Tintri Looks to Remake Storage for the Virtualization Era

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For enterprises ramping up their virtualization deployments, storage poses a significant challenge.

VMware veteran Kieran Harty sensed an opportunity, and in 2008, along with Mark Gritter, founded Tintri, a virtual storage player focused on addressing what Harty calls “the obvious mismatch between virtualization and traditional networked storage.”

“The reason we launched Tintri is that we believe there is a significant unmet market need in storage for VMs. Storage is the leading inhibitor to increased virtualization adoption for enterprises,” Harty, Tinti’s CEO, told Enterprise Storage Forum.

Tintri is a single-product vendor, devoting all of its energies to backing VMstore, an 8.5 TB hardware appliance it bills as the industry’s first VM-aware storage system.

Tintri built VMstore with an architecture that is “radically different” from its general-purpose competitors in the storage space, Harty explained. VMstore relies on VMs and virtual disks, or virtual machine abstractions, rather than more commonplace abstractions, such as volumes, LUNs or files.

Tintri’s appliance measures and controls I/O performance on each virtual disk. As a result, VMstore cuts out layers of abstraction that can put storage and virtual machines out of sync in other schemes. Highlighting the disconnect between server virtualization and storage, the company points to estimates that storage commonly accounts for around 20 percent of an enterprise IT budget, but 60 percent of virtualization budgets.

“Tintri VMstore extends the benefits of virtualization from the server side to storage,” Tintri CEO Kieran Harty told “Tintri enables organizations to overcome storage-centric bottlenecks that hinder virtualization deployments, and to achieve up to 80 percent virtualization rates.”

Tintri’s journey is only beginning. Following its 2008 founding, the company worked in stealth mode for two-and-a-half years developing VMstore and its launch strategy. Then in March, Tintri introduced itself to the world, announcing its ambitious goal to remake the storage arena to catch up with the dramatic shift toward server virtualization that has been transforming enterprise IT.

From 1999 to 2006, Harty headed up desktop and server research and product development at VMware. He left following the EMC acquisition, and devoted his efforts to re-architecting storage for the virtualization era.

Tintri’s VMstore carries a list price of $65,000. It is available directly from the company and through its select channel partners. Tintri is primarily focused on expanding its North American presence and its channel network, but looks eventually to expand into the European and Asia/Pacific markets.

But as a very young startup pitching a potentially disruptive storage technology, Tintri sometimes has to overcome objections when trying to explain how, precisely, VMstore differs from other competitors in the storage space.

“Tintri is producing something radically different from conventional general-purpose storage architectures. The biggest challenge for us as a start-up is helping prospects understand that while every supplier claims to be ‘optimized’ for virtualization, Tintri VMstore is actually a completely new approach, with capabilities that no competitor can match,” Harty said. “The single biggest challenge for us today is increasing awareness.”

In April, Tintri said it was “well along” on the first major upgrade to VMstore. While the exact features have yet to be announced, Harty said that the company is working to beef up the volume of datastores it can manage, enhance its vSphere integration and bring other hypervisors into the fold.

Tintri is backed by $17 million in Series A and B funding from NEA and Lightspeed Ventures.

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