December 5, 2014

Scalable Storage for SMB

Exablox (, leader in scalable storage for SMB, invited a few days ago the IT Press Tour group for a deep session about their product and market approach. Founded in 2010 by several storage veterans, the company remained in stealth mode for a few years developing OneBlox, its storage offering. In fact, at that time, the company was named OneBlox as well. Remember the famous post I made in September 2011. The company now fully visible is still in private mode with 50+ employees and promotes a clear mission: provide to the enterprise a storage solution very easy to deploy and manage, highly scalable and available for data and data access at a very efficient price. OneBlox is a scale-out storage platform for mid-market with enterprise-class features meaning that the product could fit in many various large configuration. The other key aspect of the product is to unify primary storage with backup and archiving needs. Even if Exablox can sell one appliance but with 3 drives, the idea is to build clusters in a ring topology with a minimum of 3 nodes (with 1 drive) to satisfy the data durability and availability. The other particularity of the approach is the fact that Exablox sells only the empty appliance promoting the Bring-Your-Own-Drive model while insisting on the absence of margin on disk drives. The 8TB drives will be supported in January 2015. Exablox recognizes that its value is in software and sell only that piece installed in the appliance. End-users can make their own choice of drives. This also translates in the pay-as-you-grow model meaning that you don't over provision storage and you just need to deploy and add HDDs when needed. It's a huge saving when you think about the 30% cost down every year. The company has 15 patent pending meaning that the innovation is a key driver. For go to market strategy, Exablox relies on the channel with a full indirect force. As the product works very well with clear values for the end-user, Exablox mentioned some very impressive statistics that helps revenue predictability:
  • ~15% of deals close the same day,
  • ~35% of deals close in less than 7 days,
  • ~70% of deals close in less than 30 days.
In term of technology inside, Exablox OneBlox is based on object storage technology. A node in the cluster can store 1.3B objects with 5% of the storage raw volume dedicated for metadata. Each object has 32kB in size and OneBlox offers deduplication at the object level. Outside, only file sharing protocols are exposed and today only SMB is possible. The team told us that NFS is planned for the next few months, we'll check that as it is also a key point for adoption. Exablox also develop its own file system named SmashFS that sits above the object layer and gives the global namespace behavior. Also, key for market adoption especially for SMB with low IT resources, snapshots and CDP technics are provided by OneBlox. Also, globally data protection is solved with replication at the object level and the company is one of the firm believers that RAID is dead at scale.
The cluster is managed via the cloud with a web gui named OneSystem so every cluster deployed on the planet can be easily monitored and managed without any pain.

The product is ready for large adoption, the company chose the right path for market validation but there is no limitation in the product and the technology chosen that prevents the product to be largely adopted in enterprise. Except probably erasure coding that at large scale introduce some financial limitations but again this is not a technology limit.

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