NetApp to acquire Spot (formerly Spotinst) to gain cloud infrastructure management tools

When Spotinst rebranded to Spot in March, it seemed big changes were afoot for the startup, which originally helped companies find and manage cheap infrastructure known as spot instances (hence its original name). We had no idea how big at the time. Today, NetApp announced plans to acquire the startup.

The companies did not share the price, but Israeli publication, CTECH, pegged the deal at $450 million. NetApp would not confirm that price.

It may seem like a strange pairing, a storage company and a startup that helps companies find bargain infrastructure and monitor cloud costs, but NetApp sees the acquisition as a way for its customers to bridge storage and infrastructure requirements.

“The combination of NetApp’s leading shared storage platform for block, file and object and Spot’s compute platform will deliver a leading solution for the continuous optimization of cost for all workloads, both cloud native and legacy,” Anthony Lye, senior vice president and general manager for public cloud services at NetApp said in a statement.

Spot helps companies do a couple of things. First of all it manages spot and reserved instances for customers in the cloud. Spot instances in particular, are extremely cheap because they represent unused capacity at the cloud provider. The catch is that the vendor can take the resources back when they need them, and Spot helps safely move workloads around these requirements.

Reserved instances are cloud infrastructure you buy in advance for a discounted price. The cloud vendor gives a break on pricing, knowing that it can count on the customer to use a certain amount of infrastructure resources.

At the time it rebranded, the company also had gotten into monitoring cloud spending and usage across clouds. Amiram Shachar, co-founder and CEO at Spot told TechCrunch in March, “With this new product we’re providing a more holistic platform that lets customers see all of their cloud spending in one place — all of their usage, all of their costs, what they are spending and doing across multiple clouds — and then what they can actually do [to deploy resources more efficiently],” he said at the time.

Shachar writing in a blog post today announcing the deal indicated the company will continue to support its products as part of the NetApp family, and as startup CEOs typically say at a time like this, move much faster as part of a large organization.

“Spot will continue to offer and fully support our products, both now and as part of NetApp when the transaction closes. In fact, joining forces with NetApp will bring additional resources to Spot that you’ll see in our ability to deliver our roadmap and new innovation even faster and more broadly,” he wrote in the post.

NetApp has been quite acquisitive this year. It acquired Talon Storage in early March and CloudJumper at the end of April. This represents the 20th acquisition overall for the company, according to Crunchbase data.

Spot was founded in 2015 in Tel Aviv. It raised over $52 million, according to Crunchbase data. The deal is expected to close later this year, assuming it passes typical regulatory hurdles.


By Ron Miller

Wasabi announces $30M in debt financing as cloud storage business continues to grow

We may be in the thick of a pandemic with all of the economic fallout that comes from that, but certain aspects of technology don’t change no matter the external factors. Storage is one of them. In fact, we are generating more digital stuff than ever, and Wasabi, a Boston-based startup that has figured out a way to drive down the cost of cloud storage is benefiting from that.

Today it announced a $30 million debt financing round led led by Forestay Capital, the technology innovation arm of Waypoint Capital with help from previous investors. As with the previous round, Wasabi is going with home office investors, rather than traditional venture capital firms. Today’s round brings the total raised to $110 million, according to the company.

Founder and CEO David Friend says the company needs the funds to keep up with the rapid growth. “We’ve got about 15,000 customers today, hundreds of petabytes of storage, 2500 channel partners, 250 technology partners — so we’ve been busy,” he said.

He says that revenue continues to grow in spite of the impact of COVID-19 on other parts of the economy. “Revenue grew 5x last year. It’ll probably grow 3.5x this year. We haven’t seen any real slowdown from the Coronavirus. Quarter over quarter growth will be in excess of 40% — this quarter over Q1 — so it’s just continuing on a torrid pace,” he said.

He said the money will be used mostly to continue to expand its growing infrastructure requirements. The more they store, the more data centers they need and that takes money. He is going the debt route because his products are backed by a tangible asset, the infrastructure used to store all the data in the Wasabi system. And it turns out that debt financing is a lot cheaper in terms of payback than equity terms.

