Nvidia secures SwiftStack technology -by buying the company

Nvidia is buying SwiftStack, an object storage software company. Terms were undisclosed but the takeover looks like a white knight move by Nvidia. The company uses SwiftStack technology in-house.

SwiftStack co-founder and president Joe Arnold announced the acquisition in a blog and said the company has worked with Nvidia for over a year “to solve the data challenges to enable AI at scale”.

SwiftStack co-founder Joe Arnold.

“Building AI supercomputers is exciting to the entire SwiftStack team. We couldn’t be more thrilled to work with the talented folks at Nvidia and look forward to contributing to its world-leading accelerated computing solutions.”

There is no quote from SwiftStack CEO Don Jaworski and SwiftStack was unable to say if he is staying.

Manuvir Das, Nvidia’s head of enterprise computing, told us in a phone briefing that “Nvidia does not want to become a storage company” or to sell storage. It uses SwiftStack technology in its multiple data centres.

“We will continue to use SwiftStack internally and put it in the hands of our customers. We are not going to sell it,” Das said, but the company will make it available to customers.

Das said Nvidia especially likes SwiftStack’s 1space technology as it helps to keep its GPUs busy with caching, tiering, etc.

Also, Nvidia wants customers to use storage they already have: “We’ll deploy our AI Stack and point it at their existing storage, using 1space in the middle… It makes for better integration.”

1space

SwiftStack provides OpenStack-based object storage software called SwiftStack that has a Swift object store and Cinder block store. It is AWS S3 compatible and has developed technology to move data to the public cloud.

SwiftStack 7 was released in 2019 and provides multi-petabyte scale that can handle thousands of simultaneous workers accessing data. It deliversthroughput speeds at over 100GB/sec with linear scaling of both performance and capacity.

1space, Nvidia’s main reason for buying Swiftstack, is a file connector that enables cloud-native applications to access data either on-premises or in AWS via S3 or Swift object APIs, and can ensure the compute resource is constantly fed with data.

Swiftstack said V7 is suited to large-scale AI application use, and can support GPU data needs up to hundreds of petabytes. The software can use Nvidia DGX-1 systems and the NGC (Nvidia GPU Cloud) container registry of GPU-optimised software. It delivers parallel storage throughput to Nvidia GPU compute and NGC. 

SwiftStack history

SwiftStack was founded in 2011 and has received $23.6m in funding, with the last round bagged in 2014.

Signs of strain at SwiftStack emerged in December last year when it laid off an undisclosed number of employees. It also announced a pivot away from commodity object storage to high-performance, petabyte scale applications – which is the focus of SwiftStack 7.

In IDC Marketscape terms it is a trailing second-tier object storage vendor behind NetApp, Dell EMC, Hitachi Vantara, IBM and Scality. The second tier is led by Cloudian and Red Hat with the trailing group consists of SUSE, Caringo, SwiftStack and Western Digital, which recently sold its ActiveScale object storage business to Quantum.

Object storage consolidation

Commenting on the acquisition, GigaOm analyst Enrico Signoretti told us: “Nvidia are going to open source everything. I’m pretty sure they paid very little, and they will use the software to build a reference architecture so that partners can build their solutions.”

He added: “Interesting consolidation happening, after Quantum/WD. This is the second [object storage company] in a row. Many object stores are becoming instrumental for end-to-end vertical solutions and exiting the general purpose market.”

SwiftStack will continue to maintain, enhance, and support the 1space, ProxyFS, Swift, and Controller technologies in its software portfolio. The acquisition should close in the next few weeks, subject to closing conditions.

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