Seven top new storage companies to watch

From storage for virtual machines to cheap all-flash hardware, here are seven movers and shakers in the network storage market today.

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As the sheer amount of content on the web has continued to increase exponentially, so too have the storage needs of large enterprises. Remember when terabytes seemed big?

Well, with the sheer amount of content being generated today enterprises are now starting to think in terms of petabytes. And the trouble has been that all this data is not only expensive to store but it's getting more difficult to retrieve it from storage to servers on a timely basis. Thus, companies have been investing in technologies such as virtualisation and cloud storage that can help them simplify their overall IT architecture, lower their costs and run their storage operations more efficiently.

Deni Connor, the founding analyst at Storage Strategies Now, says that adapting to these trends is the goal of most cutting-edge storage companies on the market.

"We see a lot of companies coming out with solid state appliances that put data into a cache and migrate that data from the cache when it's accessed less often," she says. "And everyone out there is virtualising their servers and they're having problems getting at their data and knowing where that data is in a virtual environment."

John Mascarenas, the investment director for Intel Capital, says companies that want to store data on a multi-petabyte scale will need to look toward cloud-based solutions to meet their needs since they're facing limits in what traditional physical storage can provide.

"There's not enough physical capacity for the amount of data that's being generated," he says. "It continues to move past the place where we can keep building physical storage."

The result of this, says Mascarenas, has been a large amount of innovation in a space that has not previously been thought of as a cutting-edge industry. According to analysis from Strategic Advisory Services International LLC, venture funding for storage companies totalled $458 million (£294 million) through the first three quarters of 2011, or roughly 42.4% more than the venture funding the storage industry received in the first three quarters of 2010 and more than double the funding storage startups received through the first three quarters of 2009.

What's more, storage mergers and acquisitions have strengthened over the past two years, growing from 21 deals worth $3.3 billion in 2009, to 34 deals valued at $9.1 billion in 2010, to 23 deals adding up to $8.7 billion through the first three quarters of 2011.

With all this in mind, here are seven storage companies worth watching by IT organisations looking to get a better handle on their storage needs.

Amplidata

Founded: 2009 

Focus: Storage for large unstructured data

Who's the boss: CEO and co-founder Wim De Wispelaere specialised in deduplication and disk backup technologies while working as a director of product management at Symantec. COO and co-founder Wouter Van Eetvelde is also a Symantec veteran who helped build the company's PureDisk, Dedigate and DataCenter technologies.

The lowdown: When it comes to storing data, Belgium-based Amplidata is thinking big. That's because the company's major specialisation is helping enterprises store large petabyte-scale masses of unstructured data.

How big are we talking about? Consider one of the company's most recent projects, which was to help the Swiss Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) build a disk-based archive for more than 5,000 hours of video footage of the Montreux Jazz Festival. EPFL says that it chose the AmpliStor system because it could deliver the latency and management capabilities of disk with the cost and easy availability of LTO tapes.

"They needed a disk system that would be an archive for the university," says Tom Leyden, the director of alliances and marketing for Amplidata, which is backed by Endeavor Vision, Hummingbird Ventures and Swisscom Ventures. "The plan is long term to make the concerts available to the public... it will take a while but we've started to copy data onto our systems and it will take one to two years to complete."

Amplidata says that it's able to store massive amounts of data that can be quickly recalled by using its patent-pending BitSpread Codec algorithms to eliminate redundant data. Essentially, the technology breaks up the data into unrecognisable chunks and tags them so they can be reconstituted at will.

Leyden says that Amplidata's technology is essential because standard RAID storage systems can no longer keep up with large scale data needs.

"We're seeing 3TB disks these days and since disks have become so big, the restore time has become more days and weeks than hours," he says. "This means your system becomes less protected and you have a bigger chance of losing extra data during your repair."

Amplidata is now pitching its AmpliStor system, which is built around low-power storage nodes, to cloud providers, SaaS application vendors and media and entertainment companies.

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