Coraid Takes Efficient, Inexpensive SATA Storage Solution to Channel

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

After spending its youth as a provider of storage solutions for Linux shops, Coraid is breaking out with support for multiple virtualization and OS platforms, a top management team and board members, and a new channel chief who says the company will become 100 percent indirect. Coriad's new channel chief hails from VMware and says Coraid's EtherDrive solution is economically disruptive for the storage sector.

VMware veteran Josh Leslie’s goal at his new employer, Coraid, is to take sales of the storage technology vendor 100 percent through the channel.

Coraid provides a less expensive storage solution called EtherDrive—Leslie said it can be one-tenth of the price of competitive products—that appeals to all sizes of business but especially makes virtualization more financially palatable for small and medium-sized businesses. And the price to buy the new solution can even be less than some companies are paying for their storage maintenance fees.

"This is an incredible opportunity, and I believe Coraid is a very disruptive technology," he told Channel Insider of his recent move to the Redwood City, Calif.-based company. "After working at VMware for six years, one of the things you see all the time is how expensive storage is and how much overlap there is in features in the storage layer and virtualization layer. Customers don’t want to pay that much for storage or pay two vendors for the same technology."

Coraid has upped its game in the last few months by hiring Leslie, who joined in December to build the channel program and a new executive management staff after having raised $10 million in venture funding, announced in January. Among the investors is former Cisco executive Charles Giancarlo, who has also joined the advisory board of the company. Kevin Brown is CEO, and venture investors include Allegis Capital and Azure Capital Partners.

Why are these heavyweights piling on Coraid? And why should IT solution providers be interested? Storage can make up 40 percent of the bill of materials in a server virtualization project, according to Leslie. Using Coraid’s solution can reduce that percentage to 10 to 15 percent, which can create incremental margin opportunities for the channel partner or provide the chance for sale of additional technology. And it opens up deals that wouldn’t have been open otherwise, Leslie said.

Coraid’s EtherDrive SR series appliances accept 3.5-inch SATA disk drives and come in four- and eight-disk models, both supporting access speeds of greater than 200MB/s, starting at $2,475. The EtherDrive SRX series appliance comes in three models supporting SAS/SATA disks starting at 16 and going up to 24 and provides access speeds of greater than 500MB/s, the company said.

Coraid’s EtherDrive architecture is designed for virtualization, said Leslie, and runs on Layer 2 of the networking stack, compared with iSCSI, which has become very popular but runs on Layer 3 of the stack.

"TCP/IP provides some level of value, but it’s not written as a storage protocol," Leslie said. "People are not necessarily sending storage over the Internet, so that’s where the inefficiency comes in."

The technology originally supported SATA drives but has since added other types of storage including SSD. Coraid began in 2000 through the development of the AoE (ATA over Ethernet) protocol and began selling storage solutions using the protocol to Linux shops in 2005. The company grew to 1,100 customers and 200 channel partners by word of mouth.

Since Leslie has joined the company, he has winnowed down the 200 channel partners to about 35, looking to create a high-quality channel program. Coraid is offering two tiers—gold and silver. Gold partners must meet a minimum revenue requirement of $25,000. All partners are required to purchase an evaluation model and complete sales and technology training (2 hours and 4 hours, respectively), which is available in person or online. The training and the evaluation model are included in the $1,500 program fee.

The program includes lead generation, deal registration and co-marketing, Leslie said. Coraid is setting up a professional partner portal to facilitate deal registration and provide access to marketing materials.

"We are looking for quality over quantity in terms of partners," Leslie said. "We think the ideal partners for us are VMware and Citrix enterprise or gold partners."

Coraid hasn’t set a number of partners it wants, but Leslie said the goal is to do as close to 100 percent of the business indirect as possible.

"There’s a profound level of disruption that we bring to economics of storage," Leslie said. "We have a compelling proposition to resellers. And we can change the economics of projects."

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com