Digital media kids at OpenDrives show off new fast NAS system

OpenDrives Ultra
OpenDrives Ultra

OpenDrives, which provides video post production NAS systems, has been in the spotlight this week after releasing new customizable enterprise products in the form of three new NAS hardware series.

The firm claims its video post production platform can deliver 23GB/sec write and 25GB/sec read performance with an average of 13μs latency from a single chassis packed with NVMe SSDs. It has not yet not explained how it achieves this level of performance.


There are three lines in the firm’s Ultra hardware platform range:

  • Ultimate Series – a 2U chassis with Ultimate 25 compute module and supporting NVMe SSDs and the fastest performer.
  • Optimum Series – 2U chassis with Ultimate 15 compute module and configurable with either all-flash NVMe or SAS disk drives or both.
  • Momentum Series – 2U chassis with Ultimate 5 compute module and supporting disk drive-based capacity-optimised modules. Designed to excel at write-intensive workflows, such as camera-heavy security surveillance. 
OpenDrives Ultra hardware line

These have 2U base chassis and come with storage modules:

  • F – 8 x all-NVMe SSDs (960GB to 15.36TB)
  • FD – 24 x NVMe SSDs (1.92TB to 15.36TB)
  • H – 21 x SAS HDD (4,8,12, 16TB)
  • HD – 72 x SAS HDD (4,8,12, 16TB)

The F, FD and H have 2U enclosures while the HD comes in a 4U enclosure.

These Ultimate system are clusterable with a distributed file system, and run Atlas software. This is based on OpenZFS and provides data integrity, high availability (standby compute module) compression, inline caching in DRAM, RDMA, active data prioritisation for low latency, and a dynamic block feature. This fits incoming data to the most efficient block size from 4KB to 1MB.

Other features include single pane of glass management, single namespace, storage analytics and various data integrity techniques such as checksums, dual parity striping and inflight error correction.


The company was founded in Los Angeles in 2011 by Jeff Brue and Kyle Jackson. Jackson left in 2015 and Brue passed away in 2019. They were media creatives that were looking for an efficient solution to tackle their large file, video, and imaging performance workloads – mostly film dailies, or the raw, unedited footage shot on a movie set during every day. It has since expanded from its original video market to healthcare, video games, e-sports, architecture, corporate video, and advertising agencies.

Chad Knowles joined in 2014 as the CEO and is classed as a co-founder in LinkedIn. Retired US Navy Vice Admiral David Buss became the current CEO in September 2019 with Knowles staying on as a Chief Strategy Officer and then relinquishing that to be a board member.

Sean Lee is now Chief Product and Strategy Officer.

The firm boasts revenue has increased by 83 per cent annually, every year for 5 years, though one doesn’t know from which base.

OpenDrives has so far taken in $11m in funding – peanuts in the great scheme of storage startup VC funding amounts.

Customers include  Apple, Netflix, AT&T, Disney, Fox, Paramount, Universal, Sony, Warner Bros., CBS, ABC, NBC, HBO, Turner, Riot Games, Epic Games, Deluxe, Fotokem, Skydance, YouTube, Saatchi & Saatchi, Deutsch, NBA, NFL, PGA, NASCAR, Grammy Awards and Vox Media – a good roster to pin on the wall.


The 23GB/sec write, 25GB/sec read performance and average of 13μs latency sound good. How does it compare to the competition?

A Dell EMC  Isilon F800 delivers up to 250,000 IOPS and 15 GB/s aggregate throughput from its up to 60 SAS SSDs in a single chassis configuration. OpenDrives doesn’t provide IOPS numbers because, it claims, its system’s algorithms and efficiencies  are optimised for large file performance, not small file IO.

Dell EMC has recently announced a PowerScale F600 system, PowerScale being the new brand name for Isilon systems going forward. It didn’t release specific performance numbers.

However, the F600 supports 8 x NVMe SSDs and has superiority in CPU socket number, DRAM capacity, SSD speed, and IO port bandwidth which suggests that its IOPS and throughput numbers will be significantly higher than those for the F800. Blocks & Files thinks the F600 will deliver 5x more performance than the F800, meaning 1.25 million IOPS and more throughput as well. A literal 5x throughput improvement would mean 75GB/sec but we think this could be unrealistic.

However, again, envisaging the PowerScale F600 surpassing 25GB/sec throughput does seem realistic.

Qumulo can scale to high GB/sec levels beyond 25GB/sec but, we suspect, its single chassis performance may fall behind OpenDrives.


OpenDrives is relatively unknown outside its niche but has a solid roster of impressive customers for its large file IO-optimised systems. If it can see off PowerScale/Isilon competition then that will speak volumes about the strength of its product.