Cool Vendors in Storage Technologies, 2013 – Gartner

Ctera, Delphix, Panzura, Pure Storage and Scality
By Jean-Jacques Maleval on 2013.05.23

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This report (ID:G00250240) has been written by analysts Dave Russell, Arun Chandrasekaran, Gene Ruth, Joseph Unsworth, John Monroe, Pushan Rinnen, Alan Dayley, Stanley Zaffos from Gartner Inc.

This research details five companies that provide innovative storage capabilities and/or contain the costs associated with storage and its operational management. Gartner also takes a look back at two vendors that were profiled in a previous Cool Vendors report.

Key Findings

  • CTERA Networks offers unique, unified cloud storage integration hardware and software (including EFSS) within an expanding partner ecosystem.
  • Delphix can help contain the storage requirements and overall cost and time associated with reducing the typical five to 12 full copies of each production database.
  • Panzura addresses the difficult global file-locking problem with its distributed file system appliances supporting cloud storage.
  • Pure Storage enhances inexpensive consumer PC SSDs through flash-optimized, in-line data reduction and management software, delivering a simple, cost-effective, all-flash alternative to HDD/SSD storage arrays.
  • Scality offers software based scale-out storage with heterogeneous API support to tackle a variety of big data and cloud workloads.


  • Include CTERA Networks when implementing an integrated private or public cloud storage environment to support branch offices and mobile users.
  • Examine Delphix's solution to deliver improved database service levels and capabilities, and as part of a prudent cost containment and efficiency strategy.
  • Evaluate Panzura to implement scalable, secure global file access and storage consolidation among multiple sites and to backup and archive to the cloud.
  • Consider Pure Storage when application workloads demand a cost-effective, all-flash system solution and can benefit from in-line data reduction.
  • Consider Scality when building scale-out object storage architectures for cloud storage and active archiving.

This research does not constitute an exhaustive list of vendors in any given technology area, but rather is designed to highlight interesting, new and innovative vendors, products and services. Gartner disclaims all warranties, express or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

What You Need to Know
IT managers often share common goals, including a need to modernize their storage infrastructures and improve QoS while simultaneously containing costs. New storage components, solutions and management tools can help stakeholders build easier-to-manage, more efficient and more available storage infrastructures. Many organizations are evaluating technologies that will drive efficiency, such as higher-performing and highly automated storage, cloud-based solutions, and/or management products that allow for proactive problem avoidance and increased resource utilization and optimization.

This research details five emerging private vendors that can assist organizations in meeting their IT modernization and cost containment initiatives.

CTERA Networks, Palo Alto, CA
Analysis by Gene Ruth

Why Cool: CTERA Networks is a privately-held company that offers cloud storage gateway and related infrastructure products to connect datacenters and branch offices to public or private storage clouds. The offerings are suitable for small or midsize businesses (SMB) and enterprise customers as well as service providers (telcos, management service providers [MSPs]) and integrators in enabling cloud storage solutions.

The CTERA Networks offerings address file sync and share, backup and primary data delivery using on-premises hardware optimized to transport data to a public or private cloud environment. The company uniquely offers a cost-efficient solution to support ROBO environments on a large scale. The lightweight local footprint of a CTERA Networks storage unit, the elimination of additional backup software and the resultant operational simplification make CTERA Networks an attractive solution for supporting extensive ROBO environments.

CTERA Networks is positioning itself to address the quickly expanding cloud storage integration market with a low-cost solution and significant array of partnerships. The partnership ecosystem continues to expand with native integration of CTERA Networks' capability into the CISCO Integrated Service Routers Generation 2 (ISR), integration with EMC's Atmos, IBM's General Parallel File System (GPFS), HDS' Hitachi Content Platform (HCP), Dell DX, OpenStack Swift and many relationships with telcos and MSPs in Europe and the U.S. The addition of a file sync and share capability enhances the value proposition and provides a unique competitive advantage, which dovetails nicely with the cloud storage paradigm and file collaboration opportunities. Additionally, CTERA Networks also provides cloud storage orchestration and automation software to enable service providers deliver multitenant public cloud storage services similar to Amazon S3.