“Our biggest need is to build more infrastructure, because we are constantly buying equipment. We have to pay for it even before it fills up with customer data, so we’re raising another debt round now,” Friend said. He added, “Part of what we’re doing is just strengthening our balance sheet to give us access to more inexpensive debt to finance the building of the infrastructure.”

The challenge for a company like Wasabi, which is looking to capture a large chunk of the growing cloud storage market is the infrastructure piece. It needs to keep building more to meet increasing demand, while keeping costs down, which remains its primary value proposition with customers.

The money will help the company expand into new markets as many countries have data sovereignty laws that require data to be stored in-country. That requires more money and that’s the thinking behind this round.

The company launched in 2015. It previously raised $68 million in 2018.


By Ron Miller

VAST Data lands $100M Series C on $1.2B valuation to turn storage on its head

VAST Data, a startup that has come up with a cost-effective way to deliver flash storage, announced a $100 million Series C investment today on a $1.2 billion valuation, both unusually big numbers for an enterprise startup in Series C territory.

Next47, the investment arm of Siemens, led the round with participation from existing investors 83North, Commonfund Capital, Dell Technologies Capital, Goldman Sachs, Greenfield Partners, Mellanox Capital and Norwest Venture Partners. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $180 million.

That’s a lot of cash any time, but especially in the middle of a pandemic. Investors believe that VAST is solving a difficult problem around scaled storage. It’s one where customers tend to deal with petabytes of data and storage price tags beginning at a million dollars, says company founder and CEO Renen Hallak.

As Hallak points out, traditional storage is delivered in tiers with fast, high-cost flash storage at the top of the pyramid all the way down to low-cost archival storage at the bottom. He sees this approach as flawed, especially for modern applications driven by analytics and machine learning that rely on lots of data being at the ready.

VAST built a system they believe addresses these issues around the way storage has traditionally been delivered.”We build a single system. This as fast or faster than your tier one, all-flash system today and as cost effective, or more so, than your lowest tier five hard drives. We do this at scale with the resilience of the entire [traditional storage] pyramid. We make it very, very easy to use, while breaking historical storage trade-offs to enable this next generation of applications,” Hallak told TechCrunch.

The company, which was founded in 2016 and came to market with its first solution in 2018, does this by taking advantage of some modern tools like Intel 3D XPoint technology, a kind of modern non-volatile memory along with consumer-grade QLT flash, NVMe over Fabrics protocol and containerization.

“This new architecture, coupled with a lot of algorithmic work in software and types of metadata structures that we’ve developed on top of it, allows us to break those trade-offs and allows us to make much more efficient use of media, and also allows us to move beyond scalability limits, resiliency limits and problems that other systems have in terms of usability and maintainability,” he said.

They have a large average deal size; as a result, the company can keep its cost of sales and marketing to revenue ratio low. They intend to use the money to grow quickly, which is saying something in the current economic climate.

But Hallak sees vast opportunity for the kinds of companies with large amounts of data who need this kind of solution, and even though the cost is high, he says ultimately switching to VAST should save companies money, something they are always looking to do at this kind of scale, but even more so right now.

You don’t often see a unicorn valuation at Series C, especially right now, but Hallak doesn’t shy away from it at all. “I think it’s an indication of the trust that our investors put in our growth and our success. I think it’s also an indication of our very fast growth in our first year [with a product on the market], and the unprecedented adoption is an indication of the product-market fit that we have, and also of our market efficiency,” he said.

They count The National Institute of Health, General Dynamics and Zebra as customers.


By Ron Miller

Storj brings low-cost decentralized cloud storage to the enterprise

Storj, a startup that developed a low-cost, decentralized cloud storage solution, announced a new version today called Tardigrade Decentralized Cloud Storage Service.

The new service comes with an enterprise service level agreement (SLA) that promises 99.9999999% file durability and over 99.95 percent availability, which it claims is on par with Amazon S3.

The company has come up with an unusual system to store files safely, taking advantage of excess storage capacity around the world. They are effectively doing with storage what Airbnb does with an extra bedroom, enabling people and organizations to sell that excess capacity to make extra money.

