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Infinidat comes out of stealth with PB-scale InfiniBox, funding grab

Moshe Yanai's newest venture launches its InfiniBox hyperscale storage array and says it already has close to 100 customers.

Infinidat -- Moshe Yanai's newest startup -- today shed light on its InfiniBox array and picked up $150 million in funding to push it into the market.

Yanai led development on the EMC Symmetrix high-end enterprise array from 1987 to 2001. After leaving EMC, he founded early deduplication player Diligent Technologies and storage array startup XIV. He sold Diligent and XIV to IBM.

CEO Yanai started Infinidat in 2010 and the company quietly began shipping its InfiniBox arrays in early 2013. Until now, Infinidat has gone after carefully targeted customers to make sure the technology was battle-tested before broadening distribution.

Infinidat's goal is to build the type of hyperscale storage used by companies such as Google and Facebook. But its target audience is enterprises.

An InfiniBox storage system can hold 2 PB of storage in a 42U rack. Infinidat claims a rack can handle 750,000 IOPs with 12 Gigabit per second throughput and seven-nines of availability at a cost of $1 per GB of usable storage.

VP of marketing Gareth Taube said Infinidat has sold more than 100 PB of storage, with the average system size at 1 PB.

The funding will be used largely to build out a sales channel. Until now, Infinidat has had small sales teams in the United States, Europe and Africa.

InfiniBox supports block storage (Fibre Channel and iSCSI) today. NAS support is in beta and expected to be available by the end of 2015 through a non-disruptive software upgrade. Object storage support is planned for OpenStack Swift and Amazon S3 after that. Mainframe support is also planned for this year.

An InfiniBox array consists of 480 hard disk drives managed by three server nodes. Each node includes compute, RAM and flash cache. There is a maximum of 3.2 TB of RAM and 86 TB of flash cache across the three nodes.

InfiniBox uses Dell PowerEdge R730 servers but the vendor can change if faster or cheaper options arise. The array is managed through WebUI and RESTful APIs. It can also be managed from within VMware's vCenter.

A 'no-compromise' storage array?

"People buying storage still have to make all these compromises," Taube said. "There is fast storage, cheap storage, transactional storage, storage for OpenStack. The industry forces people to choose any two or three of the above. There is no universal system for storage, and that's the problem we're trying to solve."

The $1 per GB price includes all software. InfiniBox software services include remote replication, snapshots, thin provisioning and analytics. Infinidat is working on data deduplication and compression.

Taube said the purpose of data reduction inside InfiniBox will be to speed application performance, not to save money.

"We're already cheaper than anybody else without dedupe and compression," he said. "We want to be able to put more data into cache, drive up cache hit ratios and make applications faster."

Service provider finds InfiniBox footprint appealing

Norwell, Massachusetts-based TriCore Solutions has used InfiniBox to store customer data since late 2013, IT manager Matt Iavarone said. TriCore has two InfiniBoxes and a total of 2 PB of capacity, and there are plans to bring in a third box.

Iavarone said he has replaced most of the production data he had on Hewlett-Packard 3PAR arrays. He cited InfiniBox capacity, footprint and performance as its selling points.

"We can get a petabyte or more in a single 42-rack unit. We couldn't get anywhere near that with any other storage," he said. "We're a managed hosting company, so cost per rack unit is important to us. Performance is also very important. We host Oracle databases in our primary data center for clients. Those have to perform well, and we have to back them up daily with a short backup window."

TriCore still uses 3PAR for some workloads – partially because of its solid-state drive capabilities -- but has steadily increased active capacity on its InfiniBox storage. Iavarone said the 100 TB he started with on the first InfiniBox has grown to 600 TB and he will add more capacity soon. TriCore adds licenses in 100 TB or 200 TB increments.

Of the software features, Iavarone said he uses thin provisioning, replication, snapshots and the REST API for monitoring. He said he is interested in the pending dedupe and OpenStack Swift support.

TPG Growth led Infinidat's funding round, which brings its total funding to $230 million with a funding valuation of $1.2 billion. Arun Taneja, consulting analyst for the Taneja Group, said the large investment was a show of confidence in Infinidat's founder.

"Everything Moshe has touched has turned to gold," Tanjea said. "I think Moshe sat down and said, 'What can we do in density, in new caching architecture, in reducing power and footprint, and how do we protect data in this world of 6 TB disk drives?' He set out to improve all that, and out comes next-generation hardware. This is for people who need a petabyte of data and want to manage it as one node."

Taube said approximately half of Infinidat customers switched from EMC VMAX enterprise arrays.

Infinidat's challenge could be newer technologies that didn't exist when the company was founded and are eating into sales of traditional arrays such as VMAX. These include all-flash arrays, hyper-converged infrastructure and arrays created specifically for virtual machines.

Taube said the vendor is well-positioned against all of those types of storage.

"We're designed for use cases with very large amounts of data and incredible levels of reliability," he said. "There isn't enough NAND flash on the planet to store all of this data out there."

He said other types of storage such as hyper-converged cannot scale to the levels of InfiniBox.

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