Challenges: CTERA Networks is a relatively new company, founded in 2008 and competing in an intensely active segment of the market. Their presence is growing in the U.S. with SMB customers (from a revenue perspective) and in Europe with a number of large telco and communication service provider (CSP) partners. As a small but fast-growing company, risk exists that CTERA Networks may struggle to adequately deliver in a timely manner to its diverse customer set. In addition, the cloud storage and enterprise file synchronization and sharing (EFSS) markets are nascent and, thus, customers should be cautious and expect that many of the participating vendors will be acquired or fail, with only a few vendors remaining independent over the next five years.

Who Should Care: CTERA Networks should be of interest to any IT organization that is looking for a cost-effective unified solution to support a public or private cloud storage environment with file sync and share capability behind their own firewall or as a branded service provider to support ROBO environments and mobile users.

Delphix, Menlo Park, CA
Analysis by Dave Russell

Why Cool: Delphix's Agile Data Platform is a software product that can speed up operations and the amount of time it takes to test production databases, run reporting and analytics and refresh data from days to minutes, all while applying compression and even avoiding the need for deduplication (since no redundant blocks are ever copied) to shrink the footprint of required storage. Delphix's database virtualization solution can dramatically reduce the number of physical copies of a single database, thus improving capacity utilization by decreasing the amount of storage and power consumed. Perhaps of even greater interest is the very fast availability (restore) and test and development support that the solution can provide.

Currently, Delphix supports Oracle Databases (including those running on Exadata) and SQL Server databases, with plans to add Postgres and Sybase in 2013 and MySQL in 2014. The Agile Data Platform makes a one-time full copy of the application's blocks of data onto any storage device, applying compression that typically yields a 2.7x space reduction. Then, periodic log shipping and block change tracking keeps the Delphix copy updated. Pointer redirection allows for any point in time (APIT) recovery and can utilize a single copy to rapidly serve up space-efficient full instances of database images for testing or recovery in minutes versus hours. The product installs as a virtual appliance without any agents, sits out of band and provides IP-based replication to another Delphix instance if desired.

Delphix has been in business since 2008, with over $45 million in funding. It has been shipping product since 2011, with over 100 customers including Comcast, Facebook, Proctor and Gamble and Informatica. The company claims over 100 employees, with engineers that previously worked on the Oracle Sun ZFS filesystem, Oracle's Recovery Manager (RMAN) and Data Guard, VMware's replication solution and EMC's Avamar. Delphix has partnerships with SAP and system integrator Deloitte, which includes SAP selling the solution through its 5,000-plus person sales force.

Challenges: Any emerging vendor typically raises some degree of concern for an IT organization, and this will likely be very much the case for a provider that typically targets very large enterprises and has an average transaction price of over $250,000. Organizations will want to perform due diligence to get comfortable with a solution that connects with production applications. Other challenges are that database administrators will need to be comfortable with the product having the credentials to make periodic calls to the database and the future concept of database vendor(s) potentially adding virtualization and data reduction capability natively in its product.

Who Should Care: While Delphix predominantly targets the CIO or VP of infrastructure and application, Gartner believes that directors of storage and storage administrators that are responsible for providing database capacity and availability should examine Delphix's solution as a means of improving service levels through reduced provisioning times and as part of a prudent cost containment and efficiency strategy.

Panzura, Campbell, CA
Analysis by Pushan Rinnen

Why Cool: Founded in July 2008 in San Jose, CA, with a total venture funding of $33 million, Panzura offers global distributed file system appliances with multisite global file locking and global deduplication, local file pinning, and cloud storage integration. The company has gained market traction since product launch with over 100 customers by the end of 2012, 50% of which are multi-billion-dollar organizations.

