Actifio picks up $33.5M in funding to push PAS data protection appliance

Startup Actifio closes funding round to develop its Protection and Availability Storage (PAS) appliance that replaces data protection point products.

Actifio today closed a $33.5 million funding round, giving it a treasure chest to market and develop its alternative data backup and disaster recovery product. 

Most of the funding money in storage this year has gone to emerging solid-state and cloud startups, but Acitifio scored a large round despite playing in the mature data protection space. Actifio isn’t particularly well known among storage vendors, but founder and CEO Ash Ashutosh said the company has more than 100 customers in barely a year of shipping products. Most of the customers are enterprises and service providers, Ashutosh said.

Actifio’s product - Protection and Availability Storage (PAS) - is an appliance that uses Actifio software to store and manage metadata of all protected data. It also virtualizes copies of data so they are available when needed. Instead of having copies in different places, PAS serves as the only source of secondary data. Actifio calls its key technology a Virtual Data Pipeline, which is a distributed object file system that manages a unique copy of data and uses change block tracking to make frequent copies of that data. PAS also uses continuous snapshots and data deduplication. It requires no other backup software to protect data.

The PAS appliance scales from one to eight nodes. Originally launched as three products in 2010, Actifio has combined all of its technology into one PAS appliance. Pricing begins at $25,000 and depends on the amount of data under management.

“We’re virtualizing the way data is managed,” said Ashutosh, who founded storage resource management startup AppIQ in 2001 and was a chief technologist at Hewlett-Packard for three years after HP bought AppIQ. “We see the future of backup having no backup software. We virtualize data onto disk, and we can re-use data for many applications. That’s how we go back and shrink the footprint and make operations simple.”

Andover, Mass.-based RDK Engineers and Londonderry, N.H.-based conveyor belt manufacture Wire Belt Company have turned to PAS to streamline backups and replace tape as their primary method of data protection.

Steven Reboulet, IS manager of RDK Engineers, said he switched to Actifio about a year ago after his old backup method of Symantec Backup Exec and HP tape libraries could no longer protect his company’s mechanical drawings, business documents and mail system in a reasonable time.

“We would back up to disk, then to tape,” he said. “Each server and virtual machine would have its own license, and we would stage to disk and then stage to tape. The problem was, I could no longer even stage to disk or do backups over a weekend. A full backup was a luxury. It was running into Monday.”

Reboulet said he now takes full snapshots every two hours between 6 am and 5 pm, and snaps again at 9 pm and 3 am.

RDK still uses tape for monthly backups to keep copies of clients’ data for years. “We keep a weekly snap for four weeks running, and a monthly snap for one year running,” he said. “On Friday night, I can mount snaps to my backup server with a tape library and it serves up those snaps. My backups are complete to tape by Sunday evening.”

RDK installed two Actifio boxes in Andover, Mass., for high availability. Reboulet said he intends to place another Actifio box either in a rented colocation site or in the company’s Charlotte, N.C. office.

RDK uses an EMC Clariion SAN, and Reboulet said he looked at EMC Data Domain and Avamar,  as well as beta tested the deduplication in Backup Exec 2010 before choosing Actifio. He said PAS was simpler to use, and he got more capacity for less money. He now needs only one Backup Exec license instead of licenses for all of his servers and VMs, saving thousands of dollars a year.

“I was a little nervous trusting all my data to a startup,” he said of Actifio. “But they had a great platform and explained it well.”

Actifio can run in-band or out of band. Reboulet said RDK does it snapshots out of band. “None of my users notice any slowdown,” he said. “If I bring a device offline, I don’t have to disconnect the network.”

He said Actifio is working on the one feature he found lacking. “I would like to prioritize my deduplication,” he said. “If I want a segment of an image or just a directory, I would like to just re-inflate the dedupe image of that area as a priority.” He said now it takes about two hours to re-inflate data going back a year or more, “but it’s still faster than a tape restore.”

Wire Belt system administrator Jason Axne said he uses Actifio to back up servers six times a day, and he can restore a server in minutes. Wire Belt uses its PAS to take snapshots from VMware vCenter, track delta blocks changes in the snaps, dedupe the data, and move it offsite.

“We have a backup tape drive for… ‘just-in-case’, but it becomes less relevant as time goes by. We haven’t tried to recover from tape since we got Actifio,” Axne said.

Like RDK, Wire Belt uses PAS out of band. “It doesn’t touch our production environment. If it goes down the production environment is unaffected,” Axne said.

Wire Belt has 24 TB of raw capacity on its PAS. It has one PAS onsite and one in a colocation data center for DR. It doesn’t use any backup software with PAS. Axne said he looked at using a Data Domain appliance with CommVault Simpana software, but it became too expensive to replicate data offsite. He also likes that Actifio doesn’t require agents. “It culls snaps from vCenter, and we’re done,” he said.

Actifio’s third funding round brings its total to $57.5 million. Andreeson Horowitz led the round with previous investors North Bridge Venture Partners, Greylock Partners and Advanced Technology Partners participating. Andreessen Horowitz general partner Peter Levine also joined Actifio’s board.

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