ClearSky Data Exits Stealth With Novel Approach To Cloud Storage

ClearSky Data emerged from stealth today, offering an unusual approach to storage and data lifecycle management. It wants to combine the speed of on-premises storage with the cost and elasticity of a cloud service.

While it’s a fully managed service, it involves several layers of storage with an on-premises piece, a local cloud data facility, and longer term public cloud storage. The location of the data in this hierarchy depends on how quickly you are likely to need it.

Businesses have been looking for a way to take advantage of the economies of scale the cloud offers, but have often been stymied by latency issues getting the data where it’s needed most when using cloud services, Ellen Rubin, CEO at ClearSky Data told TechCrunch.

“When we talk to customers, they are telling us that they don’t want to be in the infrastructure business, and are trying to consolidate data centers. We are trying to match storage to the way it is consumed today,” she said.

To achieve this, it’s offering a 3-tiered approach. First it installs a fully managed appliance on-premises, where it stores a cache of the most important data in the organization. This is the information that people need to access the most.

Next, it has a co-location facility with Digital Realty within a 120-mile radius of any customer’s location to deal with warm data — that is, data that’s important, but not used quite as often as the on-premises data. Finally it uses inexpensive Amazon S3 storage for archived data that a company doesn’t need very often.

The solution uses software algorithms to determine where the data should reside, and it also deals with standard kinds of storage services like de-duplication to reduce data size along with backup and disaster recovery. Rubin claims her company’s approach is approximately one third the cost of a traditional storage solution.

The company is actually using an approach similar to a content delivery network (CDN). The way a company like Netflix is able to deliver streaming video on-demand instantly is via a network of servers located throughout the world that can deliver the content from the closest server to reduce latency. ClearSky’s approach is very similar, delivering data from the location where it makes the most sense for the given type of data.

Steve Herrod, managing director at General Catalyst Partners and one of the funders of the company says that he sees many storage pitches each year, and it’s hard to find one that stands out, but ClearSky Data did.

It’s difficult to manage the complexity of a service like this on your own, and it’s capitally and operationally expensive, he explained

“With the cloud, companies can’t get the latency [level] they need for real on-premises workloads. The best situation would be combining on-premises performance with off-premises expansion. It seems so obvious that [we assumed] someone built something like this, but nobody has until now” he said.

ClearSky Data is based in downtown Boston. It has 30 employees and about a dozen Beta customers so far.

The company has been around for about 18 months and received $12 million in funding led by General Catalyst and Highland Capital in January, 2014.