How an Israeli start-up beats flash’s ‘dirty little secret’

SSDs, the new standard in hard drives, have some serious disadvantages. Israel’s Reduxio has a way to turn the tables

Hard drive (Photo credit: David Monniaux/Wikipedia Commons)
Hard drive (Photo credit: David Monniaux/Wikipedia Commons)

There’s a secret you don’t know about solid state drives (SSDs), those super-fast flash-based hard drives that some believe will eventually replace the traditional spinning mechanical hard disk drives (HDDs). “Flash drives are sexy, they’re very fast and have no moving parts, so they’re not subject to the mechanical breakdowns HDDs are,” according to Mark Weiner, CEO of Israeli-based start-up Reduxio. “They also use less power, and they won’t die if you bump or drop them, like HDDs.”

It’s no wonder that HDDs are increasingly becoming standard equipment on the most popular laptops, such as those from Apple. The super-popular Macbook Air, for example, comes standard with an SSD, and according to Apple, users rave about the speed and stability of their computers — thanks in large part to the speed in reading and writing to disk that is a feature of flash-based SSDs. “But what most people know is that those drives eventually wear out,” said Weiner. “As you write, erase, and rewrite to an SSD, the ‘image’ of the data you are writing gets weaker, and eventually the thing wears out. Apple is betting on the fact that you will get a new, more up-to-date computer before this happens.”

Add to that the other major disadvantage of SSDs — their high cost — and you come to the realization that HDDs are here to stay for the foreseeable future, especially for business, said Weiner. “Prices of SSDs are coming down, but not enough to make a business case for enterprise. For example, a 20 terrabyte (TB) flash-based SSD — the size a small or medium business would need, at a minimum — costs about $50,000, while a 4 TB HDD costs $200.

“However, flash does have a role in enterprise,” said Weiner. “Often companies run specific applications on a server from a flash drive in order to speed things up, so now you are seeing more mixed systems, with HDDs and SDDs operating in a single array. In order to ensure maximum efficiency, you need a good disk array management system, and that’s where Reduxio comes in.”

Weiner is a veteran of the hard drive business; he was one of the founders of Israeli flash technology company XtremIO, which EMC bought last year for $430 million. Weiner, along with Nir Peleg and Amnon Strasser, founded Reduxio last year hoping to fill a growing niche and developing a disk management system designed from the ground up to manage hybrid disk systems. “Other management systems are not optimized for hybrid disk systems,” Weiner said. “We are the first ones to develop this.”

Reduxio does its thing transparently. “All of the disks in an array are managed together, with the software deciding the most efficient way to write data, based on our technology,” said Weiner. The software engine initially writes everything to flash, so users get the speed advantage, and then offloads the data blocks that are not being used to the HDD components of the array.

“On an application server running Microsoft Office, for example, you have a great deal of reading and writing to disk, and if a lot of users are trying to access the server at the same time, things can get really slow,” said Weiner. “Reduxio figures out which files are the most accessed and being worked on and keep them on the flash drive until they’re no longer needed, at which point they are off-loaded to the HDD components.” The result — a hard drive system that gives users the speed advantage of flash, with the cost advantage of HDD.

Last week, Reduxio announced that it secured $9 million in a Series A round led by Israeli VC firms Jerusalem Venture Partners and Carmel Ventures. Reduxio has been a member of JVP’s incubator since it was formed, and Kobi Rozengarten, General Partner at JVP and a veteran of the flash memory industry, said that he found Reduxio’s technology “exciting, with the way it accelerates flash adoption in the enterprise. We invested in Reduxio early and used our incubator to partner from their founding.”

“Reduxio was born from the idea that the only way to truly introduce new and innovative functionality in conjunction with the newest hardware required a completely new base-architecture designed from the ground up — taking advantage of the latest advances,” said Weiner. “For the past decade, spinning disks have not kept up with the performance advances in the rest of the storage architecture. New functionality added to older systems is not always compatible as one layer of complexity is added onto the next. Reduxio is providing answers to these challenges.”

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