Investors back PolyServe's Linux cluster hopes with $20m

Too little, too late?

Broken CD with wrench

File system start-up PolyServe has secured another $20m in funding that should keep it going after the Linux and Windows cluster markets for some time to come.

The latest cash infusion was led by Fidelity Ventures, but contributions were also made by past investors, including Greylock and New Enterprise Associates. The extra cash comes as PolyServe tries to carve out a place for itself in what has moved from a niche to a highly competitive market for powerful file systems. Companies such as Veritas, Sun Microsystems, IBM, Oracle and Red Hat are all attempting to show customers that databases and other pricey business software products can run safely and cheaply on clusters of commodity servers.

"We'll use this latest funding to aggressively accelerate our sales efforts, fully capitalizing on our unique position in the marketplace and leveraging our customer and technical proof points," said Mike Stankey, CEO at PolyServe. "With this investment, we have built a significant operating cushion that will sustain us well beyond profitability and allow us to fully fund strategic initiatives that we could not otherwise pursue."

A couple of years back, PolyServe and Sistina looked set to capitalize on the growing interest around using Linux clusters to run business software. Numerous vendors suggested that Linux clusters would make a quick move out of the scientific realm and into corporate data centers. This transition, however, has taken much longer than the vendors first predicted - big surprise - giving established players time to catch up with start-ups.

Sistina, for example, gave up on its go-it-alone approach and was acquired earlier this year by Red Hat for $30m. Veritas also recently souped up its line of file system and volume manager products for Linux, putting them on par with its own Unix code. Add Oracle, IBM and Sun into the mix on varying levels, and PolyServe faces the stiffest of competition.

With all the software acquisitions that have been made by IBM, HP, Sun and EMC over the past two years, you have to wonder how PolyServe has avoided being bought - that is unless interest in its products has passed.

The company does boast a list of over 300 customers, including Wells Fargo, SBC, the US Department of Defense and Nike. Dell is also rumored to use PolyServe's software.

Earlier this year, PolyServe brought its Matrix Server product over to Windows, giving it access to a small but likely growing Microsoft clustering market. Its products are generally used to help administrators spread a database over numerous servers. The PolyServe software makes sure this cluster can handle failures, keep performance high and expand as needed to keep the database running without flaws. In general, the company pitches this is a low-cost alternative to large Unix servers that run databases inside a single box. ®

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