It’s fair to ask if that wouldn’t be a dangerous way to store files, but Storj Executive Chairman Ben Golub says that they have come up with a way of distributing the data across drives on their network so that no single file would ever be fully exposed.

“What we do in order to make this work is, first, before any data is uploaded, our customers encrypt the data, and they hold the keys so nobody else can decrypt the data. And then every part of a file is split into 80 pieces, of which any 30 can be used to reconstitute it. And each of those 80 pieces goes to a different drive on the network,” Golub explained.

That means even if a hacker were able to somehow get at one encrypted piece of the puzzle, he or she would need 29 others, and the encryption keys, to put the file back together again. “All a storage node operator sees is gibberish, and they only see a portion of the file. So if a bad person wanted to get your file, they would have to compromise something like 30 different networks in order to get [a single file], and even if they did that they would only have gibberish unless you also lost your encryption keys,” he said.

The ability to buy excess capacity allows Storj to offer storage at much lower prices than typical cloud storage. Golub says his company’s list prices are one-half to one-third cheaper than Amazon S3 storage and it’s S3-compatible.

The company launched in 2014 and has 20,000 users on 100,000 distributed nodes today, but this is the first time it has launched an enterprise version of the cloud storage solution.


By Ron Miller

Dell spent $67B buying EMC — more than 3 years later, was it worth the debt?

Dell’s 2015 decision to buy EMC for $67 billion remains the largest pure tech deal in history, but a transaction of such magnitude created a mountain of debt for the Texas-based company and its primary backer, Silver Lake.

Dell would eventually take on close to $50 billion in debt. Years later, where are they in terms of paying that back, and has the deal paid for itself?

When EMC put itself up for sale, it was under pressure from activist investors Elliott Management to break up the company. In particular, Elliott reportedly wanted the company to sell one of its most valuable parts, VMware, which it believed would help boost EMC’s share price. (Elliott is currently turning the screws on Twitter and SoftBank.)

Whatever the reason, once the company went up for sale, Dell and private equity firm Silver Lake came ‘a callin with an offer EMC CEO Joe Tucci couldn’t refuse. The arrangement represented great returns for his shareholders, and Tucci got to exit on his terms, telling Elliott to take a hike (even if it was Elliott that got the ball rolling in the first place).

Dell eventually took itself public again in late 2018, probably to help raise some of the money it needed to pay off its debts. We are more than three years past the point where the Dell-EMC deal closed, so we decided to take a look back and see if Dell was wise to take on such debt or not.

What it got with EMC


By Ron Miller

Egnyte unifies its security and productivity tooling into single platform

Egnyte announced today it was combining its two main products — Egnyte Protect and Egnyte Connect — into a single platform to help customers manage, govern and secure the data from a single set of tools.

Egynte co-founder and CEO Vineet Jain says that this new single platform approach is being driven chiefly by the sheer volume of data they are seeing from customers, especially as they shift from on-prem to the cloud.

“The underlying pervasive theme is that there’s a rapid acceleration of data going to the cloud and we’ve seen that in our customers,” Jain told TechCrunch. He says that long-time customers have been shifting from terabytes to petabytes of data, while new customers are starting out with a few hundred terabytes instead of five or ten.

As this has happened, he says customers are asking for a way to deal with this data glut with a single platform because the volume of data makes it too much to handle with separate tools. “Instead of looking at this as separate problems, customers are saying they want a solution that helps address the productivity part at the same time as the security part. That’s because there is more data in the cloud, and concerns around data security and privacy, along with increasing compliance requirements, are driving the need to have it in one unified platform,” he explained.

The company is doing this because managing the data needs to be tied to security and governance policies. “They are not ultimately separate ideas,” Jain says.

Jain says up until recently, the company saw the data management piece as the way into a customer, and after they had that locked down, they would move to layer on security and compliance as a value-add. Today, partly due to the data glut and partly due to compliance regulations, Jain says, these are no longer separate ideas, and his company has evolved its approach to meet the changing requirements of customers.

