Last week, Springpath came out of a two year stealth mode, introducing software that runs on standard servers on a subscription model which stores, manages and guards data across both enterprise and cloud scenarios. That is very different from not only the traditional storage players like EMC, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and NetApp Inc., but also upstarts like Nutanix, Simplivity, and Nexenta. The principals are interesting, too, and harken from VMware’s startup and VxLAN days. My company covers the SDDC marketplace, and after getting a deep understanding of Springpath for about a year now, I consider the company one of the most interesting software-defined datacenter plays I have seen in a while.
Let me provide some background. Today, most enterprise storage sits on closed storage systems from companies like EMC, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and NetApp Inc. These storage systems are called SANs (storage area network) or NAS (network attached storage) and they store data for classic enterprise apps. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have cloud giants who are increasingly using DAS (direct access storage) where inexpensive hard drives sit right in the server’s tray or rack right alongside the CPU and memory. In-between you have web apps and test-dev environments that share concepts from enterprise and cloud-giant storage systems. Therefore, in today’s world, if you want to service enterprise apps, web apps, test and dev and big data, you could have at least three different storage configurations.
Three different storage configurations may not sound like a lot, but consider a few things. To share enterprise data on the enterprise storage system with the Hadoop infrastructure, you actually need to move the data to the Hadoop environment. This takes time and is expensive on resources, which is an eternity from real-time when you really need it. Also, three different storage systems mean that you can’t share capacity or performance between the three when you need more resources. That means you will have unused storage in one silo and not available to the others. Also, the reality is that those three storage systems could be from three different vendors, two more than you probably want. Finally, as we all know, storage systems aren’t cheap as they don’t leverage a large ecosystem of resources like servers do.
This is where Springpath enters the scene. And where it gets interesting.
Springpath’s storage software encompasses all four environments I talked about: enterprise apps, web apps, test and dev, and Hadoop/BigData. They can accomplish this through their distributed file system which not only supports classic block and file access method, but new access methods that support object stores and Hadoop based applications as well. These supported access methods facilitate not only traditional server virtualization, but also emerging Docker-Containers as well as physical, non-virtualized environments. Others in the industry are specializing in one or two environments and writing management layers on top of file systems like ZFS and Swift/Ceph. In addition, these file systems either lack the enterprise grade features or when supported the special features (like compression) have to be turned off to achieve the stated performance. As you would expect, it’s very hard to comingle data across systems easily or quickly and by using industry driven building blocks, you wouldn’t expect it to be as fast.
Springpath runs on a broad range of industry standard servers from Cisco, Dell, HP and SuperMicro. This is, of course, dramatically different from a NAS or SAN. Also, this is unique from appliance-based approaches from Nutanix and Simplivity where there is potential hardware lock-in, albeit not as much as a SAN or NAS, but still lock-in possibility.
Finally, in what could be looked at as its biggest differentiator, Springpath can be procured on a subscription basis, really taking price off the table. At $4K per server, IT could pretty easily charge back departments based on usage and at that price, makes it a no-brainer.
I think Springpath is very differentiated in what is looking to be a very interesting SDDC world. Springpath, versus the SDDC alternatives, promises to do more in more storage environments, do it on industry standard servers you procure, and do it on a pain-free subscription model. Now it’s up to Springpath to flawlessly execute.