Panasas takes on board new investors in push for growth

In its nineteenth year the HPC storage supplier Panasas has secured a fresh funding round and given the board a makeover.

The cash infusion is less than $50m and “tranched”, meaning stage payments are dependent upon performance, CEO Faye Pairman told us. The new investors will occupy four of seven seats in the enlarged board.

The funding comes entirely from two new investors, KEWA Financial, a US. insurance company, and Dowroc Partners, a private fund owned by investment professionals with expertise in storage technology, energy, and cloud computing.

Panasas’s last funding in 2013 comprised a $15m private equity investment  by Mohr, Davidow Ventures and a $25.2m venture capital F-round, with participation from Samsung Ventures, Intel Capital and others.

Enterprise HPC players

So why does Panasas need more money now?

Robert Cihra partner at Dowroc Partners, said Panasas is a “small company that’s looking to grow…This is an investment in growth.”

The money will fund technology and product development, support expansion into new markets, and the exploration of OEM relationships. This at a time of growing competition in Panasas’s core market.

General enterprises are driving this with their need for HPC-like storage systems to handle fast access to millions and sometimes billions of file for their big data analytics and machine learning applications.

The technology development has attracted new entrants alongside the classic quintet of (now Red Hat) Ceph, Dell EMC’s Isilon, DDN, IBM’s Spectrum Scale and Panasas.

Qumulo and WekaIO with NetApp have also entered the enterprise HPC scale-out file access business.

The proprietry of proprietary

Panasas historically shipped its HPC storage software running in its own proprietary arrays until November 2018, when it made its software portable. The file system was updated and the ActiveStor hardware requirement became commodity X86 server-based.

This opens possibilities for partnership options such as running software on other suppliers’ hardware. Jim Donovan, Panasas chief marketing officer, at the time of the announcement, said the move gives “us the opportunity to port PanFS to other companies’ hardware. That’s the potential. We’re not announcing any OEM deals at the moment.”

Blocks & Files thinks Panasas will announce new partnerships fairly quickly. We imagine HPE is a company Panasas will talk to and, looking further afield, Cisco and possibly Lenovo.

All aboard the Panasas…Express?

Panasas CEO Faye Pairman

There is now a seven-member board compared to the 4-member one last year. The board directors are

  • Faye Pairman, President and CEO
  • Elliot Carpenter, CFO
  • Andre Hakkak – founder and managing partner, White Oak Global Advisors
  • David Wiley, founder and CEO KEWA – new member
  • Robert Cihra, partner at Dowroc Partners and 20-year Wall Street analyst – new member
  • Jorge Titinger, CEO of Titinger Consulting, ex-SGI SGI – new member
  • Jonathan Lister, VP Global Sales Solutions at LinkedIn – new member

As you can see the four new members could outvote the three legacy members.

Pairman told us Tittinger’s HPC and Lister’s sales and business growth experience will help drive Panasas’s roadmap and re-accelerate growth.