Egnyte was founded in 2007 and has raised over $138 million on a $460 million post valuation, according to Pitchbook data. Its most recent round was $75 million led by Goldman Sachs in September, 2018. Egnyte passed the $100 million ARR mark in November.


By Ron Miller

Moving storage in-house helped Dropbox thrive

Back in 2013, Dropbox was scaling fast.

The company had grown quickly by taking advantage of cloud infrastructure from Amazon Web Services (AWS), but when you grow rapidly, infrastructure costs can skyrocket, especially when approaching the scale Dropbox was at the time. The company decided to build its own storage system and network — a move that turned out to be a wise decision.

In a time when going from on-prem to cloud and closing private data centers was typical, Dropbox took a big chance by going the other way. The company still uses AWS for certain services, regional requirements and bursting workloads, but ultimately when it came to the company’s core storage business, it wanted to control its own destiny.

Storage is at the heart of Dropbox’s service, leaving it with scale issues like few other companies, even in an age of massive data storage. With 600 million users and 400,000 teams currently storing more than 3 exabytes of data (and growing) if it hadn’t taken this step, the company might have been squeezed by its growing cloud bills.

Controlling infrastructure helped control costs, which improved the company’s key business metrics. A look at historical performance data tells a story about the impact that taking control of storage costs had on Dropbox.

The numbers

In March of 2016, Dropbox announced that it was “storing and serving” more than 90% of user data on its own infrastructure for the first time, completing a 3-year journey to get to this point. To understand what impact the decision had on the company’s financial performance, you have to examine the numbers from 2016 forward.

There is good financial data from Dropbox going back to the first quarter of 2016 thanks to its IPO filing, but not before. So, the view into the impact of bringing storage in-house begins after the project was initially mostly completed. By examining the company’s 2016 and 2017 financial results, it’s clear that Dropbox’s revenue quality increased dramatically. Even better for the company, its revenue quality improved as its aggregate revenue grew.


By Ron Miller

Microsoft acquires Mover to help with Microsoft 365 cloud migration

Microsoft wants to make it as easy as possible to migrate to Microsoft 365, and today the company announced it had purchased a Canadian startup called Mover to help. The companies did not reveal the acquisition price.

Microsoft 365 is the company’s bundle that includes Office 365, Microsoft Teams, security tools and workflow. The idea is to provide customers with a soup-to-nuts, cloud-based productivity package. Mover helps customers get files from another service into the Microsoft 365 cloud.

As Jeff Tepper wrote in a post on the Official Microsoft Blog announcing the acquisition, this about helping customers get to the Microsoft cloud as quickly and smoothly as possible. “Today, Mover supports migration from over a dozen cloud service providers — including Box, Dropbox, Egnyte, and Google Drive — into OneDrive and SharePoint, enabling seamless file collaboration across Microsoft 365 apps and services, including the Office apps and Microsoft Teams,” Tepper wrote.

Tepper also points out that they will be gaining the expertise of the Mover team as it moves to Microsoft and helps add to the migration tools already in place.

Tony Byrne, founder and principal analyst at Real Story Group, says that moving files from one system to another like this can be extremely challenging regardless of how you do it, and the file transfer mechanism is only part of it. “The transition to 365 from an on-prem system or competing cloud supplier is never a migration, per se. It’s a rebuild, with a completely different UX, admin model, set of services, and operational assumptions all built into the Microsoft cloud offering,” Byrne explained.

Mover is based in Calgary, Canada. It was founded in 2012 and raised $1 million, according to Crunchbase data. It counts some big clients as customers including AutoDesk, Symantec and BuzzFeed.


By Ron Miller

Why AWS gains big storage efficiencies with E8 acquisition

AWS is already the clear market leader in the cloud infrastructure market, but it’s never been an organization that rests on its past successes. Whether it’s a flurry of new product announcements and enhancements every year, or making strategic acquisitions.

When it bought Israeli storage startup E8 yesterday, it might have felt like a minor move on its face, but AWS was looking, as it always does, to find an edge and reduce the costs of operations in its data centers. It was also very likely looking forward to the next phase of cloud computing. Reports have pegged the deal at between $50 and $60 million.

