E8 Storage building out channel around NVMe flash array play

E8 Storage is looking to recruit partners with a focus on markets where NVMe is a strong opportunity, and with Canada being a green-fields opportunity for partners.

Julie Herd, director of technical marketing

E8 Storage, a Santa Clara-based startup with an Israeli pedigree, emerged from stealth in 2016 with what they saw as a differentiated offering in the emerging NVMe SSD protocol space. Their centralized rack-scale flash lets a single storage platform provide NVMe storage to an entire rack of servers. The company is now building out its channel, introducing IBM Gold Partner Datera as their latest, at the IBM Think partner event in Las Vegas this week.

“When the co-founders got together to start the company, they understood that NVMe would require a different approach to take advantage of the new protocol,” said Julie Herd, E8’s director of technical marketing. What makes NVMe different is that it was designed specifically for flash, leaving spinning disk concepts behind. By design, it has multiple connections, so it can support  128 hosts. all accessing the drive in parallel. It lets you process over 64,000 queues compared to 128 in flash. Existing dual controller architectures can’t unlock that potential, so you need a different approach to do that.”

With many other startups attempting to concoct that same secret sauce, as well as the established storage vendors bringing their own NVMe solutions to market, E8 needed a highly differentiated solution, which Herd said they have developed.

“What we do differently is separate the data path from the control path, and put a very thin agent accessing the storage controller,” she said. “Taking controllers out of the data path means that they are no longer the bottleneck. It also gives us the ability to do more interesting things, such as scaling performance by also scaling out the servers to adding their performance as well.”

E8’s initial customers were Wall Street hedge funds, but Herd said that the use cases have been expanding.

“Partners in areas like media and entertainment and video editing who work with IBM Spectrum Scale are now bringing us in,” Herd said. “At a cost of $2-3 dollars per GB, it fits in their customers’ budget, and they can get an amazing amount of performance because the architecture has very high performance and low latency.”

E8 started selling direct, and began to acquire partners through their initial customers.

“Our initial channel partners were brought to us by customers, VARs who they did their hardware procurement through, Herd said. “Now we are focused on expanding our channel, and are appearing at multiple events. This week we are at IBM Think with Datera, and last week we cohosted a booth with ZStor at the CloudFest 2018 event in Germany.” They are also at the Oracle Data and Analytics Summit and the U.K. Cloud Summit this week, and the IBM Spectrum Scale User Group next month.

Strategic partnerships are also a growing part of E8’s go-to-market strategy. Splunk and IBM are Solutions Partners, with the latter relationship focused on Spectrum Scale. Mellanox, HGST, Samsung and Intel are Technology Partners. E8 also has an ODM relationship with AIC.

“These are very opportunistic for us,” Herd said. “We are discussing some additional ones, since some larger vendors want to partner with us.”

E8 still has under a dozen partners, and is looking to increase that further this year, as they expand both their channel and direct businesses.

“A very broad channel of high-performing partners would be amazing, but our focus is on partners who can drive revenue,” Herd indicated. “Our partners are deeply focused on specific use cases that benefit from NVMe. Datera, for example, is focused on the HPC space. We also have several media and entertainment partners.”

Herd said that it is necessary for partners to make a focus on NVMe and not just treat it as another item that they can add to their line card.

“NVMe is not especially complicated compared to the kinds of storage they have worked with before – but it is different,” she said.

In January, E8 Storage launched a software-only offering, E8 Storage Software, which Herd said is an important channel play.

“We brought in the software-only option because we were seeing interest from partners who wanted to bring their own hardware,” Herd said. “That’s an option for any new partner with their own hardware portfolio they want to use.”

Herd said that E8 aspires to implement a channel program, but that they are still managing things on an ad hoc basis.

The focus in 2018 is on expanding sales, especially in the U.S. and EMEA

“Asia is also a point of discussion, and so is Canada,” Herd said.

Canada is still basically a green fields opportunity. E8 has no partners in Canada, and their direct sales in Canada is conducted out of Michigan.