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DataGravity pockets $30M, eyes business intelligence

EqualLogic founder Paula Long has a new storage startup, and she says its goal is to do for data scientists what EquaLogic did for storage administrators.

Long was one of three founders of iSCSI storage pioneer EqualLogic, which proved Ethernet can play a major role in network storage. She teamed with former EqualLogic marketing VP John Joseph a year ago to start DataGravity, which today pulled in $30 million in Series B funding to give it a total of $42 million with no products due for at least a year.

DataGravity CEO Long and president Joseph won’t give too much detail on what the company is up to, except to say it’s about gaining business intelligence from data in an easier way than is possible today.

“At EqualLogic our mission was to put an IT administrator in every storage array so an IT generalist could become a storage expert quickly and not spend a lot of time managing storage,” Long said. “We also went for the all-inclusive approach instead of dim sum although everybody thought we were nuts. We took a complicated solution and made it simple.

“Now we’re taking storage experts and marrying them with analytics and database experts, and deriving what happens when you put all those people together. We’re taking EqualLogic’s core principles of simplicity and everything packaged together, and moving that into delivering data intelligence in a simple way.”

The dim sum approach she referred to is the way the major storage vendors sold all of their software features as separate licenses. EqualLogic included all of that in the price of the array, which fit well with its strategy of offering Ethernet storage that was easier to manage than Fibre Channel and didn’t require expensive FC networking devices. EqualLogic was poised to go public when Dell acquired it for $1.4 billion in 2008.

“The last time we looked at iSCSI, SAS, SATA, and all the key enabling tools,” Joseph said. “In this company, we’re looking at a different level of the problem. The focus is now on data and the value that data brings to someone’s industry.”

Long said she expects DataGravity to start shipping product in 2014. She did say it would sell devices and not just software. When asked if the systems would be similar to big data analytics products such as Oracle Exadata, EMC Greenplum, and IBM Netezza, she said “I don’t think there’s anybody similar to us. I’ve seen slices of what we’re doing, but not the same solution.”

Venture capitalist firm Andreessen Horowitz led today’s round, with previous investors Charles River Ventures and General Catalyst Partners also participating. Andreesen Horowitz partner Peter Levine joins DataGravity’s board.

Long said DataGravity went for a B round early to get Andreesen Horowitz and Levine on board. “We’re frugal New Englanders,” she said. “We weren’t planning on raising money until the fourth quarter of this year. But Peter approached us. We thought having him join us early so he can help shape the company would be a great help.”

Levine is the former CEO of XenSource and executive vice president of Veritas Software long before Symantec acquired it. He’s also a current board member of startup Actifio. He said a startup’s leadership plays a key role in his decisions to invest.

“The reason we invested in this company is because of Paula and John,” he said. “No one in storage is more strategic or better able to articulate the storage market than Paula. The concept of turning data into information is quite profound.”

When asked what challenges DataGravity faces, Levine said “Getting a product out is always a challenge. And any time you build a new category, there’s the education and evangelism involved with going after a new market.”

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