What E8 gives AWS for relatively cheap money is highly advanced storage capabilities, says Steve McDowell, senior storage analyst at Moor Research and Strategy. “E8 built a system that delivers extremely high-performance/low-latency flash (and Optane) in a shared-storage environment,” McDowell told TechCrunch.


By Ron Miller

Three years after moving off AWS, Dropbox infrastructure continues to evolve

Conventional wisdom would suggest that you close your data centers and move to the cloud, not the other way around, but in 2016 Dropbox undertook the opposite journey. It (mostly) ended its long-time relationship with AWS and built its own data centers.

Of course, that same conventional wisdom would say, it’s going to get prohibitively expensive and more complicated to keep this up. But Dropbox still believes it made the right decision and has found innovative ways to keep costs down.

Akhil Gupta, VP of Engineering at Dropbox, says that when Dropbox decided to build its own data centers, it realized that as a massive file storage service, it needed control over certain aspects of the underlying hardware that was difficult for AWS to provide, especially in 2016 when Dropbox began making the transition.

“Public cloud by design is trying to work with multiple workloads, customers and use cases and it has to optimize for the lowest common denominator. When you have the scale of Dropbox, it was entirely possible to do what we did,” Gupta explained.

Alone again, naturally

One of the key challenges of trying to manage your own data centers, or build a private cloud where you still act like a cloud company in a private context, is that it’s difficult to innovate and scale the way the public cloud companies do, especially AWS. Dropbox looked at the landscape and decided it would be better off doing just that, and Gupta says even with a small team — the original team was just 30 people — it’s been able to keep innovating.


By Ron Miller

Egnyte brings native G Suite file support to its platform

Egnyte announced today that customers can now store G Suite files inside its storage, security and governance platform. This builds on the support the company previously had for Office 365 documents.

Egnyte CEO and co-founder Vineet Jain says that while many enterprise customers have seen the value of a collaborative office suite like G Suite, they might have stayed away because of compliance concerns (whether that was warranted or not).

He said that Google has been working on an API for some time that allows companies like Egnyte to decouple G Suite documents from Google Drive. Previously, if you wanted to use G Suite, you no choice but to store the documents in Google Drive.

Jain acknowledges that the actual integration is pretty much the same as his competitors because Google determined the features. In fact, Box and Dropbox announced similar capabilities over the last year, but he believes his company has some differentiating features on its platform.

“I honestly would be hard pressed to tell you this is different than what Box or Dropbox is doing, but when you look at the overall context of what we’re doing…I think our advanced governance features are a game changer,” Jain told TechCrunch.

What that means is that G Suite customers can open a document and get the same editing experience as they would get were they inside Google Drive, while getting all the compliance capabilities built into Egnyte via Egnyte Protect. What’s more, they can store the files wherever they like, whether that’s in Egnyte itself, an on-premises file store or any cloud storage option that Egnyte supports, for that matter.

Egnyte storage and compliance platform

G Suite documents stored on the Egnyte platform.

Long before it was commonplace, Egnyte tried to differentiate itself from a crowded market by being a hybrid play where files can live on-premises or in the cloud. It’s a common way of looking at cloud strategy now, but it wasn’t always the case.

Jain has always emphasized a disciplined approach to growing the company, and it has grown to 15,000 customers and 600 employees over 11 years in business. He won’t share exact revenue, but says the company is generating “multi-millions in revenue” each month.

He has been talking about an IPO for some time, and that remains a goal for the company. In a recent letter to employees that Egnyte shared with TechCrunch, Jain put it this way. “Our leadership team, including our board members, have always looked forward to an IPO as an interim milestone — and that has not changed. However, we now believe this company has the ability to not only be a unicorn but to be a multi-billion dollar company in the long-term. This is a mindset that we all need to have moving forward,” he wrote.

Egnyte was founded in 2007 and has raised over $137 million, according to Crunchbase data.


By Ron Miller

Google launches its coldest storage service yet

At its Cloud Next conference, Google today launched a new archival cold storage service. This new service, which doesn’t seem to have a fancy name, will complement the company’s existing Nearline and Coldline services for storing vast amounts of infrequently used data at an affordable low cost.

