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Cloud storage gateway firm: Selling to end users? Meh. We'll leave it to CSPs, et CTERA

Reg storage man looks into upstart's prospects

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A briefing from folks at cloud storage gateway upstart CTERA revealed there was more to the firm than Reg storage desk had thought.

CTERA was founded by Liran Eshel and Zohar Kaufman after experience running a company in the SMB network security area and producing appliances. Eshel is CTERA’s CEO and Kaufmann its VP for research and development.

Its funding history is opaque:

  • Founded 2008,
  • July 2008 - undisclosed A-round,
  • January 2009 - undisclosed B-round from Benchmark Capital,
  • March 2012 - undisclosed C-round, thought to be around $15m.

The latest round was "led by Venrock, with a strategic investment from Cisco and participation of existing investor Benchmark Capital". The cash will be spent accelerating the buildout of CTERA’s infrastructure. Cisco is an investor and its ISR G2 router can function as a CTERA gateway.

CTERA launched its first cloud storage gateway in 2009 “by bundling Network Attached Storage (NAS) and cloud storage services into a single appliance. The new technology marries the performance and simplicity of a local NAS device with the scalability and reliability of cloud storage to enable service providers to launch new consumer and small business services.”

We’re told “2011 was a year of rapid growth for CTERA, culminating in seven consecutive quarters of consistent double-digit revenue growth and reaching more than 100,000 business end users, primarily in North America and Europe.”

CTERA said 2012 saw “saw 500 per cent annual revenue growth for the second year in a row, adding up to 12 consecutive quarters of double-digit growth.” It experienced “strong demand for cloud-based file sync and share and remote office storage solutions.” There were more than 100,000 end users in 2012.

Now we hear 2013 saw customer growth triple, from 7,000 to 21,000. These are customers who pay to use CTERA-based services from its managed service provider customers, equivalent to resellers.

The number of deployed gateways passed 30,000. You’ll note the lack of comparable data with 2012, such as an increase in the number of quarters with double-digit growth or the percentage of annual revenue growth, indicating, perhaps, that growth has just slowed a little.

The rate of growth inclines us to think that the three-round funding history has a $5m, $10m, $15m pattern with total funding of around $30m-$32m - but this is just a guess.

Denworth tells that customers buy into CTERA as an enterprise-wide initiative and the firm has customers which serve up to 30,000 users. Rani Osnat, VP for strategic marketing and customer experience said: “Our go-to-market is diametrically opposed to Nasuni. It wants to own its customers and is a full service: a solution provider and service provider. We're a technology vendor and sell to people who may be solution providers.”

Nasuni, Osnat said, sells gateways and resells the cloud part of it using its cloud service partners. CTERA has a much broader portfolio, providing file-based cloud storage gateways which can use on premise or public cloud storage as the file vault. It also provides backup services through these gateways using agents and CTERA backup software. A customer can manage the CTERA estate through the CTERA Portal, a single console. Supported storage suppliers include:

  • AWS
  • Caringo CASTOR
  • EMC Atmos
  • DDN WOS
  • HDS HCP
  • OpenStack Swift 2.0
  • Scality RING

The backup software and managed agents have these features:

  • Automated scheduled local and cloud backup
  • Selective file backup and "bare metal" disk-level backup
  • Bandwidth optimised cloud backup with block-level de-duplication
  • Support Windows, Linux and Mac
  • Application-aware backup for Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server, SharePoint and Active Directory
  • Microsoft Hyper-V backup and restore for VMs

There are two types of customers: private cloud builders, and cloud service providers and builders. The CSPs sell CTERA-based cloud storage gateways and through them cloud storage services to end users, effectively being CTERA resellers. We’re told CTERA kit can grow to any level of scale and number of users and comes with the concept of a virtual private cloud.

CTERA says it makes a managed services platform with plug-in storage services, such as backup and file sync 'n' share. Denworth said customers in Europe include Swisscom, Orange and other telecom CSPs. Others are in the top 10 organisations in financial services, pharmaceuticals and utilities. Typically they are organisations with mire than 20,000 employees. He said there has been “a tremendous uptick in our products.”

The competition includes ShareFile and Box in the sync 'n' share arena, Druva and Symantec in backup, and Riverbed in the gateway market. CTERA partners HP for data centre infrastructure bids.

Expansion plans this year include an up to 60 per cent increase in headcount new people have been hired to be SVP Marketing (Jeff Denworth) and VP for N America’s sales (Bob Dohorty). CTERA intends to build out its infrastructure in the Americas, Europe and Asia-Pacific regions.

CTERA seems to be growing fast on the back of its CSP resellers as well as its own sales to enterprises. We might suppose it will be seeking to support Cleversafe’s object storage and extending its public cloud support to include Google and Azure. Our assumption is that the wider the cloud storage gateway in terms of back-end targets, the better. Also, converging backup and file sync 'n' share on the gateway seems to be a smart move.

Our overall take on the funding is that CTERA does not appear to have taken in a lot of money and seems to be using its VC funding efficiently in terms of the number of customers and end users. We might think a 2015/2016 IPO could be on the cards if growth continues at the current rate. ®

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