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Primary Data

Primary Data is developing data virtualization solutions that transform datacenter architectures by matching data demands with storage supply across a single global dataspace. With Primary Data, applications, servers, and clients gain the ability to transparently access data while it is intelligently migrated between direct-attached, network-attached, private and public cloud storage to deliver unprecedented manageability, performance, and efficiency. The Primary Data platform features an intelligent policy engine that automatically places data on the right resources across file, block, and object storage to meet evolving application requirements in real time. Visit us at
Primary Data and the Top SSD Companies list
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who's who in SSD? - Primary Data

by Zsolt Kerekes. editor - - November 2014

Primary Data, founded in 2013 and with operations in Salt Lake City, Silicon Valley and Israel - is the most ambitious storage software startup I have ever encountered.

The company - which has $63 million in funding at the time of writing this - emerged from stealth mode this month.

What Primary Data's platform offers - is an architecture for transforming 20 to 30 years of inherited data market archeology into the scalable and flexible modern world.

It's a bigger step than simply replacing hard drives with SSDs. But it's part of the same story.
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memoryfication, controllernomics - and other real and invented words used as conversational handles to forensically grip and rotate subtle new emerging and imagined SSD design concepts
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another $13 million for Primary Data
Editor:- February 17, 2014 - A report in - shared from the linkedin page of Primary Data's CMO - Rick White - says that Primary Data (which is still in stealth mode) has secured another $13 million funding - bringing its total funding up to $63 million.

Editor's comments:- there's a lot of speculation about what this new company is doing.

Primary Data's founders changed the enterprise server market with their previous startup Fusion-io (founded in 2006).

Before Fusion-io - server makers didn't want to talk about SSDs.

After Fusion-io - no server maker could launch a new enterprise server product line without including SSD acceleration as a standard option. (Because Fusion-io signed up most of the key server oems as "PCIe SSD inside" which made all server makers hostage to the fortunes of SSD).

When Primary Data launches its products later this year - what will its products look like?

From the hints dropped so far - it seems that Primary Data will aim to shake up the enterprise architecture world with a new platform which leverages SSD enhanced servers as the worker ants in a new software scheme which spans everything from the local cluster to the cloud.

See also:- VCs and SSDs, enterprise SSD silos, SSD software

Rick and Dave's new stealth mode enterprise SSD company
Primary Data gets $50 million initial funding
Editor:- November 11, 2013 - you may be asking yourself - how does a company founded less than 6 months ago - and which doesn't say anything much on its web site - manage to attract $50 million in its first external funding round?

The answer is given by one of these investors, Ping Li at Accel Partners - who - in the recent funding press release - said Primary Data's biggest asset is its team of recognized pioneers in the storage industry. Their technical strength and remarkable experience in successfully bringing disruptive technologies to market will help to solve a number of data virtualization and mobility problems.
  • who's Primary Data? - Primary Data, founded in 2013 and with operations in Salt Lake City, Silicon Valley and Israel - is developing next generation data virtualization and mobility technologies to manage how information is stored and shared globally.
  • what are they up to? - (best guess) SSD software which will change the economics of cloud servers and storage by disruptively improving the utilization efficiency and performance of virtualized apps servers.
Editor's comments:- now if you've been researching this - you'll see that I haven't actually told you any new details about Primary Data which you couldn't already have learned from seeing the public statements which the company has dispersed in various places on the web.

One of the peculiarities about stealth mode companies is they do need to talk to people to get things done - but they also need to control the flow of information about what they reveal for various reasons - not least of which are:-
  • they don't want to alert competitors
  • they might change the details and direction of what they do
Last week I was talking to the founder of yet another stealth mode SSD company - whose web site says a little bit more than that of Primary Data - but I can't say who he is yet either.

I can tell you what he told me, however, which is this...

He had to launch his minimalist web site some time before he would have ideally liked to - because some of his early customers have policies which mean they can't make payments to a company which doesn't have a web site.