The new archive class takes this one step further, though. It’s cheap, with prices starting at $0.0012 per gigabyte and month. That’s $1.23 per terabyte and month.

The new service will become available later this year.

What makes Google cold storage different from the likes of AWS S3 Glacier, for example, is that the data is immediately available, without millisecond latency. Glacier and similar service typically make you wait a significant amount of time before the data can be used. Indeed, in a thinly veiled swipe at AWS, Google directors of product management Dominic Preuss and Dave Nettleton note that “unlike tape and other glacially slow equivalents, we have taken an approach that eliminates the need for a separate retrieval process and provides immediate, low-latency access to your content.”

To put that into context, a gigabyte stored in AWS Glacier will set you back $0.004 per month. AWS, however, has also pre-announced a Deep Archive storage class, too, though the pricing for that service hasn’t been announced yet and the promised retrival time here is “within 12 hours.”

Gogole’s new object storage service uses the same APIs as Google’s other storage classes and Google promises that the data is always redundantly stored across availability zones, with eleven 9’s of annual durability.

In a press conference ahead of today’s official announcement, Preuss noted that this service mostly a replacement for on-premise tape backups, but now that many enterprises try to keep as much data as they can to then later train their machine learning models, for example, the amounts of fresh data that needs to be stored for the long term continues to increase rapidly, too.

With low latency and the promise of high availability, there obviously has to be a drawback here, otherwise Google wouldn’t (and couldn’t) offer this service at this price. “Just like when you’re going from our standard [storage] class to Nearline or Coldline, there’s a committed amount of time that you have to remain in that class,” Preuss explained. “So basically, to get a lower price you are committing to keep the data in the Google Cloud Storage bucket for a period of time.”


By Frederic Lardinois

Portworx raises $27M Series C for its cloud-native data management platform

As enterprises adopt cloud-native technologies like containers to build their applications, the next question they often have to ask themselves is how they adapt their data storage and management practices to this new reality, too. One of the companies in this business is the four-year-old Portworx, which has managed to attract customers like Lufthansa Systems, GE Digital and HPE with its cloud-native storage and data-management platform for the Kubernetes container orchestration platform.

Portworx today announced that it has raised a $27 million Series C funding round led by  Sapphire Ventures and the ventures arm of Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Company. Existing investors Mayfield Fund and GE Ventures also participated, as well as new investors Cisco, HPE and NetApp, which clearly have a strategic interest in bringing Portworx’s storage offering to their own customers, too, and partnering with the company.

Portworx’s tools make it easier for developers to migrate data, create backups and recover them after an issue. The service supports most popular databases, including Cassandra, Redis and MySQL, but also other storage services. Essentially, it creates a storage layer for database containers or other stateful containers that your apps can then access, no matter where they run or where the data resides.

“As the cloud-native stack matures, Portworx’s leadership in the data layer is really what is highlighted by our funding,” Portworx CEO and co-founder Murli Thirumale told me. “We clearly have a significant number of customers, there is a lot of customer growth, our partner network is growing. What you are seeing is that within that cloud-native ecosystem, we have the maximum number of production deployments and that momentum is something we’re continuing to fuel and fund with this round.”

As Portworx CEO and co-founder Murli Thirumale told me, the company expanded its customer base by over 100 percent last year and increased its total bookings by 376 percent year-over-year. That’s obviously the kind of growth that investors want to see. Thirumale noted, though, that the company wasn’t under any pressure to raise at this point. “We were seeing such strong growth momentum that we knew we need the money to fuel the growth.” That means expanding the company’s sales force, especially internationally, as well as its support team to help its new customers manage their data lifecycle.

In addition to today’s funding round, Portworx also today announced the latest version of its flagship Portworx Enterprise platform, which now includes new data security and disaster recovery functions. These include improved role-based access controls that go beyond what Kubernetes traditionally offers (and that integrate with existing enterprise systems). The new disaster recovery tools now allow enterprises to make incremental backups to data centers that sit in different geographical locations. Maybe more importantly, Portworx now also lets users automatically save data in two nearby data centers zones as updates happen. That’s meant o enable use cases where zero data loss would be acceptable in the case of an outage. With this, a company could automatically backup data from a database that sits in Azure Germany Central and back it up to AWS Europe Frankfurt, for example.