The Panzura architecture is primarily designed to build a private network in conjunction with public clouds. The Quicksilver cloud Storage Controllers are a series of virtual and physical network-attached storage (NAS) appliances that have SSDs and HDDs for local cache (up to 36TB raw today) to store the most frequently accessed data, while pushing the majority of infrequently accessed data to the private or public cloud. The file-locking mechanism embedded in its global namespace solves the problem of global cache coherency among multiple sites and can scale better than Microsoft's DFS. Panzura's primary use case is global content access and cross-geo project sharing by consolidating NAS devices and local file servers. Because all sites see the same file system and site controllers can be added to the same network transparently, the solution can speed up global workflow process and make the distributed storage infrastructure more efficient. The Panzura solution is also used by customers to backup and archive data to the cloud, because Panzura supports high-throughput capability for Symantec's NetBackup and IBM's Tivoli Storage Manager, as well as archiving tools such as Atempo Digital Archive and Symantec Enterprise Vault.

The Panzura solution supports most major cloud storage providers at the back end such as Amazon, Nirvanix, Google, as well as EMC's Atmos-based cloud providers and public clouds from Dell, HP and IBM. Most of these partners also resell the Panzura solution, which offers AES-256 encryption for data at rest and TLS for data in flight and, with its FIPS 140-2 government security certification, has gained several large federal government customers. Panzura's other customers include companies from the media/entertainment, healthcare, financial services and research and education fields.

Challenges: Panzura faces the challenge of debunking the common perception that cloud storage is only for small businesses and small workloads. It also needs to expand its ecosystem by adding more support for on-premises applications. When Panzura is used to support traditional applications such as backup, it may have compatibility issues, resulting in certain application functions not working properly. On the global file access front, Panzura lacks the mobile device support, which is offered by file sync and share services. The company needs to expand its ecosystem by adding more independent software vendor (ISV) support in the backup and archiving arena.

Who Should Care: Panzura should appeal to midsize to large organizations that want to implement private or hybrid cloud storage to consolidate multisite file storage, offer more effective project and data sharing, and provide backup and archiving to the inexpensive public cloud.

Pure Storage, Mountain View, CA
Analysis by Joseph Unsworth and John Monroe

Why Cool: Pure Storage was founded in 2009 on the premise of building an in-line, flash-optimized deduplication and compression software architecture around relatively inexpensive PC SSDs to deliver a cost-effective SSD appliance. Pure Storage leverages the commodity MLC SSD form factor in its arrays, today sourcing SSDs from leading PC SSD supplier Samsung; however, Pure's innovation is centered around their core competency in software.

Pure Storage has over 30 patents from areas such as deduplication, flash management and resiliency, which are all critical elements when solely relying on flash memory technology for persistent storage in data center environments. Pure Storage boasts flash-specific software features with the most interesting being in-line deduplication/compression typically at a rate of 5-to-1, HA with nondisruptive upgrades, snapshots and replication that represent minimal overhead on system performance and latency. With system price-points ranging around $10/GB for usable capacity and Pure Storage's strategy of enhancing the most capable, cost-effective PC grade SSD, they have distanced themselves from the challenges of flash hardware management, opting instead to rely on their core competencies in software.

Pure Storage has raised $95 million in aggregate, including its latest series-D funding in 2012. This funding ensures financial stability in the near-term and the ability to scale in a dynamic, ultra-competitive market that is still in its infancy. Pure Storage has over 200 customer wins, a testament to not only their software but the simplicity with which it can be integrated within existing storage architectures.

Challenges: Pure Storage's greatest challenge will be articulating its value proposition clearly and effectively as a start-up in a landscape fraught with hype and confusion disseminated by a crowd of new and traditional storage array vendors. Pure Storage does not have the fastest nor largest capacity system (up to 40TB per system) in the market, but it is the software differentiation and optimization selling points that will need to be reinforced along with customer wins. This will be particularly important since Pure Storage is relying only on VARs and reseller partnerships as a path to market.

Who Should Care: Data center professionals who demand higher storage platform performance supported by capable data management software features. The application workload demand and complexity will dictate the need for such solutions, especially in highly virtualized environments such as VDIs, front-end Web indexing, OLTP databases, data warehouses and high-performance computing applications.

