10 data storage companies to watch

Innovative start-ups target flash drives, cloud storage, disaster recovery

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Company name: Pliant

Founded: April 2006

Location: Milpitas, Calif.

What does the company offer? Pliant will launch its first product, a solid-state flash drive, in the fourth quarter.

Why is it worth watching? Pliant is joining the emerging enterprise flash storage market, which Sun Microsystems has called "the most exciting thing that's happened in storage in 20 years." Flash storage costs a lot but delivers data at much faster speeds than rotating disk drives and is expected to gain major enterprise adoption over the next few years.

How did the company get its start? Founded by Mike Chenery, Doug Prins and Aaron Olbrich, all veterans of Fujitsu.

How did the company get its name? "Pliant" is meant to convey "a solution that was flexible and scalable to changing application environments," the company says.

CEO and background: Amyl Ahola, the former CEO of TeraStor and vice president at Seagate and Control Data.

Funding: $8 million in a funding round led by Lightspeed Venture Partners.

Who's using the product? Target customers are OEMs and data centers operating mission-critical, I/O-intensive applications, such as financial systems, Web transactions and streaming video.

Three under the radar

There are a few more companies worth watching from whom we couldn't get much information, because they are in stealth mode. Here's what we know about them:

Axxana: Led by a team of industry veterans, Axxana promises a data replication plan that will "change the face of disaster recovery." Axxana's board of advisers includes Moshe Yanai, a current IBM fellow who years ago developed EMC's flagship Symmetrix storage systems.

Axxana co-founder and CEO Eli Efrat was previously the CEO of MessageVine, which developed messaging products for wireless and Internet providers. Axxana CTO Alex Winokur was named a "master inventor" while a member of IBM's research division and worked for Yanai at storage vendor XIV, which was acquired by IBM this year. Axxana is based in the United States but has offices in Tel Aviv. The company plans to make more details public by October.

GreenBytes: Due to exit stealth mode on Sept. 15, GreenBytes says it is developing "an ultra-high-efficiency NAS appliance" that will archive long-term, persistent data, cutting storage energy consumption by up to 50%. While the company declined to release any more information before its self-imposed embargo is lifted, a Google search brings up a white paper (download PDF) on GreenBytes technology on the Sun Microsystems Internet domain.

GreenBytes, or at least its technology, seems to be heavily affiliated with Sun. The GreenBytes ZFS+ file system is based on Sun's open-source ZFS file system and is designed to reduce capacity needs with nondestructive compression and data de-duplication, the white paper states. The GreenBytes NAS appliance, known as the Cypress, is based on the Sun Fire X4500 server. GreenBytes CTO Robert Petrocelli is a physicist and computer scientist and was previously CEO of Heartlab, a developer of cardiac imaging software.

Storspeed: Click on this company's Web site and all you'll see is the vendor's name and an e-mail address on an otherwise blank page. What is known is that the Austin-based start-up is working on speeding up access to storage with a network-based caching technology along the lines of what the vendor Gear6 offers.

Storspeed has former Cisco executive Mark Cree on board, and it has secured $13 million in funding from firms such as El Dorado Ventures, Hunt Ventures, Vesbridge Partners and Palomar Ventures. Cree was CEO of NuSpeed Internet Systems, a storage-area networking vendor acquired by Cisco eight years ago. Storspeed declined an interview request, with Vice President of Business Development Gregory Dahl telling Network World that "we are likely to stay in stealth mode for another few quarters."

This story, "10 data storage companies to watch" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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