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SwiftStack layoffs reflect change in focus to AI, analytics

Object storage vendor SwiftStack hands out layoff notices for the holidays -- cuts sales, marketing, partner team members, while shifting focus to analytics, AI, machine learning.

Object storage specialist SwiftStack laid off employees in sales, marketing and partner relations this month, while shifting its focus to artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data analytics use cases.

The San Francisco software vendor originally concentrated on backing up and archiving unstructured data on commodity servers with its commercially supported and enhanced version of open source OpenStack Swift. SwiftStack gradually expanded into new areas over the past eight years. The vendor claims its latest 7.0 product supports clusters that can scale linearly to petabytes of data and support throughput in excess of 100 GB per second.

Seeking to differentiate

Erik Pounds, SwiftStack's vice president of marketing, said SwiftStack will steer away from use cases such as low-cost, long-term repositories for backup applications, replacements for tape archives, and on-premises alternatives to Amazon S3 or Glacier.

Pounds said "object storage is commoditizing" in those areas.

"These are examples of good uses for object storage, and even SwiftStack, but for us to distinguish ourselves in a crowded field, we need to compete in areas where we have strong product differentiation," Pounds said. "Tier I technology vendors are aggressively going after these types of opportunities to preserve and grow footprint, and it quickly becomes a race to the bottom."

Pounds said SwiftStick's new focus is on "more modern" AI, machine learning and analytics use cases -- where customers need to access data across edge, core and cloud environments. That shift in focus required the company to change "outward-facing parts of the organization" in order to stay within operating budgets.

SwiftStack did not disclose the number of employees it laid off. LinkedIn indicates the company has 63 employees, but Pounds confirmed the Dec. 18 layoffs left SwiftStack "shy of 50." He said the company still has "a healthy sales team with complete regional coverage," despite the loss of "valued members" of the sales, marketing and partner team.

Pounds stressed that the organizational change "did not negatively affect the product and engineering team". He said that team received additional resources. He also denied that the cuts will change SwiftStack's product development work and release schedules.

"We continuously release new versions of SwiftStack on a three-week cadence, so once new functionality is developed and tested, it gets in the hands of our customers quickly," Pounds said.

Azure support

In mid-December, SwiftStack 1space added support for Microsoft Azure Blob Storage to complement the product's support for Amazon S3 and Google Cloud Storage. Pounds said more advanced Azure support would come in January with a SwiftStack 7 update.

SwiftStack 1space creates a single namespace to enable users to access, migrate and search data spanning public and on-premises cloud object systems. A new 1space File Connector extension enables users to access data stored in file systems.

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