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File system software startup Quobyte chases IT, developers

Quobyte tempts developers and app owners with a free version of its distributed parallel file system software, hoping they will convince their IT admins to buy fully supported editions.

Scale-out file system vendor Quobyte is chasing the enterprise IT market by trying to appeal to developers.

Quobyte today launched Data Center File System 3.0, adding security, self-service and data movement features designed to appeal to traditional enterprises. The startup is also offering a free version in hopes of hooking developers and application owners who can potentially convince their IT administrators to sign up for the paid product.

Since entering the market in 2015, the German startup has mostly appealed to high-performance computing storage, a market dominated by IBM Spectrum Scale and -- to a lesser degree -- Lustre storage. Moving into the enterprise will bring it into greater competition, with the likes of storage giant Dell EMC PowerScale and NetApp Ontap, software stalwart Red Hat and relative newcomers Qumulo and WekaIO.

Quobyte CEO Björn Kolbeck said his company has between 50 and 100 customers. He and his fellow founder, CTO Felix Hupfeld, are former Google storage engineers who developed the Quobyte distributed parallel file system.

Quobyte installs on almost any x86 hardware. The vendor does not sell packaged appliances. Its customers download the software to run on their systems.

Enhanced security includes end-to-end AES encryption for data at rest and in transit, including Transport Layer Security (TLS) between clusters, and access keys for its file system. Quobyte previously supported encryption only for data at rest, through Linux tools.

Quobyte founder and CEO Björn KolbeckBjörn Kolbeck

Quobyte added a multicluster data mover with bidirectional synchronization, policy-based tiering between clusters and native drivers for Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS) and MPI-IO that uses less memory bandwidth by bypassing the kernel. The data mover capabilities -- including data redundancy and immutability settings -- are available through the software's policy engine. Quobyte users can deploy the policy engine to write files to flash, then switch to hard disk drives if they grow beyond a certain size.

Self-service, designed to give Data Center File System a cloudlike user experience, allows users to check resource consumption and set volume quotas. Users can automatically provision resources from Kubernetes or Quobyte's web console.

Kolbeck said Quobyte wants to make it simpler to deploy and manage storage, particularly for nonstorage professionals.

"We believe anyone should be able to download and install storage just like you do with databases," he said. "Why does storage have to be special? It should be like any other part of the data center, and support the scale out that applications require."

The free version runs on up to 150 TB of hard disk drive, 30 TB of solid-state drive or 10 TB of cloud storage. Users can run it on production data, with the same features as Quobyte's supported Cluster Edition. The free and Cluster editions support S3 storage, Kubernetes CSI, HDFS and TensorFlow plugins, and fault-tolerant replication. Unlike the free edition, Cluster Edition includes vendor support starting at $8,999 for silver support and $12,999 for gold support.

Quobyte also has an Enterprise Edition that adds erasure coding, multi-tenancy, the new security and self-service. Kolbeck said Enterprise pricing starts at around $25,000.

Quobyte is banking on the free edition giving it an entry into enterprises to help it compete against vendors with far greater marketing muscle.

"We're seeing developers starting to use us," Kolbeck said. "It's difficult to reach IT professionals, especially storage admins, because they're busy with day-to-day operations. Part of our strategy is to have technology influencers in a company use Quobyte for their project, and then IT teams will buy Quobyte to provide them with the scale-out storage that they need."

Evaluator Group analyst Randy Kerns said the new features are designed to help Quobyte sell into a larger market.

"Quobtye is going after developers who need to deploy high-performance AI/ML applications for enterprises," Kerns said. "It wants to go into the enterprise market because it's more lucrative."

That can be a tough sell in a lot of shops, but Kerns said it will be easier with Quobyte's software-only approach than for a company that sells appliances.

"Rarely does IT buy storage systems because they're told to by developers," he said. "Developers may be influencers but they don't control money for storage. But software is a different element. Red Hat markets to developers, and it's pretty successful at it.

"Quobyte, like others who come from development backgrounds, understand developers and believes it can sell to them and get them to convince the infrastructure people."

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