Back in 2001 the idea of an open source solution that could compete with proprietary storage products was pretty unusual. But this was the idea that founder Eren Niazi was hoping to commercialize. And he got pretty close – selling product to Facebook (then in its early days) Shutterfly, NASA, KPMG, the US Army and Lockheed Martin. Unfortunately for Niazi the GFC struck and his investors backed out – partly because of the economic situation and partly because they just didn’t believe that open source would take off in the data center world.
Today we have the benefit of hindsight and have seen the huge impacts that different open source solutions have made – Ceph for Storage, Networking Operating Systems (Cumulus Networks for example) and cloud operating systems (OpenStack or CloudStack for example). With this much proof that open source can work within the data center construct, the timing was right for Niazi to relaunch the company and he’s doing it by speaking to an operators key consideration, cost. By avoiding the high licensing fees that proprietary storage products come with, Niazi believe significant savings can be delivered – he estimates a 30-40% reduction in the cost of data ownership
Niazi is calling his product a “private cloud in a box” – perhaps a misguided name given that it’s almost guaranteed to get the back up of any vaguely knowledgeable cloud pundit. But looking past the unfortunate title, the idea of commodity hardware matched with open source software is a no brainer.
In an article last year discussing why open souce storage hasn’t taken off the same way pen source operating systems have within data centers, Dan Woods commented that:
But there is another realm that open source has yet to mount a serious attack, the world of storage. CIOs may complain loudly about writing big checks to NetApp, EMC, and other storage vendors, but write them they do.
I suspect things are changing – the growth of open source in other parts of the data center operation will no doubt increase operators’ willingness to use open source for storage as well.
Anyway, OSS is reporting that is has sold 50 million shares to private investors but, interestingly, isn’t disclosing the price of those shares or the company’s valuation. Either way they’re going to use the funding to develop the product further and hire more bodies. The first of those goals is being furthered today – OSS is releasing its new Middleware System which allows open source software and open standard storage hardware to be mounted to any existing infrastructure.
As for the bodies-on-the-ground issue, OSS is also announcing that is has hired Paul Kelley, one of the leaders on the original OSS team back in 2004. Between 2004 and 2007 Kelley helped OSS scale to over $27M in revenue – a good number, but not enough to keep those investors happy. Kelley has experienced success with startups however, prior to joining OSS he was a Director at VA Linux – one of the highest performing IPOs in Wall Street history.
A lot has changed since the last incarnation of OSS, while there is more appetite for what they are doing, the world has also moved on a little – the advent of the open source cloud operating systems, more options around storage and other open source storage vendors mean that it’s by no means a slam dunk for the new OSS. Time will tell..