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YourStory Exclusive: California based Indian Entrepreneurs powering petabytes of cloud storage, the Gluster story

Chandan Raj
20th Sep 2011
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Gluster

Gluster enables businesses to build Google or Facebook like scalable storage on top of commodity servers. Introduced in 2006, GlusterFS is the leading free / open source cloud file system today, powering 1000s of deployments and multiple petabytes of storage. YourStory got in touch with the Hitesh Chellani and Anand Babu Periasamy – the entrepreneurs behind Gluster to get to know about their journey till now.What’s with the name Gluster? How did the idea come about?

The name Gluster comes from GNU plus Cluster.

We first founded Z RESEARCH in 2005 with the goal of simplifying clustered computing. Our first prospect was Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), a Venezuelan state-owned oil company. PDVSA needed a prototype compute and storage solution to increase its petroleum production.  The compute side was easily addressed, however seismic data required petascale high-performance storage with a high degree of reliability. We looked at various options, but eventually ended up writing a file system from scratch, taking a fundamentally different approach to implementing a scalable storage operating system.

We began with 200K in angel investments and in 2006 closed our first order with PDVSA which was 500K.

Tell us about your background.

Hitesh Chellani has been leading the overall strategy and business execution for Gluster since co-founding the company with AB in 2005. Prior to Gluster, he was at California Digital Corporation where his role was business development and systems engineering. During his tenure at CDC, Hitesh managed the system integration facility that deployed the ‘Thunder’ supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory which at the time was the second fastest supercomputer in the world. Prior to Gluster, he co-founded two trading companies in Dubai UAE where he managed business development and sales. Hitesh began his career as a software engineer for Tata Unisys in India. He holds a Bachelors Degree in Engineering from Bombay University.


Anand Babu Periasamy, Hitesh Chellani

Anand Babu Periasamy as CTO and Co-founder sets the vision and strategy for the Gluster product platform. Prior to Gluster, AB served as CTO at California Digital Corporation, where his work led to the scaling of the commodity cluster computing to supercomputing class performance. He drove the adoption of cluster computing and GNU/Linux at enterprise data centers and helped close strategic accounts at CDC. In 2004, AB led the development of the world’s second fastest Supercomputer “Thunder”, for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. AB also serves on the board of “Free Software Foundation – India”. He is the author / contributor to various other Free Software projects like GNU FreeIPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface), GNU Garp (Gratuitous ARP Daemon), bios-config (edit/replicate CMOS parameters), librpci (RPC interpose for GNU Hurd), GNU Freetalk (Scheme extensible messenger for Jabber, Google talk), and Freehoo (Scheme extensible messenger for YahooIM). He holds a Computer Science Engineering degree from Annamalai University, Tamil Nadu, India.How is Gluster solving the cloud storage problem?

Here is an example case study for our customer Brightcove, one of North America’s leading online video platform and content delivery network.

Problem

Brightcove needed a scalable high performance storage for their video content. Traditional storage solutions from large vendors were simply too expensive and did not meet scalability requirements.

Solution

Brighcove sys-admins found GlusterFS through our community and learnt by themselves to create a petascale video storage system on top of low-cost commodity servers and Ethernet networking. Once they were in production, they approached us to purchase commercial subscription. Benefits include easy scaling capacity with centralized management, one administrator to manage day-to-day operations and huge savings for customer.

How big is your Customer base?

Gluster currently has over 150 customers and likely thousands of community deployment of its flagship file system, GlusterFS. Most of the success is in digital media storage, for example photos, audio, video, music and just documents. We are seeing new traction in cloud, virtualization and big data use cases.

Gluster Community Deployments Highlights


Gluster Customer Base

How is Gluster’s offering unique compared to other players in the same space?

We enable cloud storage providers. Gluster is a software only storage product. Users procure hardware from their own hardware vendor of choice. We see deployments both in the public clouds and private clouds. Everyone wants Google-like storage to handle the explosive growth of data.

What makes Gluster different from a business angle is its software only instead of hardware appliance, scale-out instead of monolithic, commodity hardware instead of purpose built, open source business model instead of proprietary model.

