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Datrium snares $55 million, nearly year after DVX release

Datrium secured $55 million in Series C financing as it approaches the one-year anniversary of the general release of its flagship DVX storage system for VMware virtual machines.

The new financing – led by New Enterprise Associates – raises the funding total to more than $110 million since the Sunnyvale, California-based startup launched in late 2012. Datrium’s early backers included founders and executives from VMware and Data Domain, which are now both part of the Dell-EMC empire.

Datrium CEO and founder Brian Biles said the company plans to use the additional funding to expand into Europe, from its initial sales base in the U.S. and Japan. He said Datrium will also add product features, and grow the support, engineering, sales and marketing teams. Datrium currently employs about 140, Biles said.

“I model on the early history of Data Domain, and we’re beating that regularly in units and revenue. So I’m feeling pretty good about that,” Biles said, commenting on another startup he co-founded.

Datrium claims more than 50 customers since the DVX product became generally available in January.  That includes users in banking, cloud hosting, health care, manufacturing, media and entertainment, technology and public sectors.

The Datrium storage system consists of software that runs on customer-supplied servers, and NetShelf appliances equipped with 7,200 rpm SAS hard disk drives (HDDs) for persistent storage. The NetShelf appliance is currently disk-only, but Biles predicted that Datrium would offer a flash system within three years, once the price of flash further plummets.

The DVX software orchestrates and manages data placement between the NetShelf appliance and host server, and uses customer-supplied, server-based flash cache to accelerate reads. The software also provides storage functionality such as inline deduplication and compression, clones, and RAID for the persistent backend storage.

The local host server can use up to 16 TB of flash for caching, so after deduplication and compression, the effective local flash cache capacity can reach 32 TB to 100 TB, Datrium has said.

So far, the main use case for Datrium storage has been database workloads. Biles said 63% of customers listed databases (primarily Microsoft SQL Server) as the dominant use case for the DVX system. He said the product has also seen strong uptake in mixed-use virtual machine (VM) and VDI environments and attracted a number of customers in data warehousing scenarios.

“They’ve told us that not only is it fast, but as they virtualize their warehouses, they’ve found that performance on Datrium is faster than the warehouse on physical servers,” Biles said.

Another emerging trend Datrium noted is the use of NVMe-based PCI express solid-state drives (SSDs) for server-based flash cache. Datrium vice president of marketing Craig Nunes  estimated that NVMe adoption is approaching 10%.

One customer, Northrim Bank in Alaska, uses 2 TB NVMe-based SSDs in each of the 16 VMware servers at its primary data center in Anchorage and its eight VMware servers at its secondary data center in Fairbanks.

Benjamin Craig, Northrim’s executive vice president and chief information officer, said the company’s Iometer testing showed a near doubling of IOPS and throughput with the 2 TB NVMe SSDs over enterprise-class 1 TB SATA SSDs.

Craig said that Northrim was able to procure the Intel NVMe SSDs from its server vendor, Dell, at about $1,000 per TB – within 10% of the price per TB as heavy write-intensive, enterprise-class SATA SSDs.