All change: founders out and new CEO in at GPU-based storage array control biz Nyriad

New Zealand-based Nyriad has had a makeover, with the founders out, new chairman, new funding, new CEO, exec hires, and a relocation to the USA.

Back in 2014 CEO Matthew Simmons and CTO Alex St John co-founded Nyriad and devised a different way to build a storage controller designed to cope with exabyte levels of data from a proposed Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and its recorded radio signals from outer space. Their idea was to use an Nvidia GPU in the controller, replacing RAID controllers, alongside an x86 CPU and so make it capable of dealing with tremendous levels of bandwidth through parallel processing by the GPU.

Nyriad array with Tesla GPU.

They pulled in funding and by 2018 were promoting their Nsulate software and High Performance Storage Controller platform on the back of $10 million to $20 million of VC-funded development. Boston (see below) sold an Igloo Nebari storage server based on a Supermicro chassis, Nvidia Tesla T4 GPU, Micron 5100 PRO SSDs and Netlist NVDIMMs. The Nsulate software presented the array as a block device to Linux hosts and carried out real-time erasure coding and encryption/decryption. It could also supposedly mirror itself and so cope with drive failures.

EchoStreams put Nsulate in a 1U server with up to 500TB of storage and data encryption/decryption speeds of up to 50GB/sec. There was a partnership with ThinkParQ, also a co-marketing deal with Netlist, and a diversion into blockchain storage. There was talk of the GPU-powered controller enabling AI and machine learning models to run directly in the array and having a blockchain audit ledger in real-time.

Falling down and getting back up

Then it started falling apart. Up to 60 of its 100+ staff were laid off by March 2019. St John had gone and sold his shares by then as well. New Zealand pulled out of the SKA project with Nyriad’s role effectively ended. A review report said cuttingly that the Nsulate software “was more an original aspiration than a current fact” and had poor performance and stability.

Investors became unhappy and changes were made. Lead investor Guy Haddleton became chairman in March 2019, and set about reshaping Nyriad.

Herb Hunt.

Simmons had resigned, or been forced out, by October 2020 when new funding was announced — a NZ$11M B-round — and Herb Hunt was appointed CEO. Hunt was a 32-year IBM vet with four years at Siebel.

Nyriad converted a NZ$20 million convertible note into equity and then had $15 million of cash financing. It announced it would focus solely on the Nsulate storage controller, New Zealand would remain its technology development centre but its head office would be relocated to the USA.

Haddleton said: “Nyriad has the opportunity to transform the global storage industry with its ground-breaking controller. This funding allows Nyriad to confidently expand into the US and build a significant software business.”

Head office relocation

It has now relocated its head office to the USA’s San Francisco Bay Area, and is preparing to launch, or relaunch, its storage array controller. An announcement mentioned combining “the power of GPUs and CPUs to deliver an unprecedented combination of performance, resilience, and efficiency, enabling massive amounts of data and multiple data types to be managed in a single storage system that is simple to deploy, operate, scale, and maintain.”

Hunt said: “The performance and resilience of data systems has never been more important to business success, but the approaches being used today are not fast enough, not resilient enough, inefficient and not up to the task.”

He has recruited several new execs:

  • John Scaramuzzo — COO
  • Steve Lance — CFO
  • Andrew Russell — VP and Head of Sales (ex-Pure Storage)
  • Traci Smith — Head of Marketing (ex-Pure Storage)
  • Pradeep Balakrishnan — Head of Product Management (ex-WD, Seagate and X-IO Technologies)
  • LaLe Ozbey — Director of Channel Development (ex-Cisco, Dell EMC and HPE)
John Scaramuzzo.

Scaramuzzo is a storage industry vet, with stints at Maxtor and Seagate, starting up and selling SMART Storage Systems to SanDisk where he became an SVP, continuing into Western Digital, and leaving in May 2019 to go consulting.


What we have here is radically different storage controller hardware and software technology. It was devised by inventive kids, so to speak, but now some grown-ups are in charge. Others have tried, and are still trying, to make their fortunes with radically different (and better) storage technology — Formulus Black, Pavilion Data, Violin, XioTech, and Vexata come to mind. Revitalising a failed or near-failed startup is a long and difficult road up which to make progress.

We’ll have to take a view when Nyriad relaunches its product, hopefully later this year. Then we’ll get a look at its marketing plan, sales strategy, product strategy, and see what its revised software and hardware can do. Check out its web site to get a flavour of the company until then.