Twitter consumes DriveScale, gain weight in persistent block storage

Composable infrastructure startup DriveScale and its team have been absorbed into Twitter.

Nick Tornow, a platform lead at Twitter, tweeted: “DriveScale’s extremely experienced team will bring deep knowledge of storage protocols, technologies, and products to help us develop a persistent block-level storage product in our data centres to accelerate application development across the company.” 

Terms of the acquisition were not revealed but it looks like a distressed purchase. In our view, DriveScale faced being out-spent in engineering, marketing and sales by better funded competitors, and was left behind in a technology sense. Possibly the Covid-19 pandemic adversely affected DriveScale’s business as well.

The future for DriveScale’s customers and their use of the technology is not clear at time of writing but all the signs are that the company’s general composable system development days are over. In December, DriveScale CTO Brian Pawlowski joined Quantum as its Chief Development Officer. It now seems like he knew the writing was on the wall.

DriveScale CEO Gene Banman said on Twitter: ”Today I am pleased to announce that DriveScale is joining Twitter. Our extremely talented team with deep knowledge of compute and storage solutions will help accelerate application development at Twitter. 

“The last 8 years have been an incredible journey for DriveScale. None of this would have been possible without our amazing team, customers, partners, analysts and friends. We couldn’t have done it without you.  Thank you to each and everyone of you that joined us on this wild ride.”

DriveScale’s journey

DriveScale was founded in 2013 by Duane Northcutt, chief scientist Tom Lyon, and chief architect Satya Nishtala. The company has taken in $26m in funding, with $8m most recently raised in 2018. The intent was to provide dynamically composed server systems and storage, and it initially developed a DriveScale Adapter that sat in a rack and used Ethernet to connect any diskless server to any SAS storage drive in JBODs. 

The company then developed its DriveScale Software Composable Infrastructure and added SSD support. This provides a software control plane to compose hardware resources, which included GPUs, and return them to a pool when no longer needed. Flash storage resources can be configured by this software at chassis, drive, and sub-drive level.

DriveScale composable infrastructure scheme

DriveScale added support for Optane, Western Digital’s OpenFlex architecture, OpenStack and Mellanox BlueField SmartNICs in 2020.

However, competitors such as Liqid, with $50m in funding, developed a product that supported composing Optane drives, FPGAs, and GPUs with PCIe Gen 4 support. It has won a string of supercomputer composability contracts and is set to dominate that niche.

Another competitor, Fungible, with $311m in funding, has developed a very high-performance chip to compose and manage data centres including hyperscale ones, at scale and with storage hardware accelerator chips supported.