One of the major differentiators is in terms of the technology. Developing file systems was considered notoriously complicated and time consuming. Scalable file systems were one of the hardest computer science engineering problems. We knew back from the supercomputing days that simplicity was the key to scalability. If the foundation is simple, we can do complicated logic on top of it. We inverted the storage operating system design by making file system as the operating system container. We came up with elastic hashing algorithm to eliminate the need for meta-data servers. We then took a micro-kernel based OS design to push the storage operating system functionalities to user space. User data is kept in simple familiar format to easily restore from failures. Additionally, the file system heals itself automatically without down time. There are many clever innovations in GlusterFS, yet we consider the key differentiation is “common sense”.

How do you foresee Cloud Storage shaping up in future?

IDC recently reported the storage software business will grow by 7.8% in 2011 and public cloud computing services will be a $72.9 billion market in 2015, up from $21.5 billion in 2010. Just these numbers alone are very telling of what the cloud storage market will be like in the next five years.

Cloud is rapidly commoditizing scalable computing and storage environment. Google like infrastructure is available to all, with no initial investment or expertise. Cloud is about to unveil a revolution in the application space.

We are starting to see queries from large hosted service providers and Telcos who want to build out an AWS-like equivalent or a cloud to offer platform as a service (PaaS) to their customer.

What’s your take on the Indian Cloud Story and what is Gluster’s strategy?

The India cloud market is not very far behind the US and given the price sensitive nature of customers in the Indian subcontinent, cloud could take off in a big way.

We will continue to expand our R&D team in India. India is leaping into the cloud computing segment, making a paradigm shift on the technology fronts. The Indian cloud market will exceed $4 billion in the next 4 years so there is lot of potential for us to grow.

So, GlusterFS is free/open source, how is the company generating revenue?

Gluster's business model is similar to Red Hat and MySQL. We offer commercial subscriptions for our open source cloud storage platform. These subscriptions provide support, updates, upgrades, and access to the Gluster Support Network. We also offer professional services and training. Our products are available via direct purchase from Gluster, our network of over 30 resellers and partners, and via cloud partners such as Amazon and Rightscale. Gluster is sold on as a subscription (either monthly or annual) which is charged (as appropriate) per server node, virtual machine, or cloud compute instance.

Did you raise any further round of funding after the initial angel investment?

We announced an $8.5 million Series B in November 2010 and have raised $12.5 million to date. Both rounds including funding from Index Ventures and Nexus Venture Partners who both see a clear demand for a disruptive and innovative approach to storage that matches the trend towards lower cost solutions and greater manageability.

How has the journey been so far?

Building a storage company is a very hard challenge to take on. Many startups and even large vendors are working on solving the storage scalability problem. Only a few survived the storage startup curse. Gluster and Isilon (now EMC) are amongst the lucky ones.

We strongly believe in people. Everything about Gluster is about our team. Technology is secondary. We have kept the working environment fun. The open source business model helped us in a big way, from finding passionate people to high profile customers. Our open source community helped us build a large QA platform, viral marketing engine, training program and knowledge base. Additionally, what helped us keep down cost was we took a software only approach; and, most importantly, we kept our burn rate low.

Tell us about the team behind Gluster?

Gluster currently has 66 employees and a veteran executive management team which includes ex-Plaxo CEO, Ben Golub. For five years prior to joining Gluster, Ben served as the President and CEO of Plaxo, a social networking infrastructure pioneer backed by industry luminaries Michael Moritz (Sequoia), Ram Shriram, Globespan Capital and Cisco. Ben led Plaxo through a complete turnaround, bringing the company to profitability, over 20 million users, and a large and successful acquisition by Comcast Interactive Media.

Along with Ben we have John Kreisa, VP Marketing with 18+ years of marketing experience at Cloudera, Mark Logic, Verix, Business Objects and Autometric, Dave Garnett, VP of Product Management with 15+ years of product management experience at companies including HP and Axcient, Lori Budin, VP Channels with 12+ years in Sales Strategy and Channel Development at Verisign, Channel Fundamentals and Mike Backlund, SVP Sales with 12+ years in Sales at BayNote, Quorum, Interwoven

And, we are looking for talented individuals to join the Gluster team. We are actively hiring and are looking forward to add team members in India, Europe and Sunnyvale, California headquarters.

 

YourStory wishes Gluster team the very best in their cloud storage journey. For more detail about Gluster please visit their website - www.gluster.com and to connect with the GlusterFS open community visit www.gluster.org

Chandan Raj | Bengaluru

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