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Spinnaker vets strike out on storage adventure

Famous five leave NetApp

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Avere, a 2008 startup founded by Spinnaker vets from NetApp, has developed a system which attempts to combine the performance of solid state drives with the low cost of hard disk drives, in an architecture that dynamically tiers data onto the most appropriate media.

That sounds like Compellent, dynamically moving data blocks on demand from HDDs to SSDs so you get cheap storage of lots of data and very fast access to the hottest data. But it's not Compellent, being targeted at network-attached storage (NAS) instead.

Spinnaker Networks was co-founded in 2000 by its CEO, Ron Bianchini, and developed a clustered file system that attracted the attention of NetApp. It bought Spinnaker in 2004, wanting to integrate its clustering technology in its ONTAP operating system. That has proved to be a lengthy and difficult exercise, with a GX clustered version of ONTAP sold alongside the non-clustered mainstream ONTAP 7G. It is widely expected that NetApp will announce a combined clustered and mainstream ONTAP 8 later this year.

Bianchini co-founded Avere in 2008 with fellow NetApp and Spinnaker veterans Michael Kazar, chief technology officer, and Daniel Nydick, engineering VP.

At NetApp, Bianchini was a senior VP and ran its Pittsburgh technology centre. Kazar was a VP and the chief architect of ONTAP GX at NetApp, having developed the clustered file system technology at Spinnaker with Bianchini.

Nydick was ex-technical director at NetApp and helped architect ONTAP GX, having architected the O/S, networking and client-facing protocols at Spinnaker. He left NetApp in 2007, as did Kazar.

Avere's CFO, John Dean, was senior director for corporate development at NetApp and previously Spinnaker's VP for finance. He left NetApp in September 2007, and then joined Vivisimo, an enterprise search company. He departed in July 2008 for Avere.

Avere's VP for marketing, Rebecca Thompson, also comes from Vivisimo. Two companies down the CV, she had a stint at FORE, which made ATM switches. Nydick also worked at FORE, as did Kazar and Bianchini. Thompson left Vivisimo for Avere in April this year.

These people go back a long way together.

There is one other known NetApp connection. Sam Robb is an SW development team member at Avere and he joined from NetApp in September 2008, where he helped design and implement aspects of ONTAP GX.

A Matthew Howard from Norwest Ventures sits on the Avere Board. He was also Norwest's representative on the Spinnaker Networks board. There is a second investor, also with board representation, Menlo Ventures.

The Avere website shows an image of hardware units, probably rack-mounted ones. It says it - the product, presumably - is coming in the fall of this year. Or in the next few months, in other words.

We might imagine that the Avere product will be clustered filer nodes featuring tiers of SSD and HDD storage, with transparent file movement between the two based on demand patterns. Think Compellent for files as a crude shorthand. ®

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