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Cloud storage gateway startup Cirtas gets funding, new CEO

Three multi-billion dollar storage acquisitions over the past two years have made storage a hot target for venture capitalists, especially startups who deal with moving data to the cloud.

Cirtas today unveiled a new CEO as well as $22.5 million in a second round of funding. Cirtas is among several cloud storage gateway vendors who launched over the past year or so, and they have been busy with funding. Nasuni ($15 million) and Panzura ($12 million) closed funding rounds last month and StorSimple ($13 million) received funding in September. But with all of the large storage vendors also looking to the cloud, it’s unlikely that the market can support so many startups.

Cirtas CEO Gary Messiana said it will take more than the ability to move data off to the cloud for one or more of these startups to stand out. He said it is the intelligence in the Cirtas Bluejet Storage Controller that is unique. BlueJet’s controller presents an iSCSI target to servers as if it were an array on a local SAN. It handles encryption, tiering, data reduction and snapshots as well as sending data off to the cloud. Blujet is used for backup data, along with tier 2 and tier 3 primary data. Customers can keep data on the appliance or move it off to cloud service providers such as Amazon, which was a first-round investor in Cirtas.

“We have cache on our box, we have disk storage on our box, and our algorithms and sophisticated intelligence determines whether each file should reside in cache, the disk array, or we should move it off to the cloud,” Messiana said. “All of our customers are using us to put data into the cloud. Not all of [the data] obviously, but the portion that makes sense.”

Messiana won’t say how many customers Cirtas has yet, but he said the new funding will be used to beef up engineering , sales, and marketing for the Bluejet product. He replaces founder Dan Decasper, who remains with Cirtas as CTO. Messiana came from Cirtas investor Bessemer Venture Partners, where he was an entrepreneur in residence. He has also been a CEO at Netli and Diligent Software Systems.

He said he learned a lesson at content delivery company Netli that should help him forge a strategy at Cirtas. “I saw that no large content owner wants to go to a single CDN [content delivery network],” he said. “We believe it will be the same thing for the cloud. We believe large enterprises will want to use multiple providers. Customers don’t want to get locked into a single back end.”

For that reason, he said, Cirtas will work closely with other cloud providers besides Amazon S3. Its other cloud service partners include Iron Mountain, EMC Atmos and AT&T Synaptic Storage as a Service.

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