It’s tough in the current economic climate to hire and retain engineers focused on system admin, DevOps and network architecture. In a recent Gartner survey, IT executives cited talent shortages as the top barrier to adopting emerging technologies. Unfortunately for execs, at the same time recruiting is posing a major challenge, IT infrastructure is becoming more costly to maintain. Business monitoring company Anodot reports that nearly half of corporations are finding it difficult to get cloud costs alone under control.
Aiming to overcome some of the blockers to success in IT, Lucas Roh co-founded MetalSoft, a startup that provides “bare metal” automation software for managing on-premises data centers and multi-vendor equipment. MetalSoft allows companies to automate the orchestration of hardware, including switches, servers and storage, making them available to users that can be consumed on-demand.
MetalSoft spun out from Hostway, a cloud hosting provider headquartered in Chicago. Hostway developed software to power cloud service provider hardware, which went into production in 2014. In 2019, the software spun out as a separate company — MetalSoft — with the goal of broadening its capabilities to service additional service providers and enterprises.
“We provide a turnkey solution to service providers to offer … cloud services,” Roh told TechCrunch in an email interview. “We’re differentiated from others in that we automate and manage the full stack [of infrastructure], including switches, servers, storage and networking as well as cloud enablement.”
So how does that solve the talent shortage and cost overruns in tech? Well, Roh — who previously helped to launched cloud provider Bigstep and the aforementioned Hostway — asserts that MetalSoft’s software can eliminate many of the problems associated with hardware silos, reducing the complexity of managing them to the point where non-technical consumers can build their own infrastructure. By allowing customers to pull workloads back from the cloud and run them in-house if they so wish, MetalSoft can bring down IT costs while offering a higher level of control, including security posture, Roh argues.
For instance, MetalSoft can automatically deploy and configure operating systems and firmware upgrades while discovering running hardware on a network. It also can auto-configure storage volumes and storage-related system network settings, generating a visual blueprint that captures a company’s infrastructure, including servers, storage and networking.
Roh says that MetalSoft’s targeting both enterprises that have their own equipment (for example, in a data center or co-location facility) as well as cloud service providers that want to offer “bare metal as a service” or “private cloud as a service” products to their customers (think a provider deploying infrastructure to a client’s on-premises server room). It’s early days — MetalSoft landed its first customers last year, and the company isn’t talking revenue or operating cash flow at the moment — but Roh claims that MetalSoft’s solution is beginning to gain traction in the marketplace.
“We have some major enterprise customers with hundreds of thousands of devices that we are not revealing but include a major telco and major data center and cloud service providers, and have a strong partnership with major OEM,” Roh said. “In the past couple of years, we’ve especially focused on adding many enterprise features and support for more hardware vendors.”
While MetalSoft competes with heavyweights like Cisco and OpenStack, it’s likely to benefit from the recent uptick in investment in on-premises infrastructure. During the past year, 30% of organizations moved workloads or data from the public cloud back to a private cloud or on-premises or colocation facility, according to a report from the Uptime Institute. Their primary reasons were cost, regulatory compliance, performance issues and perceived concerns over security, the report said.
“We help reduce the cost of IT and we have become even more important in a more stringent spending environment … Our software can help reduce the technical labor requirements while significantly reducing cost while delivering the full functionality to their end-users.” Roh said. “After the spinout [from Hostway], we continue improving our product, especially in terms of the enterprise features that customers need.”
MetalSoft, which has around 40 employees, has raised $17 million in venture capital to date; $16 million came from its Series A that closed this week, led by DNS Capital. Roh says that the proceeds will be put toward growing MetalSoft’s sales and marketing functions and product development.
“We have done quite a bit of work on AI and machine learning that’s not yet part of our software stack,” Roh added. “We are currently working to incorporate AI and machine learning to intelligently manage and monitor bare metal hardware. We’ll be excited to introduce that product the second half of next year.”