Scalability isn’t limited to object storage. That’s the message of San Jose-headquartered WekaIO, which has emerged from stealth with the industry’s first cloud-native scalable file system. It is a parallel scale- out file storage solution for both on-prem servers and public clouds, is designed for flash, and is designed to make separate storage boxes redundant by using the compute layer for storage.
“This product has been in development for the last four years,” said WekaIO’s VP of Marketing Barbara Murphy. “The founders are some of the founding architects of XIV, which was acquired by IBM.”
Murphy said that the different technologies in storage each have a common association.
“If you want speed, that’s all-flash, NAS is best for data shareability and object storage is for scalability,” she said. “Each has its own pluses and minuses. We’ve pulled all of these together into the concept of compute to eliminate the concept of an external storage device.”
Murphy said that WekaIO’s secret sauce here aggregates all the local SSDs inside the servers into a single cluster, which is all managed as a single namespace, natively, inside the compute layer.
“We have also developed an internal tiering method on software that pushes cold data out to any S3 or Swift cloud object store, under the same namespace,” she added. “80 per cent of the data is always sitting on the lowest cost tier, and we do all of the movement of data back and forth between the tiers.”
WekaIO cites as evidence of its having the world’s fastest distributed file system its processing four times the workload compared to IBM Spectrum Scale, on a Standard Performance Evaluation Corp. (SPEC) SFS 2014, an independent industry benchmark. Utilizing only 120 cloud compute instances with locally attached storage, WekaIO completed 1,000 simultaneous software builds compared to 240 on IBM’s high-end FlashSystem 900. They note as well that the WekaIO software utilized only five per cent of the AWS compute instance resources, leaving 95 per cent available to run customer applications.
Murphy said that the impression that filers can’t handle modern mission-critical workloads is a canard based on a misinterpretation of what customers want.
“Customers are looking to provision storage services to their users, and whether they are SAN or object store is irrelevant to the users,” she said. “It’s more about what the want to do. What IS obsolete today is the concept of dedicated cookie cutter NAS appliances, where you are always having to buy additional boxes, even if there are scale-out, because they don’t scale for both capacity and performance. It’s not that NAS is dead. It’s that a dedicated box that does a certain thing for a certain number of users is dead.”
“Our initial focus has been on Fortune 500, targeting very large applications with pain points in areas like financial modelling and the Internet of Things,” Murphy said. “However, our minimum starting point is only six servers. The reason that we aren’t targeting the general enterprise today is that we haven’t yet made sure that we are completely integrated into the VMware stack. We will have that accomplished by the end of the year. Ultimately the product goal is to span from the small footprint to the very large.”
Murphy did acknowledge that in practical terms, the low end of their TAM is really the midmarket.
“For a true SMB, a single NAS appliance is more than they need to run their business,” she said. “This size of business is also the type most likely to just go to the cloud.”
The plan is to develop the business through the channel.
“Out of the gate, to get the engine started, we have a small internal sales team, but all of these initial deals have also worked through resellers,” Murphy said. “Our strategy is to be a reseller-focused channel.”
Murphy said that multiple aspects of the WekaIO solution should appeal to partners.
“For resellers, we are not a product, we are a software layer within the infrastructure,” she said. “They can sell us as a service. The reseller channel is the glue that brings together the storage and compute layers, which works well with us. They also tend to have vertical practices, which plays very well to our product. We are very incented to have resellers as part of our sales and go-to-market strategy.”
Resellers typically have strong relationships with some legacy storage vendors, so the ability of new third-party solutions to play nice with others tends to matter to them. Murphy said that in the short term, that is the case with WekaIO.
“Initially we would sit side by side with these other offerings,” she stated. “However, over time, as you retire older equipment, there will come a time when there will ne no need for anything but a very agile compute layer for local storage, as part of a hybrid model with the public and private cloud.”
WekaIO has seven partners now, and the goal this year is to sign up a dozen in total. By next year, they want between 20 and 50 partners – a fairly select channel, and certainly not a volume one.
“The ideal partner for us is a more specialty type, someone who can communicate with both storage and server IT people, who are very different and who in most companies don’t even talk,” Murphy noted. “We want partners who understand where the market is going, and who can be a teacher to their customers.”