Going back to Primary Data - I think I can safely say this.

I confidently predict that when Primary Data does formally exit stealth mode and launch its new products - it will join an elite band of SSD companies (Fusion-io, SandForce, DensBits and Skyera) in entering the Top SSD Companies List within a single quarter. (If not before).
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news October 2018 - Primary Data's cofounder emerges from stealth in Metadata-as-a-Service company - Hammerspace
is Primary Data shutting down?
Editor:- January 23, 2018 - Primary Data is closing down according to a recent article - by Connie Loizos, Silicon Valley Editor - TechCrunch who says among other things:- "Primary Data's lofty valuation out of the gate also apparently worked against the company. Though it announced funding this summer from insiders... we're told that its backers more recently decided they'd rather shut down the company than re-invest on terms they found disagreeable.."

Connie Loizos concludes:- "...The VCs said no. Soon afterward, the company's website went blank." the article

Editor's comments:- Primary Data's web site was indeed blank when I read the article last night - but it has since returned to its previous condition this morning. How significant that is remains to be seen during the next few days.
the impact of file metadata on applications performance
Editor:- October 5, 2016 - The interdependency of storage software, physical storage and applications performance is one of the constantly recurring themes in the SSD era.

When you change one variable - such as the assumption that storage has a single type of characteristic - the old west 6 shooter rotational model which underpinned all data IO requests in legacy systems software - to a faster machine gun model - with futuristic options verging towards the light saber and photonic data shots - thanks to solid state storage - then data systems architects have more degrees of freedom around which they can optimise system effectiveness.

A recent blog from Primary Data - Accelerate Applications by Offloading File Metadata Operations - gives a top level view of why it can be useful to offload file metadata operations from storage arrays. Among other things the blog reminds us that...

"Storage array CPUs can spend significant processing cycles keeping up with all the metadata operations such as managing file permissions and tracking open and close events that might otherwise be used for processing data I/O. In some cases, this can bring both storage and client application performance to a crawl." the blog
Primary Data emerges from stealth
Editor:- November 19, 2014 - Primary Data - the most ambitious storage software startup I have ever encountered - today emerged from stealth mode - with 2 announcements.
  • 1st announcement

    The news that Steve Wozniak has joined the company as Chief Scientist.

    Wozniak who cofounded Apple in 1976 - elevated the general visibility of fledgling Fusion-io when he joined that company in the Chief Scientist role February 2009.

    The impact of this was assessed and captured in a 2011 blog by Woody Hutsell - who at that time was working at erstwhile enterprise SSD competitor - TMS. Woody wrote at that time (2011)...

    "I used Google trends data to see if there was an inflection point for Fusion-IO and I found it. The inflection point was their hiring of Steve Wozniak. What a brilliant publicity move... I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to create a similar event at TMS. I thought if we could hire "Elvis" we would have a chance."

    Today (in November 2014) Primary Data's cofounder - Rick White said...

    "With Woz on the team along with Lance and David, we now have the band back together, and I'm amped to be reunited at Primary Data."
  • 2nd announcement

    The unveiling of Primary Data's first product - a storage virtualization platform that will be able to virtualize, migrate, manage, coalesce and reprioritize vari-natured and variously siloed enterprise data - which has been trapped in legacy containers - into a single usable global dataspace.

    The company's press release says - "Just as server virtualization decoupled compute from the underlying server infrastructure, the Primary Data virtualization platform decouples application data from the underlying storage infrastructure to bring dynamic data mobility to the enterprise for the first time. Data virtualization gives applications, servers, and clients the ability to transparently access data while it is intelligently migrated between direct-attached, network-attached, private and public cloud storage across a single global dataspace to deliver unprecedented manageability, performance, and efficiency."
Editor's comments:- Primary Data - which was founded in May 2013 by the same people who created Fusion-io - and which has already received $63 million in funding - is in my view set on a course which could lead to it becoming one of the top 10 enterprise software companies in the next 5 years - and one of the top 5 storage software companies much sooner than that.

