to see all storage. So it's a simple structure."

The second is the use of consumer-grade QLC (quad-level cell) flash technology, Denworth said.

"It has the same performance as enterprise flash, but costs just a fraction," he said. "The drawback is it can't be over-written as often as enterprise flash. We have algorithms to increase the endurance of the media. And over a large cluster, there's less need to over-write the data."

The third is the use of 3D Xpoint non-volatile memory technology, Denworth said. "We've built a global data pool which writes data to the right place," he said.

Over these three technologies, Vast Data has built a global file system that provides both NFS and Amazon S3 compatibility, Denworth said.

"Customers have traditionally thought of block storage for performance, file storage for easy data services, and object storage for cheap and deep archiving," he said. "Our global file system provides the same performance for file storage as it does for block."

Vast Data's Universal Storage also adds in a new global erasure code for data protection that requires only 2-percent of the overhead of traditional RAID, along with a new approach to data reduction, he said.

Universal Storage is targeted at high-performance workloads in such areas as artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics, and deep learning, he said.

Michael Wing, president of Vast Data, said his company is looking to build what he called DASE, or Dis-aggregated Shared Everything that takes advantage of inexpensive QLC flash.

"We're looking at cheap, cheap flash with the most efficient data protection technology and the most efficient data reduction technology," Wing told CRN. "All the vendors that have emerged over the last couple decades only looked at one part of the total picture."

Vast Data's Universal Storage was quietly launched in November, and in 90 days sold better than what Pure Storage, Cohesity, Nutanix, and Rubrik sold in their first three months combined, Wing said.

The company has a channel-only model, and has already signed 15 U.S.-based channel partners, he said.

One of those partners, Chicago-based Ahead, first signed up with the startup because of the reputation several Vast Data executives gained while at EMC, said Eric Kaplan, chief technology officer for the solution provider.

"When they told us what they were building, I told them to keep in touch," Kaplan told CRN.

Ahead already has Vast Data units in alpha and beta testing with customers who love bleeding-edge technologies, Kaplan said. "They have certain needs, certain 'exotic' needs, for performance and capacity, such as high-frequency trading and analytics, with petabytes of high-frequency changes to petabytes of data," he said.

Vast Data has gone far in balancing performance and capacity while providing the required data services at scale, Kaplan said.

"But it's not just the product," he said. "It's the team. Vast Data's engineers were behind products like XIO and EMC's XtremIO. They have experience in building high-reliable, scalable storage. Building new platforms takes time. When we looked at Vast, we saw a team with an incredible amount of experience and a unique architecture with 3D Xpoint and low-cost media that will be very competitive and differentiating."

Alan Dumas, chief revenue officer at Clairmont, N.H.-based solution provider Red River Computing, called Vast Data's Universal Storage an exciting technology

Flash is already a big part of the storage market, but Vast Data has the potential to change the cost matrix of storage, Dumas told CRN.

"If Vast can meet the right price point, customers can put everything on one storage infrastructure," he said. "If you're at the cost of spinning disk or lower, why need tiers? Boom! You're on one tier."

Red River Computing has already sold some Vast Data storage to customers, and found the cost to be right around that of spinning disk, he said.

Vast Data has some very bright people, Dumas said.

"I've seen companies build products too fast, or target small niches," he said. "Vast is doing it right. It's hiring engineers to get the product right. And it's keeping its sales force small and depending on the channel. No channel conflict. That's what we like."

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