Qumulo breaks stealth with data-aware scale-out NAS

Qumulo’s software, sold as 1U appliance nodes, integrates real-time data analytics directly into storage, to make data and storage resources much more visible. They sell only through the channel.


Peter Godman, Qumulo’s CEO and co-founder

Seattle-based startup Qumulo has finally brought its product to market. The company turned some heads during its stealth mode over the last year announcing significant successes in funding rounds without being terribly explicit about what they were making. Now, the light of day can shine upon Qumulo Core, which the company is marketing as the world’s first data-aware scale-out network-attached storage.

“We are finally coming out of stealth,” said Peter Godman, Qumulo’s CEO and co-founder. “We wanted to wait till we had traction first. Before, we were talking about the company. Now, we are talking about the product that we are building.”

The company’s pedigree is impressive, and garnered Qumulo considerable attention early on. The founders came from scale-out NAS vendor Isilon Systems, which EMC paid $2.5 billion for in 2010, and Sujal Patel, Isilon’s founder, is on the board. In February, Qumulo announced $40 million in Series B funding led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, following a Series A funding round of $27 million.

Now the company’s technology is also on display. What makes it distinct from what we have seen from the market so far is that it builds real-time data analytics directly into storage, to make data and storage resources much more visible, allow queries, and improve storage efficiency and workflow performance.

“We make invisible storage that makes data visible,” Godman said. “Typically, the only time most companies know about storage is when something breaks. We make it easier to understand growth and data footprints.” Qumulo Core provides greater visibility into which data is most valuable, where it is stored, what users or applications are accessing what files, and what should be archived, backed up or deleted.


The Qumulo Core dashboard

“You can see instantaneously what’s being consumed, which gives you deep insight about what’s going on in storage,” Godman said.

“We talked with more than 600 storage admins and end users about pain points, particularly for those who store large amounts of unstructured data,” Godman added. “Because storage now can scale, storage management is less of an issue than before. But managing data at scale is hard.”

Building real time analytics directly into the file system is the secret sauce here, with flash being used to deliver the analytics. The marriage of x86 based hardware and Qumulo’s software builds a data-aware NAS in software running on commodity hardware. The resulting Qumulo Q0626 hybrid storage appliance is a 1U node that provides 24TB of raw HDD capacity and 1.6TB of raw SSD capacity.

“You put four of the 1U nodes into a rack and you have a scale-out filer,” Godman said. It can scale to over 1000 nodes in a single cluster and single namespace.

“It does a few things different from NAS, including a built-in database for metadata that you can query and get an immediate response,” Godman said.

Qumulo Core is a software application that runs as a user application on top of the Linux operating system. Its key element is the Qumulo Scalable File System (QSFS), which takes advantage of the price/performance economics of commodity hardware, flash and dense spinning disk. It is both read and write optimized, has high sequential and transactional performance, and can efficiently handle small and large files.

“Our customer focus is organizations with large capacity needs, like Big Data and oil and gas, companies that spend a fortune on storage,” Godman said. “Three of the top five animation studies are also our customers.”

Because Qumulo is primary storage, it doesn’t integrate with existing storage systems to provide analytics functionality to them, which defines its use case as new projects.

“It’s new opportunities and new applications we are taking on,” Godman said.

Qumulo did some initial direct sales to establish proof of concept, but already has begun the transition to a channel model, and that will be its go-to-market for the future.

“Every customer since late last year has been sold through the channel, and we have 100 per cent channel commitment,” Godman said.

Presently they have between 15 and 20 partners, who are focused on commercial high performance computing applications, and with whom Qumulo works closely.

Two of those partners are Canadian – specifically, from British Columbia.

“Our entire channel presence in Canada right now is in B.C.,” Godman said.