Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Monday, February 24, 2020
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Public Cloud Storage ‘Revolution’: 80% Price Cut, 6X Performance Jump from Carbonite Spin-off 

(Bedrin/Shutterstock)

A revolution in public cloud storage price/performance could be in the offing as two storage industry veterans with a track record of disruption today launched a new company that they say cuts pricing for storage in the AWS compute environment by 80 percent with a 6X performance jump.

The new company, Wasabi, targets S3, the storage tier within public cloud market leader Amazon Web Services. The startup is intended to follow in the footsteps of Carbonite, the company founded by David Friend and Jeff Flowers in 2006 that overturned the consumer backup storage industry with its fixed price model and quickly became market dominant. Friend, Flowers and 18 other former Carbonite developers have worked on the Wasabi project for more than two years.

“Our vision is that cloud storage ought to be a commodity, like electricity  – it’s just there,” Friend told EnterpriseTech. “All you need is one size, you don’t need all these crazy tiers, because we’re faster than the fastest and cheaper than the cheapest, all at the same time.”

Wasabi is hot pluggable with the AWS ecosystem even as it seeks to replace S3 as AWS customers’ storage technology of choice. Available now, Wasabi is offered as object cloud storage-as-a-service connected via the S3 API to AWS. Under its pricing model, Wasabi – unlike AWS – does not charge for moving or retrieving data to and from AWS compute.

Source: Wasabi

Targeting enterprises with large data volumes, Wasabi’s price and performance advantages grow as customers’ data stores grow, Friend said. The annual cost of a petabyte of data stored using Wasabi is $46,800, compared with $276,000 on S3, $249,600 on Microsoft Azure and $240,000 on Google Cloud Platform, according to Wasabi.

As for performance, Wasabi claims sustained read performance of 1300 megabytes per second against S3’s 191 MB/second; Wasabi claims sustained write of 563 MB/second against S3’s 90 MB/second.

Source: Wasabi

“We don’t like vendor lock in,” Friend said, “we just want people to go to the best value and the best performance. The story is pretty simple: if you know S3 then you know what Wasabi is. The only difference is that it’s one fifth the price and six times faster.”

Today’s announcement has grabbed the attention of industry analysts while also generating some degree of skepticism.

“The first thing you think when someone says they’re going to go toe-to-toe with Amazon is, ‘Yeah, right!’ Steve Hill, senior analyst, 451 Research, told EnterpriseTech. “Trying to out-Amazon Amazon is a dangerous and almost futile attempt, really.”

But the company’s Carbonite roots give the new company credibility, Hill said.

“Obviously, I’m skeptical of everything,” he said. “And I have no doubt if they’re promising this kind of performance at that price they should be able to deliver it. This is not a new company, they’ve been doing this via Carbonite, so they really understand the storage industry.”

The upshot, assuming Wasabi delivers on its price/performance promises: “We may be at an inflection point where they’re revolutionizing the pricing model for cloud storage,” said Hill. “It certainly offers that potential.”

Andrew Smith, IDC, senior research analyst - storage software, told EnterpriseTech, “I think it’s legitimate. It’s an area where there hasn’t been as much competition as there could have been. Object storage went cold for a little while but now it’s getting more attention. Organizations have been better at applying it to a wider range of use cases. There’s still things in high transactional data that object storage can’t touch, but it’s applicability is widening, and Wasabi has found a way to make it even more cost effective, so it’s going to be a good message to customers.”

In targeting companies that need to store hundreds of terabytes of data, Wasabi is addressing a growing market need. “They’re offering the lowest cost at the highest capacity of storage, to compound costs savings…,” Smith said. “A high amount of storage at longer time frames, that’s where Wasabi’s cost proposition only gets better over time.”

“I think there will be plenty of demand for that type of storage – increasingly demand,” he said. “The trends we continue to see – the incredible volumes of data, the increasing value of data. Customers are looking to get not only the cheapest storage but also the best access to that type of info and to be able to utilize it in different ways. So this is a good foot in the door for Wasabi.”

“BlueArchive” had been the new venture’s code name, Friend said, a name deliberately chosen to throw off anyone trying to find out what he, Flowers and a team of other former Carbonite employees were developing under wraps.

‘We named the company Wasabi because it’s hot – hot storage,” Friend said. “BlueArchive was only the stealth name, a decoy, to make people think we were going to do something kind of offline and cold. And that’s obviously not what we were up to.”

Wasabi has raised $8.5 million in a Series A round and is backed by Desh Deshpande, Bill Sahlam, Ron Skates and Jeff Parker, among other investors, according to the company. Friend, Flowers and their team began work on Wasabi in 2014.

Pressed for details on Wasabi’s technology strategy, Friend demurred, citing reluctance to reveal competitive advantage.

“I can’t tell you a lot,” he said. “What I can tell you is all our storage is disk-based, so most of our expenses are buying raw disks. But it’s the software, the file system.” Wasabi storage technology does not focus on the operating system, Friend said. “If you write a file on your own computer, it’s Windows or Linux or whatever operating system that controls what actually physically happens on the disk. We don’t use any of that. We go right down to controlling the movement of the heads on the disk drives themselves.

“There are a lot of things you can do if you know how to get down to that very low level code,” he said. “It’s a very arcane part of computer science. Very few people ever bother with it because they rely on Windows or Linux…to worry about such things. But if you know specifically what you’re going to be doing, being able to take control at that level gives you the ability to do a lot of things that save 20 percent here, 30 percent there, 8 percent somewhere else. There’s a long list of tricks we’ve learned over the years that allow us to sell at one-fifth of Amazon’s prices and still make pretty decent gross margins.”

Wasabi’s first data center is collocated with AWS in Ashburn, VA, which has become a data center mecca. Sharing the same site with Amazon means faster connectivity between Wasabi storage and AWS compute, Friend said. Additional data centers in others parts of the U.S. will follow to meet customer demand.

“I don’t know how many data centers there are in Ashburn, there must be dozens,” Friend said, “and they’re all on this metro fiber loop. What it means is you’ve got a highly competitive situation, which is good for everybody, certainly good for us, because we can be in any of those data centers and get extremely inexpensive and extremely high bandwidth connections to any other one. So if we run out of space in one data center we just start filling up at another one – it’s as though they’re all in one room. We can buy dark fiber down there between data centers and its crazy cheap.”

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