SolidFire is kicking ass in the really boring, unsung world of cloud computing infrastructure

By Carmel DeAmicis , written on July 25, 2013

From The News Desk

Everyone likes to puff up the importance of the "cloud" and how the "cloud" is the future and this and that, but we don't spent that much time thinking about how the cloud actually works. It's not like there's magical data floating above all of our heads, held there by the combined mental powers of Amazon and Rackspace.

Here's why we should care how the cloud stays up there. In order for cloud computing to grow up and integrate with our schools, government institutions, and businesses, there need to be developments in cloud infrastructure to make it faster, more reliable, and more secure.

SolidFire is one of those companies making that happen behind the scenes that we never hear about because -- let's face it -- infrastructure's kinda boring. Particularly data infrastructure. SolidFire just raised $31 million from a Series C led by Samsung Ventures, bringing its total funding up to $68 million. It's a cloud infrastructure company which builds storage facilities that allow servers to process thousands of applications for big companies.

Jay Prassl, SolidFire's VP of marketing, must know infrastructure can be a somewhat confusing snoozefest for the untrained eye, because he walked me through a well designed PowerPoint to painstakingly explain everything. I'll admit I had spent zero time considering it previously. I felt like I was back in college with that professor everyone loves.

Here's what I learned. Big institutions that process a lot of data through cloud-computing (like Shell or Nissan) need storage space outside their servers. The servers run the applications that employees of a company use (like email). The storage space, connected to the servers, holds all the data processed within the application itself (like the actual messages that are saved in the email app). SolidFire provides that storage, along with its competitors like 3PAR, NetApp, and the like.

Are you asleep yet? Wake the hell up.

Now here's the problem in the storage space world: if one application in the storage space takes a lot of processing power, it becomes the "noisy neighbor," and all the other applications suffer. If your work email has ever slowed to the pace of a snail, that might be why. IT guys/gals don't want to field phone calls from the whole building all day long, so they put the important applications onto their own storage unit, to isolate them from the "noisy neighbor."

Separating apps into different storage units is really inefficient and expensive, and that's where SolidFire comes in. It's mitigated the problem of the "noisy neighbor." In metaphor world, the different applications in SolidFire's storage home can co-exist in harmony without the senior citizens wanting to kill the partying college students upstairs.

SolidFire solved this problem awhile ago, but with the release of their latest version, the SF9010, they've increased their unit's processing speed and storage size. They claim they're faster and more efficient than all their competitors, and when you glance at the data specs of their competitors, it seems to be the case. Companies like NetApp and 3PAR tout their storage capacity but don't have the speed, and companies like Violin tout their speed, but their storage capacity is a pittance compared to SolidFire's numbers.

Perhaps Samsung thinks so too, since it led the $31 million seed round. SolidFire marketing head Jay Prassl says that Samsung approached SolidFire to suggest the investment. The startup was considering raising a C round for marketing and technology development before that, but hadn't done the legwork yet.

I'll leave you with Prassl's parting words of philosophical wisdom. When I asked him about the challenges facing the cloud computing industry, he said, "Cloud is used everywhere, and in some cases that's a good thing and some cases it's a bad thing. If everything is cloud than nothing is cloud."

The metaphysical meaning of cloudness...brought to you by Pando.