GPU-fueled Nyriad is up for sale

Nyriad, the company offering GPU-powered storage controller technology, is up for sale. 

CEO Derek Dicker

A memo from CEO Derek Dicker reads: “After thoroughly considering and exploring various options, the Nyriad board has decided to actively seek to sell all or part of the company and its  technology. The board believes that Nyriad technology continues to hold great promise and that this step is in the best interest of its shareholders and the long-term sustainability of its technology.”  

So ends, for the time being at least, a brave attempt to rewrite X86-based storage array controller design assumptions by augmenting CPU processors with GPU accelerators.

Nyriad’s founding in 2014 was rooted in New Zealand’s involvement with the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), which at the time was still being planned and is now under construction.

Matthew Simmons and Alex St John co-founded Nyriad as CEO and CTO respectively in NZ to build a storage controller that could cope with exabyte levels of data from the SKA, which will pick up radio signals from outer space to help scientists better understand our universe.

The duo decided to use an Nvidia GPU in the controller, replacing RAID controllers and augmenting the controller’s x86 processor.  The x86 CPU cores controlled the array with GPU cores responsible for computational storage functions and NVMe SSDs providing a fast storage base. This architecture would enable it to handle tremendous levels of incoming data bandwidth through parallel processing by the GPU accelerator.

They developed an Nsulate software and a high-performance storage controller platform by 2018 using $10 million to $20 million of VC funding. Nsulate presented the array as a block device to Linux hosts, doing real-time erasure coding and encryption/decryption, and with internal mirroring to protect against drive failures. However the software, and the business, was immature and things fell apart.

About 60 of its 100-plus staff were laid off by March 2019, and co-founder Alex St John left and sold his shares. New Zealand pulled out of the SKA project ending Nyriad’s reason for existing. But lead investor Guy Haddleton thought the technology still had promise. He became chairman that month, and restructured the company.

Matthew Simmons had left by late 2020 when $28 million in funding was announced, and 32-year IBM vet Herb Hunt was made CEO. He relocated the head office to San Francisco while keeping engineering in New Zealand, and appointed new execs. Sixteen months later there was another restructuring. Haddleton resigned form the chairmanship, Hunt became exec chairman, and Derek Dicker was appointed CEO.

Nyriad array in 2019.

Dicker’s resume included a stint as corporate VP and GM of Micron’s Storage Business Unit. Under his reign Nyriad released H-Series SAN arrays with CPU-GPU controllers and disk drive storage in 2022. They featured fast rebuilds and were marketed into the HPC, media and entertainment, and backup, restore, and archive areas.

It announced it was seeking funding for further development in June last year, having gained customers and channel partners.

That cash has not come to pass as, we understand, the macro-economic situation, the rise of all-flash arrays, and VC investor focus on analytics (think data warehouse, lake, and lakehouse) and AI companies meant that Nyriad was overlooked. Its market traction came to a halt, and Dicker and the board came to the conclusion that a full or partial asset sale was the best option. 

His memo added: “Nyriad recently formally engaged with a firm to administer the sales process on an accelerated timeline, and that firm has begun distributing a sale memo to parties and organizations that may have a strategic interest. With this in mind, the company has taken steps to reduce expenses while it conducts this process.”

This is heart-breaking news for Nyriad’s employees and a grim outcome for its customers, channel partners, and investors. We wish them all the best.