Scality, San Francisco, CA
Analysis by Arun Chandrasekaran and Alan Dayley

Why Cool: Scality is a venture-backed, privately held company headquartered in Silicon Valley and an R&D team in France that offers scale-out, software-based storage that can potentially deliver massive scalability, HA and data protection at lower costs. While Scality's primary focus has been on the object storage space, the vendor has an aggressive road map for unified storage with block and scale-out file system capabilities targeting enterprise workloads that need high performance.

Scality's RING Organic Storage topology is based on a peer-to-peer architecture, which means that there are no master nodes and no single point of failure. Both data and metadata is distributed across the nodes in a shared-nothing model with parallel infrastructure and operations (I/O) paths. The architecture provides near-linear performance aggregation, allowing customers to achieve incremental capacity and performance gains at a lower cost. By packaging multiple storage nodes and I/O daemons at a server level, and due to its unified storage architecture, Scality is able to potentially target more versatile and performance-oriented workloads that are beyond the purview of many object storage vendors.

Scality offers simple software replication and configurable erasure coding that can reduce storage overheads, provide self-healing and improve data rebuild times, which may improve costs, availability and manageability on a PB scale.

Given the fragmented nature of APIs in the object storage space, Scality has taken a more neutral approach by supporting APIs from Amazon S3, OpenStack Swift and CDMI, apart from its proprietary API. This heterogeneous API support will be a critical need for customers planning hybrid cloud storage implementations. Scality's integration work with Apache Hadoop and OpenStack expands its addressable market opportunity although it faces significant competition from more-established vendors in each of these initiatives.

Challenges: Scality is in direct competition not only with other object storage vendors, many of whom have been around for a longer time, but also with large unified storage vendors such as EMC and NetApp. Hence, Scality faces huge barriers to entry posed by the significant R&D, marketing prowess and deep relationships that the incumbent storage vendors possess. Additionally, Scality has a distributed team with R&D based in France and sales, marketing and operations in the U.S., which has the potential to affect time to market and possibly create cultural gaps. While there has been a lot of buzz about software-defined storage of late, Scality's software form factor is an inherently difficult value proposition to sell in an industry where storage is normally associated with hardware, which needs a very different distribution, support and sales model.

Who Should Care: IT leaders, technical architects and application owners in both enterprise and service provider environments looking for scalable, self-healing and cost-effective storage for cloud and big data workloads should consider Scality. Gartner expects the initial interest to come from cloud service providers evaluating software as a service (SaaS) storage and storage as a service, and enterprises looking for an active archive solution.

Where Are They Now?

Nimble Storage, San Jose, CA
Analysis by Arun Chandrasekaran
Profiled in Cool Vendors in Storage Technologies, 2011

Why Cool Then: Nimble Storage's flagship product is an innovative iSCSI-based storage array that is optimized for flash. Nimble's architecture, known as Cache-Accelerated Sequential Layout (CASL), achieves high write performance by turning random I/O into sequential I/O. CASL does this by compressing data into variable-size blocks and combining them into full stripes that are written to disks. It then uses SSDs to cache active data to achieve high read performance. CASL's variable block sizes enable the system to be tuned for different applications, to support various compression algorithms and to allow each block to store additional metadata, such as checksums to detect bit errors. The product line known as the CS-Series is addressing the midmarket's need to modernize its storage infrastructure, and its backup and DR process.

The CS-Series offers in-line compression (which applies to primary data and local and replicated snapshots), thin provisioning, highly efficient snapshots, flexible replication and cloning tools, as well as data protection policies and RAID-6.