By Frederic Lardinois

Humio raises $9M Series A for its real-time log analysis service

Humio, a startup that provides a real-time log analysis service for on-premises and cloud infrastructures, today announced that it has raised a $9 million Series A round led by Accel. It previously raised its seed round from WestHill and Trifork.

The company, which has offices in San Francisco, the U.K. and Denmark, tells me that it saw a 13x increase in its annual revenue in 2018. Current customers include Bloomberg, Microsoft and Netlify .

“We are experiencing a fundamental shift in how companies build, manage and run their systems,” said Humio CEO Geeta Schmidt. “This shift is driven by the urgency to adopt cloud-based and microservice-driven application architectures for faster development cycles, and dealing with sophisticated security threats. These customer requirements demand a next-generation logging solution that can provide live system observability and efficiently store the massive amounts of log data they are generating.”

To offer them this solution, Humio raised this round with an eye toward fulfilling the demand for its service, expanding its research and development teams and moving into more markets across the globe.

As Schmidt also noted, many organizations are rather frustrated by the log management and analytics solutions they currently have in place. “Common frustrations we hear are that legacy tools are too slow — on ingestion, searches and visualizations — with complex and costly licensing models,” she said. “Ops teams want to focus on operations — not building, running and maintaining their log management platform.”

To build this next-generation analysis tool, Humio built its own time series database engine to ingest the data, with open-source tools like Scala, Elm and Kafka in the backend. As data enters the pipeline, it’s pushed through live searches and then stored for later queries. As Humio VP of Engineering Christian Hvitved tells me, though, running ad-hoc queries is the exception, and most users only do so when they encounter bugs or a DDoS attack.

The query language used for the live filters is also pretty straightforward. That was a conscious decision, Hvitved said. “If it’s too hard, then users don’t ask the question,” he said. “We’re inspired by the Unix philosophy of using pipes, so in Humio, larger searches are built by combining smaller searches with pipes. This is very familiar to developers and operations people since it is how they are used to using their terminal.”

Humio charges its customers based on how much data they want to ingest and for how long they want to store it. Pricing starts at $200 per month for 30 days of data retention and 2 GB of ingested data.


By Frederic Lardinois

They scaled YouTube. Now they’ll shard everyone with PlanetScale

When the former CTOs of YouTube, Facebook, and Dropbox seed fund a database startup, you know there’s something special going on under the hood. Jiten Vaidya and Sugu Sougoumarane saved YouTube from a scalability nightmare by inventing and open sourcing Vitess, a brilliant relational data storage system. But in the decade since working there, the pair have been inundated with requests from tech companies desperate for help building the operational scaffolding needed to actually integrate Vitess.

So today the pair are revealing their new startup PlanetScale that makes it easy to build multi-cloud databases that handle enormous amounts of information without locking customers into Amazon, Google, or Microsoft’s infrastructure. Battletested at YouTube, the technology could allow startups to fret less about their backend and focus more on their unique value proposition. “Now they don’t have to reinvent the wheel” Vaidya tells me. “A lot of companies facing this scaling problem end up solving it badly in-house and now there’s a way to solve that problem by using us to help.”

PlanetScale has quietly raised a $3 million seed round in April led by SignalFire and joined by a who’s who of engineering luminaries. They include YouTube co-founder and CTO Steve Chen, Quora CEO and former Facebook CTO Adam D’Angelo, former Dropbox CTO Aditya Agarwal, PayPal and Affirm co-founder Max Levchin, MuleSoft co-founder and CTO Ross Mason, Google director of engineering Parisa Tabriz, and Facebook’s first female engineer and South Park Commons Founder Ruchi Sanghvi. If anyone could foresee the need for Vitess implementation services, it’s these leaders who’ve dealt with scaling headaches at tech’s top companies.

