StorCentric scoops up ailing startup Vexata

Enterprise NVMe array startup Vexata has been bought by StorCentric, a private-equity-owned company which yesterday acquired the Retrospect backup software company.

Vexata was founded in 2013 by CEO Zahid Hussain and CTO Surya Varanasi. They developed a high-performance all-flash enterprise array, the VX-100 and launched it in October 2017. It used NAND or Optane drives hooked up to host servers across NVMe-oF links. This posted good SPC-2 benchmark results in September, 2018, and that was followed by a Fujitsu reselling deal in North America.

Vexata VX100 array.

By this time total funding was $54m, raised in four funding rounds, and included a $5m top-up in 2017.

In March this year company issues caused a couple of strategy changes.

First Vexata separated out its software, calling it the VX-Cloud Data Acceleration Platform, which ran on FPGA-assisted commodity servers accessing a back-end X86 storage server full on NVME SSDs. Vexata worked with Fujitsu and Supermicro to develop reference architecture systems using FPGA-accelerated servers as the controller base.

Secondly it abandoned direct sales in favour of channel reselling and laid off some staff.

Execs started leaving and now the firm has been sold to StorCentric., almost certainly at a big loss for the investors. The company certainly had a highly charged twelve months.

StorCentric

Vexata will now run as a fully-owned StorCentric subsidiary.

StorCentric is a private equity investment vehicle, run by Mihir Shah, an ex-CEO of Drobo, set up to buy the Drobo personal/prosumer/SMB storage systems and Nexsan SAN and archive arrays from the remnants of Imation in a series of deals.

Mihir Shah.

In 2018 we wrote: “Nexsan arrays will need NVMe drive and NVMe-oF tech to survive in the tier 1 enterprise array space.” Whatever we were smoking it was good stuff because StorCentric has done just that by buying Vexata.

There are now four product businesses inside StorCentric: Drobo, Nexsan, as of yesterday Retrospect, and as of today, Vexata.

Mihir Shah, StorCentric CEO, offered a prepared quote: “Our Nexsan enterprise customers are evaluating NVMe solutions to address evolving requirements for their most demanding applications. The Vexata products will provide a portfolio of highly scalable and performant data storage solutions with the operational simplicity of StorCentric’s portfolio of products.”

Zahid Hussain is not joining StorCentric, so Varanasi provided the Vexata canned quote. “The Vexata team is excited to be joining the StorCentric group of companies, and we see the move as an ideal fit for both organizations…Vexata will be able to leverage the strong Nexsan channel community of over 1,000 partners.” Customers get StorCentric support services, with its 59-person headcount.

Gaining synergies

If StorCentric runs each company as a separate business, how is to realisesynergies between these companies? When it bought Drobo and Nexsan in September, Shah spoke of the company’s ambition to develop a hub and spoke architecture, with Nexsan as hub and Drobo as a spoke.

We can see how Retrospect technology could be applied to the Nexsan hub, and also that the Nexsan hub could get an injection of Vexata technology.

Bur for this to happen the engineering teams need to be aligned and, possibly, combined, so the four separate businesses could evolve into one with four business units sitting atop a unified engineering team.

Comment

StorCentric has acquired a combined total of one million customers. This is not bad for a company that didn’t exist a year ago and which has basically bought near-distressed or unfilled potential assets from near-failing owners to give them an energising operational transplant.

We think that the Nexsan channel will need upskilling to sell into the NVMe array marketplace, with hot competition between well-established mainstream vendors (Dell EMC, Hitachi Vantara,  HPE, IBM, NetApp, Pure Storage) and energetic startups (Apeiron, E8, Excelero, Kaminario and Pavilion) plus Western Digital with its IntelliFlash Tegile technology.

Bring it on. There are opportunities for Nexsan arrays to use Vexata technology and for Vexata customers to be exposed to Retrospect backup. And maybe StorCentric has more acquisitions in mind. Bring that on too.

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