Storage company Tegile wants to make a splash with flash

Does the storage market still have room for innovative challengers? Tegile CEO Rohit Kshetrapal thinks so.
Written by Colin Barker, Contributor

Tegile might not be a household name but it is making something of a reputation for itself in the hyper-competitive field of flash storage.

The company's first three rounds of VC funding brought in $47.5m, and it has just nearly doubled that with a fourth round that raised $70m, including backing from Western Digital/Hitachi and SanDisk.

Tegile shipped its first storage array in 2012. Since then, the company has deployed more than 1,500 systems within mid-sized and large enterprises.

Tegile CEO Rohit Kshetrapal: "With flash... a 22-hour load went down to four hours."
Image: Tegile

ZDNet recently spoke to chief executive Rohit Kshetrapal and VP of marketing Rob Commins about the future of flash and the company.

Q: What makes Tegile different?

Commins: We have a technology that delivers more capacity and more performance than any of our competitors. We leverage flash which can be in a hybrid array or an all-flash array. Our point of difference from the competition is the way in which we compress and de-duplicate data as it comes in. We can take great advantage of flash technology so that it goes like a rocket.

Q: So are you competitively priced?

Commins: Yes. Because of our de-duplication skills our big advantage is that you don't need as much storage. So we have got a system right now - that we have been working on with a property company - that runs NetApp storage 26 times faster and we have saved 58 percent of the space. That happens to be a big Oracle database.

[Our solution costs] two-thirds of the price of the system that we are replacing.

Our use cases are virtualization, micro-servers, virtual desktops, and databases. If you have a big, single-use data store, that is where we score.

Kshetrapal: You have to look at it from the right perspective. Flash is extremely prevalent today and we know it will be the next medium as time goes on but when we look at it from a design perspective we know that the datacentre - or a large portion of it - will migrate into flash.

The question becomes: how do you take the benefit of the speed of flash and at the same time ensure that the economics are right? If the economics are not right, it does not happen in the right way.

So it is all about the customer's workload and the performance of applications.

Q: Presumably your product IntelliFlash is using technology that you have developed yourselves?

Kshetrapal: As we look into the next generation of storage, we are looking at building blocks for storage. We are looking at firewalls and de-compression but virtualisation and flash were the core where we focused our efforts.

Q: So when you say that you 'design for flash', in what way do you do that?

Kshetrapal: If you look back, when we went from tape to disk, we had to re-define [storage] architecture completely. Now we were distributed across lots and lots of heads. But when you move to flash, the difference is simply that it is a much faster medium but now you have to take care of endurance - the design becomes different.

You have to think of how we have designed systems from the ground-up and go from there. Our system starts with two power supplies, two controllers, and every disk has dual-porting, but those are standard basics these days. You also have to have the regular functionality such as reliability and array technology.

But what has changed is things like, 'Hey, this server has grown 100 times and the network has grown 100 times, so now the centre is taking lots and lots of disk.' You need lots of storage but flash is extremely expensive.

If you take an approach that says, 'What is the customer's workload because that has to be really, really fast?', then it deserves to be in the more expensive portion of the equation.

What you need is a balance so that everything can be driven by flash but the capacity can be disk. So we [at Tegile] are the only ones who focus on saying, 'We don't care if it's all flash, or it's hybrid with the access designed for one operating environment.'

The Tegile Zebi storage array: an array on top with two expansion units below.
Image: Tegile

Q: So how does this work in a customer environment where the customer says, 'Sure, I can do this in all flash, but how much is it going to cost me?'

Kshetrapal: A lot of our customers first want to use an all-flash array because they just think, 'I want to run this in the fastest way that I can'. Then they look at the price and get 'sticker shock'.

Next, they look at the prime applications that they want to run fast. These are typically database applications so we say, 'Based on our configuration, you can buy an all-flash building block and it will run all your databases but for the remaining portion we can add other options'.

Q: But doesn't that put the onus on you, the supplier, because you need to have the right people who are capable of giving customers the right advice?

Kshetrapal: What we are typically finding is that companies come to us with an idea of what they want but this can quickly change. We had a hedge-fund company that had a particular problem - the manager would be trying to shut down the New York operation in preparation for the Hong Kong [stock market] opening but they did not have enough time to run the analysis before the switch-over.

So a big part of it was to look at what their analytics and databases were doing and to see what the impact would be of shifting it to flash. We did that and a 22-hour load went down to four hours. Now for a hedge company that is a big potential gain.

So we collect analytics of every array and the analysts are able to predict when they see a potential problem. There are bound to be spikes in the system but what happens is that as the analytics run, and get better as they run, we can go back to the customer and say, 'Hey, you have changed some of your analytics and we can see some bottlenecks coming up. Here's our best practice on what you might do.'

Q: Tegile is your company?

Kshetrapal: Yes. I have always done startups. I have 18 years of doing startups. Prior to this I did a network control systems company [Perfigo] that became part of Cisco.

To us it is all about bringing the right people to bear. So we did a large part of the core engineering work which has been a large part of our success, and then we have been able to attract the right resources.

Q: So where do you get your memory from?

Kshetrapal: Our value really is the software block. We work strongly with other partners and from a component manufacture point of view, that is Western Digital/Hitachi. They are a large investor in Tegile so we have had joint development all along with them to optimise the way the SSD is used. We do the same thing with SanDisk, which is also an investor.

Further Reading:

Microsoft promises drastic cuts in disk space use for Windows 10

How would molecular storage work?

Power-hungry SSDs: Hotter than disks

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