But how can a scrappy startup challenge the tech juggernauts for cloud supremacy? First, by actually working with them. The PlanetScale beta that’s now launching lets companies spin up Vitess clusters on its database-as-a-service, their own through a licensing deal, or on AWS with Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure coming shortly. Once these integrations with the tech giants are established, PlanetScale clients can use it as an interface for a multi-cloud setup where they could keep their data master copies on AWS US-West with replicas on Google Cloud in Ireland and elsewhere. That protects companies from becoming dependent on one provider and then getting stuck with price hikes or service problems.

PlanetScale also promises to uphold the principles that undergirded Vitess. “It’s our value that we will keep everything in the query pack completely open source so none of our customers ever have to worry about lock-in” Vaidya says.

PlanetScale co-founders (from left): Jiten Vaidya and Sugu Sougoumarane

Battletested, YouTube Approved

He and Sougoumarane met 25 years ago while at Indian Institute Of Technology Bombay. Back in 1993 they worked at pioneering database company Informix together before it flamed out. Sougoumarane was eventually hired by Elon Musk as an early engineer for X.com before it got acquired by PayPal, and then left for YouTube. Vaidya was working at Google and the pair were reunited when it bought YouTube and Sougoumarane pulled him on to the team.

“YouTube was growing really quickly and the relationship database they were using with MySQL was sort of falling apart at the seams” Vaidya recalls. Adding more CPU and memory to the database infra wasn’t cutting it, so the team created Vitess. The horizontal scaling sharding middleware for MySQL let users segment their database to reduce memory usage while still being able to rapidly run operations. YouTube has smoothly ridden that infrastructure to 1.8 billion users ever since.

“Sugu and Mike Solomon invented and made Vitess open source right from the beginning since 2010 because they knew the scaling problem wasn’t just for YouTube, and they’ll be at other companies 5 or 10 years later trying to solve the same problem” Vaidya explains. That proved true, and now top apps like Square and HubSpot run entirely on Vitess, with Slack now 30 percent onboard.

Vaidya left YouTube in 2012 and became the lead engineer at Endorse, which got acquired by Dropbox where he worked for four years. But in the meantime, the engineering community strayed towards MongoDB-style key-value store databases, which Vaidya considers inferior. He sees indexing issues and says that if the system hiccups during an operation, data can become inconsistent — a big problem for banking and commerce apps. “We think horizontally-scaled relationship databases are more elegant and are something enterprises really need.

Database Legends Reunite

Fed up with the engineering heresy, a year ago Vaidya committed to creating PlanetScale. It’s composed of four core offerings: professional training in Vitess, on-demand support for open source Vitess users, Vitess database-as-a-service on Planetscale’s servers, and software licensing for clients that want to run Vitess on premises or through other cloud providers. It lets companies re-shard their databases on the fly to relocate user data to comply with regulations like GDPR, safely migrate from other systems without major codebase changes, make on-demand changes, and run on Kubernetes.

The PlanetScale team

PlanetScale’s customers now include Indonesian ecommerce giant Bukalapak, and it’s helping Booking.com, GitHub, and New Relic migrate to open source Vitess. Growth is suddenly ramping up due to inbound inquiries. Last month around when Square Cash became the number one app, its engineering team published a blog post extolling the virtues of Vitess. Now everyone’s seeking help with Vitess sharding, and PlanetScale is waiting with open arms. “Jiten and Sugu are legends and know firsthand what companies require to be successful in this booming data landscape” says Ilya Kirnos, founding partner and CTO of SignalFire.

The big cloud providers are trying to adapt to the relational database trend, with Google’s Cloud Spanner and Cloud SQL, and Amazon’s AWS SQL and AWS Aurora. Their huge networks and marketing war chests could pose a threat. But Vaidya insists that while it might be easy to get data into these systems, it can be a pain to get it out. PlanetScale is designed to give them freedom of optionality through its multi-cloud functionality so their eggs aren’t all in one basket.

Finding product market fit is tough enough. Trying to suddenly scale a popular app while also dealing with all the other challenges of growing a company can drive founders crazy. But if it’s good enough for YouTube, startups can trust PlanetScale to make databases one less thing they have to worry about.


By Josh Constine