Server Room

The last half decade has seen data creation grow at astronomical rates. As a result, there have been incredible advances in data storage technology, particularly as it relates to the storage and manipulation of unstructured data. The bulk of these advances, however, have on been available only to large, resource-laden companies. For the rest of the enterprise market, advanced data architectures have been either unbearably expensive, obscenely complex, or only available through third-party cloud storage vendors.

Today, Exablox is unveiling an integrated hardware and software platform to deliver affordable, scalable, and robust scale-out-object-based data storage solution to the NAS (network attached storage) market. In other words, the company is playing tech Robin Hood, taking the tools of the rich and making them available to the poor. Exablox has been in stealth mode for nearly three years, despite having announced $22 million in Series A and Series B financing from DCM, Norwest Venture Partners (NVP), and US Venture Partners in December 2012.

“Nearly every company today has a multi-terabyte data problem,” Exablox Senior Director of Product Sean Derrington. “But not every company can afford to store and manage that data effectively. Our proprietary storage solution allows customers to manage information without having a PhD and without breaking the bank.”

Exablox has focused its solution on the common storage-related pain points facing most businesses: runaway costs, complicated installation, cumbersome storage management, lack of data security, and overly-burdensome “forklift” upgrades (aka those requiring buying new hardware). Quite the opposite of traditional systems, Exablox’s integrated OneBlox server hardware and OneSystem cloud-based management software allow storage systems to be installed and put into operation in minutes with zero configuration.

The new system offers inline deduplication to maximize storage efficiency, non-disruptive capacity expansion, real-time disaster recovery, incline encryption, and always-on continuous data protection (CDP). All data is stored and made available locally, but when the inevitable application failure or data corruption happens, real-time replication ensures that data can be recovered with limited disruption. In the same way, AES-256 encryption means that when a physical drive fails, is upgraded, or is removed, information on that drive is secure.

Without getting too deep into the IT weeds, simply understand that these features typically required a costly team of system administrators to implement and maintain. The idea behind Exablox is that advanced server architectures can be automated and managed remotely by a single individual. The moment a OneBlox drive is connected to the network, its storage is available to every Windows, Mac, and Linux user on that network, without even configuring IP, DNS, or other parameters. Companies can then add individual or group user permissions and integrate with active directory as necessary.

OneSystem is a fully browser-based cloud management service that removes the need for onsite management software, configuration, and maintenance. Rather, a single system administrator or managed service provider (MSP) can manage all company-wide or multiple company’s worth of storage systems remotely.

Exablox installations can be configured to include multiple nodes, with each node capable of hosting as many as eight four terabyte drives (the company expects to increase the per drive capacity to 6TB in the near future). As many as six nodes can be configured in a ring with a maximum capacity of 192 terabytes. A single 32 terabytes Exablox node runs $10,000. The product is sold exclusively through authorized channel partners, as well as the company’s own internal salesforce.

Legacy competitors in the NAS market include EMC and NetApp, but these behemoths are neither price nor feature competitive with the Exablox system. The biggest challenge that the company faces is likely the transition away from on-premise NAS systems in favor of hosted-cloud based alternatives. Given that its real innovation is in the OneSystem management software, rather than in its hardware products, Exablox could conceivably adapt to a fully hosted ecosystem, but that’s not where its focus lays today.

Mountain View-based Exablox has assembled a team with experience from Symantec, Data Domain, Veritas, NetApp, Omneon, GreenPlum, Ocarina, and Bell Labs. The startup has filed more than a dozen patents for its methods of making the technology used by massive cloud-based storage providers accessible to the masses.

Unstructured data is growing at 60 percent to 80 percent year-over-year, according to Gartner research. As more and more companies realize the power of big data-based decision making, this number is likely to increase. Outside of the largest and most technically savvy enterprises, cost and complexity will continue to be the enemy in the storage and data management space. Exablox has taken an entirely different approach to this problem, blending the best of on-premise and cloud-based storage systems, and making this solution available to the most resource-constrained organizations.