QiStor secures funding for key-value data store acceleration

Startup QiStor has scored pre-seed funding to develop hardware acceleration for key-value data store access.

Generalized server CPUs have been augmented by specialized hardware accelerators for some time now, ranging from RAID controllers, through SmartNICs (Bluefield), DPUs, SQL Accelerators (Pliops), to separate GPUs. The idea is to invent focused hardware to run a particular kind of processing faster than an x86 CPU and so enable it to run more app code. Key-value stores hold variable length data addressed by a data string or key and represent low-level storage engines such as RocksDB, used by Redis for Flash and MongoDB.

Silicon Valley-based QiStor’s founders have set out to run key-value store (KVS) data access operations faster and in a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) business model.

Founding CEO Andy Tomlin stated: “Our revolutionary service reduces [compute] power by 10x, enabling us to offer our customers high-performance solutions more economically and with reduced environmental impact … Just as the GPU is essential for AI, our technology will play a similar role for key-value.”

Tomlin was a fellow at Kioxia from 2020 to 2022, a CTO at devicepros LLC, and VP Engineering at Samsung’s closed-down startup subsidiary Stellus, which launched a key-value store-based all-flash array with NVMe-oF access in May 2020.

QiStor’s other founders are architect Justin Jones and design lead Chris Brewer. Its board includes John Scaramuzzo. Jones, who has authored about 30 storage patents, has been a principal engineer at Stellus and Samsung Electronics America before that. Brewer was an ASIC architect engineer at Toshiba America and principal engineer for ASIC design at SandForce, LSI, and Seagate prior to that.

Scaramuzzo has 30-plus years’ storage industry experience, holding CRO and CEO advisor roles at troubled Nyriad, and executive positions with Western Digital, SanDisk, Seagate, and Maxtor. He founded, led, and sold SMART Storage Systems to SanDisk for $307 million.

The funding round was led by datacenter expert Samir Raizada, who joins QiStor’s board. He said: “Our experience in the datacenter shows that QiStor is addressing an important customer need in a fast-growing market, especially with increasing AI demand. The QiStor team experience and technology really impressed the investors.”

Now that it has scored initial funding, QiStor plans to develop its technology further and expand its reach. We asked how its hardware acceleration unit would connect to a host server. Andy Tomlin told us: “QiStor’s algorithms run on FPGAs which connect via PCI and are directly provisioned in existing cloud platforms. No ASICs or custom add-in cards are needed.”

The company says key-value data stores enables every modern app in social media, mobile, web, AI, and gaming spaces to store data at scale. Tomlin thinks that a value proposition of QiStor is hardware acceleration in a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) operation versus needing to develop and sell an expensive ASIC and card. This will be “much easier and cost efficient for a customer to deploy.”

This positions QiStor against Pliops, which has developed its XDP add-in card to provide a key-value store interface and functionality to an NVMe SSD to speed up applications such as relational and NoSQL databases, and stores such as MySQL, MongoDB, and Ceph.