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New WhipTail CEO anticipates rise of solid state, demise of spinning disk

Solid state storage startup WhipTail Technologies is looking to move into its next phase of development after hiring a new CEO this week.

Dan Crain, whose 27 years in the IT business includes five years as CTO of Brocade, takes over at WhipTail with the belief that the spinning disk era in enterprise storage is coming to an end. Crain said it’s a matter of time until the right type of solid storage takes over, and he believes WhipTail’s I/O acceleration appliances are on the right track.

“Without a doubt, we’re getting to the end of spinning media and disk,” he said. “It’s been around for 40 years, and the physics are getting more challenging. Solid state as a medium for persistent storage is getting there.”

Crain said he knows just having solid state in a storage system isn’t enough. All of the major storage vendors do that now, and smaller vendors such as Nimbus Data, Texas Memory Systems, Avere Systems, Violin Memory, and Alacritech have all-solid state disk (SSD) systems.

Whiptail’s Data Center XLR8r and Virtual Desktop XLR8r 2u multi-level cell (MLC) appliances use NAND and DRAM, and focus on block storage, particularly applications with high I/O requirements. Crain said he sees all-SSD appliances the way to go rather than hybrid systems that use solid state and spinning disk as separate tiers. He said the market will take care of one SSD hurdle – price – while superior technology can overcome reliability issues.

“A lot of tiered systems exist because the cost of solid state storage media was very, very, very expensive,” Crain said. “The price has fallen substantially now. With Flash-based disk, NAND-memory based SSDs, the more you write to them, the more they wear out. We have patented technologies that help deal with that. Hybrid systems that move things in and out of SSDs cause write wear. We don’t think that’s the way to go.”

Crain said the Data Center appliance is tuned around database functions such as transaction logs and indexes, while the Virtual Desktop model is tuned for virtual desktop performance loads. “We’re not going to be the production data store for databases, we will be the index and transactional log storage device,” he said. “We keep system files, not user data.”

Since it started in 2008, WhipTail has been run by founders Ed Rebholz and James Candelaria. Crain replaces Rebholz as CEO, while Candelaria stays on as CTO. Crain said WhipTail is still in the early stage of product sales with “several dozen” customers, and he expects to rollout product enhancements soon.

“We have a lot of growth to do over the next two or three years and you’ll see us produce a lot of interesting technology,” he said. “Some of it will be very radical.”

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