VAST Data adds feature functionality as they look to expand broadly into the enterprise

Over 20 new features, including support for Windows and MacOS applications, cloud data replication and native encryption, are intended to give VAST appeal beyond its initial customer base who looked to pure performance to solve their pain points.

Jeff Denworth, VAST Data’s VP of Products and co-founder

Today, fresh off the announcement of their Series C funding round two weeks ago, and their rise in 17 months to unicorn status [$1 billion valuation], VAST Data is announcing the launch of Version 3 of their Universal Storage architecture. The big news here is the addition of over 20 enterprise features. Feature functionality was not a priority with the company’s initial customers, who emphasized the need for performance. Now, however, the company looks to expand much more broadly into the enterprise than their customer profile to date, and for that, feature functionality is required. The enhancements include support for Windows and MacOS applications, cloud data replication and native encryption.

VAST Data’s differentiation is its Universal Storage system, which puts all types of data on a single, easily managed flash tier, combining QLC flash, 3D Xpoint and NVMe over Fabric  with their own algorithms into a tier that manages all data at great speed. That lets heavy data users put all their data on flash economically.  The intent is to disintermediate with what VAST calls its Disaggregated, SharedEverything  [DASE] approach what it terms the ‘shared nothing’ clusters of today and end the HDD era, in the same way that the technology they are looking to disrupt disrupted the limited dual-controller, small-volume storage systems that came before them.

VAST sees its latest funding round – raised through videoconferencing because of the pandemic – as validating their approach to the market.

“We see ourselves as the new technology unicorn,” said Jeff Denworth, VP of Products at VAST Data, and the company’s co-founder. “It’s a significant haul for a company of our age and maturity. We were on the fastest path to being a storage unicorn ever. Each customer is spending a million dollars on us on average, and we have many dozens of customers.”

Version 3.0 is all about expanding from customers with bleeding edge storage needs more broadly through the enterprise.

“We are taking this infrastructure concept and turning our attention to the broader enterprise market, Denworth stated. “Until now we have focused on companies with performance needs, like hedge funds, life sciences, and animation. We have not had a feature-rich enterprise product.”

Denworth highlighted three major new features. The first is VAST’s development of its own SMB protocol server stack to power high throughput Windows and MacOS applications.

“This addition of support for Mac and Windows applications with our SMB server stack lets us turn our attention to the media market, which can benefit from universal storage,” Denworth said. “SMB took us 10 times the development time as our NAS server. People tend to use third party solutions from the Linux community like Samba for SMB, which creates new problems, such as around failover, which Samba is not designed to handle. We have a very robust failover management system for SMB. It’s all been built in-house. There is no open source code.”

Denworth noted that this capability now puts VAST directly in competition with some products like Dell EMC Isilon which have been popular in the media space.

The second major new feature is native encryption of data at rest, using FIPS-class AES-256 when it is stored to 3D XPoint and QLC flash. While VAST had strong security protocols before, it did not have encryption.

“Encryption is now table stakes in a lot of different markets like government and anything related to health,” Denworth indicated. “Historically, encryption negatively impacts performance, but our ability to add cores lets us deliver performance even when it is encrypted.”

Another major feature upgrade in 3.0, Denworth said, is the ability to replicate data to any public or private cloud with the new Snap-to-Object feature.

“It’s the easy button for customers to adopt low cost infrastructure,” he stated. “They don’t need third party software to intermediate, because we write natively to these storage systems.”

One further innovation, Similarity-Based Data Reduction, is not technically new, but VAST has not previously highlighted it.

“It’s dedupe and compression enhanced and combined, with big efficiency gains,” Denworth said. “For example, storage capacity is reduced by classic compression. We provide an increase in usable capacity by a factor of 3. This is something that was there before, but we are showcasing it at this point in time.”

Many IT vendors are benefitting mightily from the pandemic – to the point where some have to contain their glee so as not to appear to be profiting from a tragedy. VAST, with its big ticket solution and longer sales cycle which involves going to  customer premises, is clearly not one of those, but Denworth emphasized that the pandemic really isn’t hurting them either.

“We closed a funding round in the middle of it,” he stressed. “We saw investor enthusiasm precisely because we are selling through the current state of affairs. Our products are being used by the Department of Health and Human Services, and is at the centre of what’s going on. This situation also puts increased pressure on our customers and increases their need for performance, like hedge funds who now have to deal with a massive increase in volatility.”

VAST sells through a 100 per cent channel strategy, where the partner both makes the introduction, and provides the long-term support.

“We are just in the process of onboarding a few Canadian partners, so we expect to see our presence in Canada grow,” he said.

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