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Picks and Shovels of AI: Storage, Networking, and Data is getting HOT in the summer heat.

ABSTRACT: This summer, AI infrastructure is heating up as data platforms, storage, and network vendors make significant moves. Nasuni secures a $1.2 billion investment from Vista Equity Partners, TCV, and KKR to enhance its hybrid cloud solutions and support AI applications. Qumulo appointed Doug Gourlay as CEO, aiming to leverage his expertise in unstructured data storage and applied AI. VAST Data earns a high-performance storage certification from NVIDIA, solidifying its position in AI cloud environments. Meanwhile, Megaport and Aviatrix partner to deliver secure, resilient hybrid and multicloud connectivity, addressing the needs of regulated industries. These developments highlight the crucial role of robust infrastructure in AI’s growth.

As we move into summer, which is usually tranquil, AI has flipped the script again.  Data platform, storage, and network infrastructure vendors are making significant moves as the temperatures in the northern hemisphere rise.  The lifeblood of AI is data.  That data has to sit somewhere.  Like the DBMS vendors, storage vendors aim to vertically integrate to add value to the AI stack.  The investment community has caught this.

Nasuni Secures a “10xer” Investment

Nasuni, a prominent enterprise data platform provider for hybrid cloud environments, has announced a significant strategic growth investment led by Vista Equity Partners, with additional support from TCV and KKR. This investment values Nasuni at approximately $1.2 billion, roughly 10x revenue, and aims to build on the company’s strong momentum in the data storage industry. Nasuni’s File Data Platform offers a scalable solution for managing unstructured data, enhancing storage access and performance, and providing robust protection against cyber threats. This platform has proven to be a critical asset for enterprises navigating the complexities of hybrid cloud and AI, reducing infrastructure costs by up to 65%.

The Vista, TCV, and KKR investment will enable Nasuni to accelerate product innovation and expand its global commercial reach. Paul Flanagan, CEO of Nasuni, emphasized the company’s commitment to customer success and quality in every aspect of its operations. With over 850 customers, including notable names like Barnes & Noble, BJs, Mattel, and American Standard, Nasuni has maintained a consistent 30% growth rate and high customer retention. The new funding will further support Nasuni’s mission to consolidate, protect, and manage data at scale, particularly in high-volume AI applications, reinforcing its position as a leader in the rapidly expanding hybrid cloud market.

In a conversation with Paul Flanagan, CEO of Nasuni, he shared his excitement about the news.  One important part was that Vista, TCV, and KKR recognized the immense potential of our technology, especially in the realm of AI and unstructured data management at the edge. The Private Equity team is committed to keeping our team intact, which speaks volumes about their confidence in our vision, capabilities, and of course, continued execution. The robust track record that Nasuni has produced includes consistent growth, and “top-decile metrics” have set the stage for this next expansion phase.

Flanagan also highlighted the strategic fit of the partnership, noting, “We didn’t actively seek new financing, as we are a cash flow positive, EBITDA positive company with a solid balance sheet. However, this opportunity to partner with Vista, TCV, and KKR emerged as a perfect match to enhance what we’re already doing and help us achieve even greater heights. Their expertise will be invaluable as we continue to push the boundaries of hybrid cloud and AI.”

Reflecting on the role of AI in their success, Flanagan added, “The AI aspect was indeed a key factor in this investment. Our ability to manage vast amounts of unstructured data and bring intelligence to the edge aligns perfectly with the growing importance of AI in today’s technology landscape. Our platform’s architecture is designed to leverage the infinite scale of the cloud while ensuring data is where it needs to be for optimal performance, whether at the edge or in the cloud.”

Our Perspective

We see this as a bell weather event in the industry.  Nasuni has been focused on the problem of data at the edge and in the cloud for over 15 years now.  A pioneer in hybrid cloud, Nasuni has long been in front of the wave that has now caught up and is driving the company forward.  Over that time, they built a product with a robust Global File System and the ability to make unstructured data easier to use.  This is key when somewhere between seventy-five and eight percent of all data is unstructured.  

As Paul and I discussed, data will be the rocket fuel for AI.  Organizations are looking for the easy button when it comes to AI, but are also looking for it to be done cost-effectively.  This has been another feather in the cap of Nasuni, bringing the value of wrangling and protecting unstructured data.

Qumulo brings in product innovator

Qumulo, a significant player in the data storage industry, has made a strategic move by appointing Doug Gourlay as its new CEO. Gourlay, who played a pivotal role in the growth of Arista Networks, brings a wealth of experience in innovation and operational excellence to his new position. His appointment is not just a change in leadership but a strategic decision to leverage the growing opportunities in unstructured data storage and management, particularly in the areas of applied artificial intelligence (AI). Gourlay’s vision for Qumulo is strategic, focusing on enhancing the company’s market position by addressing key industry trends and capitalizing on emerging market dynamics.

