InfiniteIO, SwiftStack partner to cut NAS costs by transparently tiering data to the cloud

The partnership with SwiftStack extends InfiniteIO’s core value proposition of applying network deep packet inspection to NFS traffic, to identify and offload metadata requests and accelerate NAS performance.

Mark Cree, InfiniteIO’s founder and CEO

Austin-based startup InfiniteIO has announced a major new strategic partnership with multi-cloud data storage and management vendor SwiftStack. It extends InfiniteIO’s value proposition around metadata acceleration by migrating data to the SwiftStack object storage, while keeping access to those files the same as when they were in more expensive NAS.

InfiniteIO, founded in 2012, performs metadata acceleration and tiering for NAS arrays, and has attracted interest and funding because of a novel element they bring to the market. InfiniteIO installs and behaves like a network switch, and leverages this to respond to metadata requests. It offloads these to its system memory, allowing the NAS to focus on files. It thus accelerates hybrid cloud NAS performance faster than all-flash arrays alone.

Mark Cree, the company’s founder and CEO, said that InfiniteIO has now raised about $18 million in total. Chris Galvin, who was Cleversafe’s Chairman before their acquisition by IBM in late 2015, led InfiniteIO’s B round funding, and joined their board.

“We have some big backers behind us,” Cree told ChannelBuzz.

The company has also built out their leadership team with some key appointments this summer. Michael Croll, who came from IBM Cloud Object Storage – the rebranded Cleversafe – is now the VP of Worldwide Sales, and is also InfiniteIO’s channel chief. Other recent hires are Kris Meier as VP of Product Management, Liem Nguyen as VP of Marketing, and Gurdip Kalley as VP of EMEA.

The genesis of InfiniteIO’s technology comes from Tipping Point, which made network intrusion prevention systems. While that company is long gone, being acquired by 3Com and then folded into HP, many members of InfiniteIO’s engineering team were originally from there. The key takeaway is the way they used DPI to inspect IP packets on the network, to detect intruders and quarantine their network flow.

“What we have done at InfiniteIO is take this intrusion prevention approach, and apply its deep packet inspection to NFS storage traffic,” Cree said. “We install like a network switch in front of the storage, to simplify and accelerate hybrid cloud performance, and make the array behind it 10-100 times faster.” The InfiniteIO solution acts like a Layer 2 network switch, reading the NFS messages and responding to metadata requests.

Cree said that this solves a couple of major problems for customers.

“Over 70 per cent plus of data on a NAS is cold, so people are paying 50 cents a GB to store data that could be stored for a penny in the cloud,” he said. “In addition, 80-90% of NAS operations come from metadata requests. If we can offload those, the storage only has to service 10% of requests, so it’s a lot faster. Scale-out storage doesn’t do this because it is built to work with files, not metadata. So we  do two things. We provide a way for customers to keep performance up by offloading metadata, allowing the NAS to just cache and serve files, to make the array much faster. We also now deal with the expensive storage by tiering colder files from the array to the SwiftStack cloud.”

Cree said that while a storage array vendor would have to route requests back to the filers, InfiniteIO is much faster because it can serve the metadata directly from the network.

“We do a one-time scan of files on the array and apply policies to metadata,” Cree said. “If it’s six months old or more, we move it to SwiftStack. However, to the customer, it looks like everything is still on the array, even though much of it is stored in SwiftStack where it is much less expensive.”

InfiniteIO has other strategic vendor partnerships with private and public cloud providers, but Cree said this one with SwiftStack is unique.

“We like SwiftStack because they are in larger accounts,” he said. “We worked with them before without a formal partnership, and have a couple of joint customers.  Now we are making joint sales calls with them. We have aligned with them to go after the install base of scale-out NAS.” Cree also noted that  Chris Nelson, SwiftStack’s Vice President of Solutions, is based in Austin, which helps the relationship.

Michael Croll, InfiniteIO’s VP of Worldwide Sales

“SwiftStack has been very successful with on-prem cloud native application support, while other providers have been more backup targets,” said InfiniteIO’s Worldwide Sales head Michael Croll. “So they have an install base where they can capture the NAS workload. The partnership makes sense for them from that respect.”

“We are excited about the way InfiniteIO adds the networking to enable the handling of the tiering,” Erik Pounds, SwiftStack’s VP of Marketing, told ChannelBuzz. “That’s the way to go.”

InfiniteIO has a 100 per cent channel strategy.

“We are picking up partners in North America, including some with full North American reach,” Cree said. “We are working with a couple of the largest resellers in Europe as well. Most of our customers are Fortune 500. Partners who have been very successful selling Tier One storage gravitate to us, because we provide them with a new revenue stream.”

“We give traditional data centre solution providers an easy way to capture spend on cloud transformation,” Croll added. “With us, both partners and customers can see innovation they have never seen before.”

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