Three interesting storage startups emerged in 2023, seven were bought and a few storage suppliers and products quit the scene. As more storage startups were bought than born, the total storage startup number declined.
The three new startups, Cerebyte, Panmnesia and Volumez, came into being at opposite ends of the storage technology spectrum and are all based outside the US.
Israel-based Volumez provides cloud-orchestrated and normally resident block storage using ephemeral storage instances and knowledge of Linux OS internals. Its customers declare the kind of block storage they need and Volumez provisions it using Linux and cloud service provider technologies. The result is fast storage supplied quicker than, say, an on-premises array.
The company says it makes high performance data services composable, scalable, and universal across public and private clouds. Other suppliers such as Lightbits, also provide cloud block storage using ephemeral storage instances, so Volumez has to establish its distinct differentiation and value to make progress. It raised $20 million in April to help it develop products and commerce.
Germany-based Cerebyte is operating at the far end of the storage access spectrum, and developing a ceramic-coated glass-slab-based archive technology. This uses femto-second laser pulses to cut nano-scale pits in the ceramic coating which are used to indicate binary digits (pit vs no pit). Data is encoded into QR codes and the glass platters inserted into LTO-like cartridges and stored in a robotic library.
The ceramic-glass slabs are wrote-one/read-many (WORM) devices and last for thousands of years with no need for periodic refresh or transfer to new media as can happen with tape archives. A substantial demo system has been built to prove the component technologies and the company is looking for manufacturing partners/sponsors and funding to productize its technology.
Korea-based academic spin-out Panmnesia is also a hardware/software startup and is busy developing semiconductor accelerator chips and systems for CXL-connected remote memory. It has built a CXL 3.0-enabled accelerator chip which provides sharable memory to speed AI applications. Panmnesia has CXL controller, switching and end-points in its portfolio and is developing its products quickly.
Catalogic was due to spin out its CloudCasa container SaaS backup operation but that was delayed
There were seven storage acquisitions and a product technology purchase in 2023:
- DataCore bought entertainment and media industry-focused object storage supplier Object Matrix, and ewas planning to integrate it with its Caringo-object storage business,
- Akamai bought Kubernetes storage startup Ondat,
- BMC bought IBM mainframe data access business Model9,
- Hammerspace bought RozoFS for its erasure coding technology,
- Nutanix sold its Frame Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) business to Dizzion
- Databricks bought MosaicML for $1.3 billion for its machine learning technology
- Rubrik acquired Laminar for its data security posture management software.
- Veeam bought CT4’s Cirrus cloud-native backup SW so it could provide a SaaS backup service for Microsoft 365 and Azure
Exits and splits
In the strangest UK business episode this year, high-flying WANdisco’s CEO Dave Richards reckoned it had no competition for its active data replication technology and wanted to move the company stock market listing to the US. This was in early March. Just a few days later the company found out that the bulk of the revenue increase it had generated was a sham, which it reported was allegedly perpetrated by a single senior sales exec.
The realization was ruinous, as $24 million in reported bookings became $9 million. WANdiso’s AIM stock market listing was suspended. Richards and his CEO quit. The board chairman resigned and was replaced. An interim CEO and CFO were appointed, a layoff round implemented, and $30 million in last-minute funding obtained from investors to stop the company going out of business.
It scraped through by the skin of its teeth and has now been readmitted to the stock market and, renamed as Cirata. It is being remodelled, especially in the sales management side, by the now permanent CEO and CFO. The delinquent sales exec has not been identified. WANdisco is trying to claw back bonuses paid to Richards and his CFO.
Archival system supplier StrongLink has faded away, with its CEO saying in June that the company was looking to migrate to an OEM sales model, because it could not make a go of selling its products itself. The company has since gone quiet.
NAND fabber and SSD supplier Kioxia exited the storage systems business, canning its Kumoscale smart all-flash JBOD in August. This exit from storage systems echoed what its NAND joint venture partner Western Digital did back in 2019 when it quit the data center storage systems business
Cisco decided to exit the hyperconverged systems business, killing off its HyperFlex product and cutting a deal with Nutanix to resell its HCI software instead.
The last major business split event of the year was Western Digital throwing in the towel on its attempt to merge with NAND partner Kioxia. Instead it will split its NAND+SSD and disk drive businesses into two, with the break-up expected to take up most of 2024 if not longer. The resulting stand-alone disk drive operation, second to Seagate in market share terms, will retain the Western Digital name.
The name of the separated, demerged or spun-off NAND+SSD operation has not been decided yet.
If the generative AI boom is long-lived then storage is set fair for the future. The cloud providers will need more SSDs and disks. Enough cloud repatriation has taken, and is taking place, that on-premises arrays and storage software will still be required to store data needed for AI processing. And management, migration from fast flash storage to lower cost secondary and then on to archival storage as it ages. AI processing has high memory requirements and that will help the CXL remote memory sharing and pooling area.