In a recent discussion with theCUBE Research team, Gourlay emphasized the importance of Qumulo’s strong team, customer-centric innovation, and growth potential. He highlighted the parallels between Qumulo and his previous experiences, noting a shared commitment to quality and innovation. Gourlay’s strategic focus on applied AI, cloud-native implementation, and network-integrated systems aims to address the increasing demand for high-capacity, cost-effective storage solutions. His leadership is expected to position Qumulo for significant growth, aligning with the broader digital transformation trends and the evolving needs of modern data centers.

Our Perspective

Rethinking storage and networking to support AI and machine learning workloads is essential for generative AI to transform data centers. Enterprises require high-capacity, cost-effective storage solutions that can manage diverse I/O patterns at various stages of data processing. The evolution of AI infrastructure will depend on collaborative efforts between storage and networking providers, public cloud leaders, new compute architectures, and strategic partnerships.  Qumulo has many of the pieces that will need to be aligned and focused.

Appointing a product-focused CEO like Doug Gourlay at Qumulo is a strategic move, given the critical role of unstructured data in AI. His expertise in product and execution will be vital for Qumulo’s delivery of software-defined storage services tailored to AI needs. As data centers modernize, networking and storage must rapidly evolve to support the generative AI requirements of new enterprise applications. Qumulo could play a role in these complex and distributed IT environments. As Qumulo rolls out new products to unify and connect data platforms across clouds, data centers, and edge locations, it could drive significant operational efficiencies and accelerate AI initiatives.

VAST receives another “first” certification with NVIDIA

VAST Data has achieved a significant milestone by becoming the first to receive high-performance storage solution certification from the NVIDIA Partner Network for cloud partners. This certification reinforces VAST’s strong position in AI data platforms and highlights its strong collaboration with NVIDIA in developing next-generation AI infrastructure. For VAST Data’s customers, this certification means they can deploy AI models at scale across thousands of GPUs with confidence and security, knowing that NVIDIA has independently validated the VAST Data Platform.

The VAST Data Platform offers cloud service providers (CSPs) a unified set of storage and data services designed to meet the stringent requirements of large-scale AI cloud infrastructure. It supports many AI models via the NVIDIA partnership, from small language models to the world’s largest multimodal models. VAST achieving this certification ensures that CSPs can provide reliable, secure, high-performance, data-centric offerings integrated with NVIDIA technologies. The platform’s capabilities, including multi-protocol data ingest, accelerated data preprocessing, and high-performance storage, enable service providers to manage the entire AI pipeline efficiently. Leveraged VAST features include secure multi-tenancy and fine-grained workload isolation, making it a comprehensive solution for modern AI cloud environments.

Our Perspective

VAST Data has been close to NVIDIA since the beginning.  Unsurprisingly, VAST has become the first to receive the high-performance storage solution certification for the NVIDIA Partner Network for Cloud Partners program. VAST has been doing very well in counting AI clouds like CoreWeave, Core42 (formerly G42), Lambda, Genesis Cloud, and Taiga Cloud as customers.  The common theme is that unstructured data is the lifeblood of AI, and VAST has been capitalizing on this being part of large AI solutions.

We are also watching this trend as CSPs are built outside of massive hyperscale clouds to provide data sovereignty and control. Many of the storage vendors in the community are aiming at this part of the market. We don’t see this being a winner-take-all scenario, but VAST has a first-mover advantage in this space, as it is tightly tied to NVIDIA, not just on the GPU side but also on the NVIDIA Grace ARM-based processor side.

The network is critical to connecting data and AI

Megaport, a leader in network-as-a-service, and Aviatrix, a cloud networking vendor, have announced a strategic partnership to deliver secure and resilient hybrid and multicloud connectivity and control. This collaboration is a significant development in the data centers and cloud services landscape, particularly for enterprises in highly regulated financial services and healthcare industries. As data continues to reside in data centers, the network’s role becomes critical in integrating data and AI seamlessly.

The partnership leverages Megaport’s global private network and Aviatrix’s cloud networking and security solutions to offer secure, high-performance multicloud and hybrid cloud connectivity. This integrated service allows customers to deploy Aviatrix services on Megaport’s Network Function Virtualization platform, Megaport Virtual Edge (MVE), providing access to Megaport’s expansive network that spans over 850 data centers in 25+ countries. The joint solution aims to enhance operational resiliency, regulatory compliance, and cost efficiency, addressing the key demands for secure data and application mobility across various cloud environments. By combining their strengths, Megaport and Aviatrix are poised to meet current market needs and anticipate future demands in hybrid cloud connectivity.

Our Perspective

We see this as huge news for Aviatrix and Megaport. AI will live in more than one place, so having flexible and secure paths to your AI will be essential. Our research shows that organizations continue to bring AI on-premises to the edge. Managing the movement of data and connections of cloud-native and heritage applications working together is high-skill network gymnastics.  Like everything else in the AI infrastructure world, building these networks to support yet another application that may need secure access to unstructured data for retrieval augmented generation (RAG) from a central cloud location or a bespoke file share in an on-premises data center will be complicated.  Solutions like Aviatrix with partners like Megaport could make this easier, especially for highly regulated industries.

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