Stratoscale targets VMware with fresh approach to taking on the datacenter

After a second round of funding, the startup is hoping to convince datacenter owners to look beyond the one-server-at-a-time idea.
Written by Niv Lilien, Contributor

Israeli startup Stratoscale's fresh approach to datacenter management has been attracting notice of late.

The company recently closed a Series B funding round, raising $32m. The round was led by Intel Capital, with partners including Cisco and SanDisk also taking part. Stratoscale's earlier funding round in 2013, the year the company was founded, was led by Battery Ventures and Bessemer Venture Partners, and brought in $10m, taking the total startup's total funding to date to a little over $40m.

Stratoscale pitches itself as offering a different take on datacenter management and resource allocation. It creates a converged infrastructure over legacy hardware and x86 servers, alongside centralized support for containers and virtualization alike - putting the company head to head with VMware and other rivals.

"Though we are all operating in the same field, our products are different in our abilities and how we do it," CEO Ariel Maislos said.

Maislos is no industry rookie. He was one of the cofounders of Anobit, which created a faster SSD controller and was sold to Apple two years ago for $350m, and also a cofounder of Psaba, a startup specializing in fiber optic data delivery that was acquired by PMC-Sierra for $300m. Maislos' partner Etai Bogner is another industry veteran, and among the founders of Neocleus, later sold to Intel, and SofaWare, subsequently acquired by Check Point. Bogner now serves as Stratoscale's CTO.

Maislos and Bogner are taking a fresh look at the datacenter. While current products tend to focus on one server at a time, Maislos believes that approach is inefficient, difficult to manage, and outdated. Stratoscale's ideas is that in a server ranch with thousands or tens of thousands of servers, IT resources management products need to cope better with that scale, and be able to configure an entire rack at a time, while unifying all the computing and storage resources under one system and one layer.

"We take a look at all the IT resources, sit on top of them, controlling all the servers," said Maislos. "We took what VMware did, and applied it to tens of thousands of nodes, while supporting newer technologies... it allows organizations to be more efficient in resource allocation, and much more agile - doing more with less hardware," he says.

"We supply everything a customer needs... we supply the virtualization layer, and we made what Openstack offers more sophisticated," Maislos adds. "Being a software solution, our product can be loaded on any standard server, and we allow customers to bring their own hardware."

Stratoscale is aiming for three different target audiences. Firstly, the enterprise market, looking at IT departments that control their own infrastructure and decide not to use public cloud services. Secondly, the smaller cloud services suppliers themselves, which don't have the same resources as Google or Amazon, and lack the ability to develop products in-house in the way that tech giants do. And thirdly, companies that run a five-figure number of servers and need flexibility and products that will allow them to grow without adding more hardware.

Stratoscale is promoting the idea of universal computing, where applications share the same physical infrastructure. It supports both virtual machines and Linux containers, eliminating the need for separate environments.

On the storage side, Stratoscale supports distributed block storage service, which "cuts through" all the I/O interfaces on the storage device (be it a magnetic hard drive or SSD) and that replicates the data across multiple nodes, making sure information will be accessible even on hard disk or server failure event. Intelligent caching stores the most frequently accessed data on the lowest- latency storage device, and the entire thing is built on ZFS. Stratoscale's has already been backed by SanDisk, which says the company will contribute to a faster adoption of SSDs in datacenters.

Stratoscale's software can also distribute both virtual and physical resources automatically and handle workloads in real time, assigning the best hardware available for each job, while detecting interference and allowing preemptive workload management - and is doing all of that in what the company calls a "single pane of glass" for command and control.

"Our solution is being built from the ground up," Maislos says. "We want to allow our customers to manage tens of thousands of nodes, from any node... There is no central point of authority, no failing point. We change and adapt all the time, and all the information is spread all around. The more nodes you have, the more efficient we are."

Stratoscale is currently in private beta phase and yet to announce a full product. However, its current round of funding is aimed at allowing the company to finalize product development, alongside bolstering global marketing and sales.

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