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Start-Up’s Profile: Avere Systems

In NAS accelerator
By Jean-Jacques Maleval on 2011.09.20

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Company
Avere Systems, Inc. ("to have to own" in Italian, "turns out" in French

Headquarters
Pittsburgh, PA

Date founded
January 2008

Financial funding
$15 million in series A in 2009, $17 million in series B in 2010, total at $32 million

Revenues
NA

Main executives

  • Ron Bianchini, CEO: comes from a big Italian family, formerly senior VP at NetApp following the acquisition of Spinnaker Networks - where he was co-founder and CEO - for $306 million in 2003; also served as VP of product architecture of FORE Systems (acquired by Marconi ion 1999); previously co-founded Scalable Networks (acquired by FORE) to build a GbE switch; professor at Carnegie Mellon University from 1989 to 1996 and co-writer of a patent licensed to AMD and Samsung through the university’s tech transfer office, generating some $3 million.
  • Michael Kazar, CTO: previously VP and chief architect at NetApp before being co-founder and CTO of Spinnaker; formerly distinguished engineer at FORE Systems: prior to that co-founder and chief file system architect at Transarc, now part of IBM; earlier in his career, working on versions of Carnegie Mellon University's Andrew File System.
  • Dan Camarda, VP sales: Coming from Compellent (acquired by Dell) where he was VP of sales, Western Region, before serving in VP of sales roles at Pillar (acquired by Oracle); previously VP of business development and marketing at Centor Software and senior director of sales and marketing at Auspex; started his career at IBM in marketing positions.
  • John Dean, CFO: former CFO of Vivisimo; before that senior director of corporate development at NetApp and VP of finance for Spinnaker.
  • Thomas Hicks, VP engineering: former technical director for NetApp and software engineering manager at Spinnaker.
  • Rebecca Thompson, VP marketing: prior to Avere was VP marketing at Vivisimo and FreeMarkets (now part of Ariba), director of corporate marketing at FORE; previously built the analyst relations program at Cisco and was an industry analyst for Dataquest (Gartner Group).

Number of employees
60

Product description
FXT hardware platform enables to optimize the performance of one or several NAS and manages them as a single pool with global namespace. Each 2U device contains DRAM (64GB or 72GB) and NVRAM (1GB or 2GB) for the most active data, as well as 8 SLC SSDs or 8 SAS 15K HDDs (totaling up to 3.6TB) to support large application working sets. There are three models (2750, 2300 and 2550) depending on the raw capacity per cluster (up to 13TB, 29TB and 90TB respectively) with a maximum of 25 nodes, all of them with 1GbE and 10GbE networking.

                                                    
A-3 architecture
avere_startup_540

Released date
First product on December 2009

Price range
$55,000 to $85,000 depending on capacity

Roadmap
Adding advanced analytics

Technology partner
Intel for SSDs

Distribution
28 partners, no OEM

Number of customers
"More than two dozens" for 300 systems

Main customers
Sony Pictures Imageworks for private cloud - others known clients are Whiskytree, The Genomics Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, ION Geophysical, and a Massachusetts school

Main competitors
NAS vendors like NetApp, HDS/BlueArc, EMC/Isilon, as well as start-ups Alacritech, Cache IQ (read today's news), GridIron also in NAS cache accelerator

Our Comments

The core idea was originated from students at Carnegie Mellon University 15 to 20 years ago where several Avere's executives come from, later at FORE, Spinnaker and then NetApp. At this time they design a log-based file system.

FXT is not an easy product to understand. It looks like a storage device in a box with processor, RAM, NVRAM, SLC SSDs (from Intel), SAS and SATA HDDs, but it's not a storage subsystem to store data and not anymore a TCP/IP accelerator network or a TCP offload engine network interface card. It's a cache dynamically tiering blocks (not files) on optimal storage by monitoring data frequence, access pattern and size to optimize or accelerate reading and writing for up to 25 mid-range to high-end NAS filers, all the data transitioning via FXT. This NAS optimizer can also be used to accelerate WAN for cloud storage or remote offices.

CEO Ron Bianchini gives the example of a customer that owns old NetApp NAS that became too slow, but finally kept them, adding FXT in front of them rather than buying new NetApp filers with more expansive FC drives to hit performance.

ESG Lab Tested Avere FXT flash appliances for VMware. Conclusion: up to 22x improvement on reads and 9x on writes with two nodes, plus the ability to achieve linear performance scaling as additional appliances are added to the cluster.

VP marketing Rebecca Thompson is pushing her company to offer a complete solution with this NAS optimizer AND its own massive storage subsystem, but the Bianchini is hesitating.

The goal of enthusiastic and smiling Bianchini, a guy fascinated with technology, is not to sell Avere in the future. "I already did it with Spinnaker". But for an IPO "in two years".
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