After nearly 25 years of relative consistency and market dominance by the likes of EMC and NetApp, there's been a recent flurry of activity in the storage industry. In the past few weeks, Fusion-io was valued at nearly $1.95 billion after its first day of public trading and next-generation storage start-ups Pure Storage and Tintri each closed sizable new funding rounds ($28 million for Pure Storage, $18 million for Tintri).
Spurred by the rise of technological innovations like cloud computing and virtualization, storage is undergoing a major transition--the likes of which it hasn't experienced since the rise of network computing more than 25 years ago. Data centers are undergoing rapid transformations and there's increasing demand for new functionalities that are not always present in general purpose legacy storage solutions. This phenomenon has been gaining steam of late, as evidenced in part by the significant influx of venture money.
"Legacy storage devices were designed before virtualization or SSDs were even a consideration," said Ed Lee, Lead Architect for Tintri. "It's becoming increasingly clear that general-purpose storage is not sufficient for supporting broad virtual deployments due to fundamental limitations in its architecture."
During the 1980s, EMC and NetApp capitalized on the rise of network computing by introducing radical new storage architectures that allowed organizations to efficiently expand their computing networks. It now appears there's a new crop of storage players looking to do the same thing, only this time the innovations are centered around cloud computing and virtualization.
Twenty years after network computing revolutionized the data center, we are in the midst of another significant IT evolution, which poses a great opportunity for disruptive players to emerge. Storage has emerged as one of the highest costs in enterprise virtualization budgets. This is generally due to the "bolt-on" phenomenon that involves organizations having to add additional disks to general-purpose storage devices to support broader virtual deployments and overcome storage-centric bottlenecks. As a result, there's been a surge of companies offering less complex solutions geared towards solving these specific problems, and generally at far lower price points than industry leaders EMC and NetApp.
This trend has certainly not gone unnoticed by the VC community. For all the activity we've seen to date, you can expect to see even greater interest in "disruptive storage" players over the coming months. According to Tintri's Lee, "100 percent virtual deployment is a when, not an if, at this point. In the virtualized datacenters 20 years from today, all aspects of computing will be virtualized, including servers, networks and storage. Virtualization will be achieved not only by an accumulation of new features, but by designing an architecture that eliminates everything that cannot be efficiently virtualized."