VAST Data’s business sitrep

VAST Data was founded in 2016 by CEO Renen Hallak, an ex-VP for R&D at XtremIO and its first engineer. Some time before that he worked on computer science looking at computing complexity, which seems appropriate.

He left XtremIO in 2015 and had a round of talks with potential customers and storage companies, talking about storage needs and technology roadmaps before founding VAST Data.

Hallak’s key insight was that customers did not want tiered storage systems but had to use them because flash storage was too expensive and not capacious enough, while disk was too slow.

He came round to thinking that QLC (4 bits/cell) flash and better data reduction could provide the capacity and XPoint the fast write persistence and metadata storage. NVMe over fabrics could provide a base for decoupled compute nodes running storage controller-type logic, accessing storage drives fast, and enabling huge scalability.

VAST Data founder and CEO Renen Hallak

Ex-Dell EMC exec Mike Wing is VAST Data’s president and owns sales. He spent 15 years at EMC and then Dell EMC, running the Xtremio business and packaging VMAX and Unity all-flash systems.

Shacher Fienblit is the VP for R&D, coming from being the CTO at all-flash array vendor Kaminario. Jeff Denworth is VP for Product Management, and joined from CTERA. Analyst Howard Marks, the Deep Storage Net guy, is a tech evangelist and it’s his first full time post since 1987.

VAST Data’s R&D is in Israel. Everything else is in the USA, including the New York headquarters and mostly on the East Coast, because that’s where most of the target customers are to be found. There is a support office in Silicon Valley.

It received $40m in A-round funding in 2017 and had just has raised $40M of Series B funding, with the round led by TPG Growth, with participation from existing investors including Norwest Venture Partners, Dell Technologies Capital, 83 North and Goldman Sachs. Total funding is $80M. 

Now VAST has come out of stealth, confident it has world-beating storage technology. 

It sells its product three ways;

  • As a 2U quad server appliance, with 8 x 50Gbit/s Ethernet links, running VAST containers, presenting NFS and S3 out to client servers, and the databox enclosure,
  • As a Docker container image and databox enclosures, with the host servers running apps as well as the  VAST containers,
  • As a Docker container, meaning software-only.

The last point means that VAST could run in the public cloud, were the public cloud able to configure databoxes in the way VAST needs.

Every startup loves its technology baby and is convinced it is the most beautiful new child in the world. Hallack and his team are certain VAST will become a vast business.

If they are right VAST will be not just an extinction event for hard disk drives but also represent a threat to virtually all existing HW and SW storage companies. Can its tech live up to this potential or will it, like other startups, be a shooting star, with a bright but brief burst of light before burning up? We’ll see. It’s going to be an interesting ride; that’s for sure.

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