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Deal Radar 2010: MaxiScale

Posted on Wednesday, Jan 27th 2010

MaxiScale, a cloud-scale file serving and storage platform provider, was founded in 2007 by Gianluca Rattazzi and Francesco Lacapra. At that time, major cloud computing and Web companies were transitioning away from standard enterprise storage platforms to commodity hardware and smart software.

Web companies such as Google’s File System GFS and BigTable, Amazon’s back-end to Amazon Web Services Dynamo, and Facebook’s Haystack and Cassandra had to develop their own software to enable them to scale their infrastructure at the lowest possible to get the required performance. Maxiscale felt that enterprises could choose the lesser of two evils: spending a lot of money on enterprise storage platforms, or sinking in both time and money to build an in-house solution. And though this could have been feasible some time ago, neither option is viable in today’s cost-conscious market conditions. Nate D’Amico of SiliconANGLE agrees and says that although Web giants like Facebook and Microsoft can develop proprietary Web-scale storage solution, it is a losing proposition for most other, smaller, organizations to architect, develop, and manage their own storage platforms.

John Webster, too, feels that the traditional RAID controller is losing ground to applications that require scalability into the petabyte (PB) range. The two founders of MaxiScale got together to find an answer. They developed a system that is scalable out of the box and achieves a low cost per read (for performance) and per terabyte, or TB (storage). In September 2009, MaxiScale came out of stealth mode to unveil its FLEX software platform aimed at companies that may have billions of files of less than 1 MB, such as pure Web-based companies, enterprises with Web-facing (e-commerce) operations, or Web-based hosted services such as Salesforce.com. The storage system is based on a “Peer SetTM architecture” which uses vanilla x86 servers and SATA disk drives. The company says that “a Peer SetTM instance contains multiple members, the number of which is user-selectable based on desired bandwidth and replication characteristics. Each member consists of a low-cost SATA hard drive on a separate physical server node. All file data and metadata within a Peer Set is replicated to, and load balanced across, all members.” MaxiScale’s cloud Computing Starter Kit includes the MaxiScale FLEX Software Platform, one year of support and four 1U industry-standard Supermicro servers, each with 4 GB of RAM and dual power supply. Pricing for the complete system is $9,789 for 16 TB of raw capacity or $11,389 for 32 TB of raw capacity.

In October 2009, MaxiScale announced the release of an open source test tool, Generator. Generator is a freely available file staging utility that complements the popular open source test tool, Siege, an HTTP load testing and benchmarking utility. When used with Siege, the tool allows Web applications administrators and architects to streamline Web workload test design and execution. The tool also stages Web-scale file repositories used to benchmark file serving capabilities.

MaxiScale software‘s target segments include Web companies building new applications for scale (social networks, photo sites, content delivery); service providers delivering platforms and/or software-as-a-service (public clouds); and enterprises looking to adopt cloud-computing deployment models (private clouds) for internal and Web-facing applications. MaxiScale cited Admob, which was acquired by Google for $750 million on November 9, 2009, as its reference customer.

According Hoovers, the company earns $2 million in annual sales. The company is not yet profitable and is aiming at revenue growth and profitability.

MaxiScale has raised a total of $17 million in venture capital from investors NEA, El Dorado Ventures, and Silicon Valley Bank. The company did not give details on the amount raised in each round. It expects to raise money in another round in 2010.

According to MaxiScale, unstructured data has grown from 400 PB to an expected 10,000-plus PB in 2010 and, correspondingly, the market is expected to grow from $1.5 billion in 2005 to an expected $10 billion in 2010. MaxiScale is not the only player in the software-defined storage field which, as Webster notes, includes ParaScale’s cloud storage software and Symantec’s FileStore. He feels that other traditional hardware and software players will follow suit. But he does not think that software-defined storage will replace traditional RAID storage immediately.

Suggested Reading:
*Storage Market Shrinks After 21 Years
*Innovating Web 2.0 Storage: Fabrik CEO Mike Cordano
*Making Sense of Unstructured Information

This segment is a part in the series : Deal Radar 2010

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