Where Are They Now?: When Gartner profiled Nimble Storage in early 2011, it had less than $10 million in revenue and the product was barely six months old. Nimble has since expanded the product line with new entry-level and high-end models, and grown the revenue and customer footprint. Nimble Storage now boasts an annual bookings run rate in their latest fiscal year of more than $100 million and more than 1,250 customers worldwide, making it one of the fastest-growing storage start-ups. Employee count has increased from less than 50 people in early 2011 to close to 400 employees today. From starting as a U.S.-centric company, Nimble Storage has expanded its direct and indirect footprint in EMEA and AsiaPac, with close to 15% of annual revenue coming from outside the U.S. Nimble Storage is planning for an IPO in late 2013 or early 2014 to raise more capital for business expansion.

Nimble has also forged close partnerships with vendors such as Cisco, VMware, Microsoft and CommVault to expand its addressable use cases by tackling a variety of workloads such as VDI, Exchange, SharePoint and Oracle and SQL Server databases.

Despite this tremendous growth, Nimble still faces significant challenges. Apart from viability concerns that most start-up vendors encounter, Nimble's product line is still narrowly focused on a few use cases and there is still work to be done in bridging the channel and ISV partnership gaps. Additionally, Nimble is focused only on iSCSI protocol, when growth in NAS is far outstripping the growth in SANs.

Who Should Care: Midsize organizations looking for flash-optimized storage for workloads such as Oracle Database, SQL Server database, SharePoint and VDI should include Nimble Storage in their shortlist. Nimble's products offer the promise of eliminating the complexity of managing separate primary, backup and DR processes and infrastructures while delivering performance enhancements based on a flash-optimized architecture.

StorSimple, Santa Clara, CA
Analysis by Arun Chandrasekaran and Stanley Zaffos
Profiled in Cool Vendors in Storage Technologies, 2010

Why Cool Then: StorSimple cloud Storage Controller is an IP storage gateway that behaves as an iSCSI storage system that uses public cloud storage as a storage tier. Instead of destaging data from cache to back-end storage, it destages data into the cloud after it deduplicates and encrypts the data. From a storage perspective, it is a disaggregated system with everything but back-end storage in the appliance. From a network perspective, it is a WAN optimization controller (WOC) supporting public or private cloud-distributed storage.

Internally, the StorSimple Storage Controller uses a weighted storage layout approach, data is broken into 'chunks' that are analyzed and weighted based on frequency of use. SSD capacity is split between a linear store and a deduplicated store. Data in the linear store is not deduplicated and holds the hottest data. The deduplicated store, as its name suggests, holds deduplicated but unencrypted data and is used to expand the usable capacity of the controller. When working, set management algorithms determine that data should be destaged to the cloud, it is encrypted and then moved from SSD and SAS layers to low-cost cloud storage IaaS providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Windows Azure. StorSimple provides block-level snapshots, enabling recovery point objectives and backups not generally associated with a cloud IaaS infrastructure. Although there were numerous start-ups that were developing similar on-site/cloud hybrid storage approaches, StorSimple was the first developer to optimize for specific applications with iSCSI access.

Where Are They Now?: Microsoft acquired StorSimple for an undisclosed sum in November 2012, validating StorSimple's innovative cloud-integrated storage strategy. Microsoft's underlying intention is to make hybrid cloud storage a reality for its enterprise and midmarket customers through a combination of physical and virtual on-premises appliances. The acquisition gives Microsoft a significant advantage over competitors such as Amazon Web Services, AT&T and Rackspace in targeting Microsoft workloads such as SharePoint and SQL Server.

Since the acquisition, Microsoft has doubled the engineering team at StorSimple and expanded its global reach beyond North America, with the product now being available in more than 25 countries. The acquisition has also helped StorSimple to rapidly expand its customer base due to tight integration and joint go-to-market with Windows Azure for enterprise workloads such as SharePoint.

Although post-acquisition, Microsoft had indicated that it had no plan to change the existing integration with other cloud providers such as Amazon and Rackspace, we recommend that customers should get clear direction from Microsoft on its long-term support plans and feature availability for non-Microsoft clouds.

Who Should Care: VPs and directors of IT, storage, and infrastructure of midsize companies and enterprises planning a cost-effective hybrid cloud storage environment with iSCSI access for primary storage, backup or archiving use cases should consider StorSimple.