Because storage needs to get smarter, Tintri raises $125M

The days of storage being all about brawn not brains are coming to a close. Storage needs to get smarter, and Tintri is showing how.

Tintri is all about making storage smart. In the old days, storage users looked for the staunchest storage they could find. It was a case of smashing storage problems by simply applying more force (i.e., bulk) to the storage pool. Those days are rapidly ending, and customers are now looking for smart storage solutions -- ones that can answer their real and, most importantly, rapidly changing, needs.

This is the space that Tintri plays. The company builds smart storage that sees, learns and adapts, from the workloads running around and upon it. Tintri delivers a fully flash-based storage solution that is tailored to virtualized workloads (which means, in plain English, that Tintri sees itself as the perfect storage platform for the cloud).

Tintri joins an increasing number of vendors that are all trying to attack this "storage as a service" opportunity. If we look at the storage industry and the way it has progressed over time, we can see the reason for this trend. In the past, storage was all about delivering as much as possible, for an economic price. Vendors like EMC arose in this era delivering block storage en masse. This was followed by more finely tuned file storage solutions from vendors like NetApp. Increasingly, we are seeing the move toward storage solutions that are attuned to the applications and workloads running in the virtualized environments alongside them -- vendors like SolidFire, Nexenta and SwiftStack are following this opportunity.

And the investors seem to be excited by the opportunity also. Tintri is today announcing a $125 million fundraising round led by Silver Lake Kraftwerk. Tintri's existing investors -- Insight Venture Partners, Lightspeed Ventures, Menlo Ventures and NEA -- also participated in the Series F round, bringing Tintri's total capital raised to $260 million. Justification for this huge raise lies in the systemic changes the storage industry is undergoing. "The storage industry is going through a dramatic transformation. Virtualization and cloud are forces for change -- and conventional DAS, NAS and SAN storage is struggling to keep pace. That's why our message of VM-aware storage (VAS) is winning in the marketplace," said Ken Klein, chairman and CEO of Tintri.

Tintri seems to be growing like weeds. It has returned triple-digit year-on-year growth, and nearly half of its customers are in the over $1 billion revenue bracket. Tintri currently runs more than 400,000 virtual machines, storing 50 petabytes of user data for enterprises and cloud service providers including Chevron, Comcast, ConocoPhillips, European Investment Bank and GE. It also seems to be doing a good job of stealing NetApp's customers from it -- Tintri tells me it has an 85% win rate in deals with NetApp.

The company isn't shy to prognosticate doom for this venerable storage company, telling me that "NetApp is struggling. Their overall revenue and product revenue is declining because they are failing to deliver products that solve real customer problems. They are using storage architecture built for physical workloads when 75% of workloads today are virtualized. Tintri, on the other hand, is built for virtualized workloads: its performance is 6x faster, footprint is at least four times smaller, and the time required to manage storage is 98% less."

Fighting talk indeed. It will be interesting to see if Tintri continues to perform the way it talks. One thing is certain, the storage industry is changing, and those changes will be toxic to traditional vendors.

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