I had gained a good idea of what Primary Data might be doing from various conversations I had with the cofounders (Rick White and David David Flynn) during the past year - when I approached them to ask for feedback and a sanity check about some forward looking SSD articles I had written.

This is the kind of thing I do - with SSD market visionaries - when I know I'm thinking about a topic which is placed so far ahead in time that maybe only a handful of other people on the planet are thinking about it - and when I want to be sure that I haven't fallen off the edge (of possible realities). This is so as not to lead you - my readers - too far astray when you read these articles. Although I can't always guarantee that.

So when I spoke recently to David Flynn, cofounder and CTO - Primary Data) and Lance Smith CEO - Primary Data - about the company's exit from stealth and its product - I had already got there by fast forwarding from what I knew before.

Here's what you need to know now.
  • Primary Data isn't in the SSD market.

    Although having said that - its core technology is predicated on the general market availability of low cost flash acceleration in servers.

    So why write about them here?

    Well - in the same way that all enterprise data intersects SSDs - so too do some software products intersect more frequently with SSDs than others. Common examples being Oracle and VMware and various operating systems.

    If my guess is right - Primary Data - will join that elite set of software infrastructure products which are commonly encountered in the enterprise.
  • What's the availability of the product?

    Primary Data is testing an early version of the product in selected customer sites.

    These are organizations which have a huge amount of data which they would like to be able to leverage more conveniently. Example industries mentioned to me being :- semiconductor design, and oil exploration.

    When I asked - when will people be able to generally buy the product - I was told - the back end of of the 2nd half of 2015.
  • What problems does the product solve?

    Typically enterprise data is "trapped" in silos - which relate to the applications or the brands of storage system the data was born in. Although it's theoretically possible to extricate this data for other purposes or to migrate it to storage which has different characteristics - the processes for doing this are risky and time consuming - due to interpendencies between applications and the metadata. As a result - data is less flexible and business opportunities for data reuse are restricted by the migration costs.

    Primary Data's platform will enable user organizations to manage their data more flexibly - by decoupling the data from its original physical origins (DAS, NAS, SAN, cloud etc) and placing it in a globally managed virtualized storage space - which eliminates the barriers of interdependence between data, and particular storage products and applications.
  • Impressions of the architecture.

    I knew from my earliest conversations with the founders that Primary Data's product is very ambitious in scope

    It has to be able to reach into and understand every type of popular enterprise storage system - and be capable of extracting the data and creating new customer value by understanding the relationships between data, applications and user policies.

    At the center of the product is a data hypervisor - which provides abtractions for every control characteristic you might want to attach to data.

    David Flynn told me that when you ingest data from one type of legacy storage and migrate it to another - the code which does the left hand side of the work doesn't need to know what the ultimate right hand side is going to be. These translation processes into and out from the hypervisor to supported real storage products are designed to be decoupled. I realized that will make it easier for Primary Data to add support for many additional storage classes and applications - while eliminating the risk that some migration sets might inherit different capabilities than others.

    Patents? Early in the life of the company - when I asked about likely timescales for getting any product to market - I learned that - as for many startups - an important milestone was getting patent applications filed. That's why one of the company's earliest hires was a full time patent person.
  • The big idea.

    Data in the enterprise today looks and behaves the way it does because all products (systems and applications) have inherited architecture and ways of managing data from decades of market evolution.

    If you were starting to design to design a data processing architecture today - which encompasses the big ideas about SSDs, the cloud, virtualizing servers and virtualizing storage - you would do things a different way. It would be more flexible and enable you to have more freedom about how to repurpose and prioritize data.

    Clearly it's unfeasible to throw away old applications and old infrastructure.

    What Primary Data's platform offers - is an architecture for transforming 20 to 30 years of inherited data market archeology into the scalable and flexible modern world.

    It's a bigger step than simply replacing hard drives with SSDs. But it's part of the same story.