Briefing Update

Burlywood Aims to Nudge Cloud Providers to an All-Flash Future

The emergence of the hyperscale cloud providers coincides with a fundamental realignment of the data center hardware industry. As Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and other huge server customers like Facebook buy the plurality of the server, networking and storage hardware produced for data centers, the very specialized needs of those companies are distorting the supply chain.

Server and storage vendors have fewer traditional enterprise customers to sell traditional data center gear to; or at least those enterprise customers may need less of the server, storage and networking kit than they used to now that they’re putting some of their workloads in the cloud.

Up in that cloud, meanwhile, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform and IBM Cloud are meeting those enterprise customers’ needs at scale, with storage, compute and networking hardware units that bear less and less resemblance to the pizza-box gear that populates most enterprise data centers.

To create that specialized gear, the Microsofts, Googles and Amazons have custom relationships with suppliers: they dictate the specs of the hardware that they’ll buy, work with contract manufacturers and carefully manage their supply chain for maximum cost savings.

One newly-formed company is aiming to be a part of that process, both for the hyperscale providers and the tier of cloud service providers below them. That company, Burlywood, offers a solution that makes customization of flash storage hardware optimized for specific applications much faster than the current process.

Burlywood, based in Longmont, Colo., exited stealth mode last year with the launch of its TrueFlash software. In a briefing with ActualTech Media, Director of Product Marketing Mike Tomky explained how Burlywood is trying to nudge the industry toward all-flash data centers. The motivating idea behind the company is to solve the problem that while flash is faster, denser and lower power than disk-based storage, the one-size-fits-all solutions are not a fit for many use cases. The other problem Burlywood is addressing is that the development of customized SSD solutions can take even the hyperscale giants nearly a year.

Burlywood has created software that allows for fast customization of the programmable controller within an SSD. For hyperscale customers, an engagement would include selling the software and the controller and licensing the SSD design work of Burlywood’s on-staff experts. For tier two cloud providers, Burlywood has relationships with contract manufacturers and supply chain partners to deliver the soup-to-nuts SSD.

Where the approach has the potential to shine is that most SSDs on the market are very similar. They tend to be enterprise-grade SSD, which is fine for storage that’s supporting a wide variety of workloads. Cloud provider workloads, however, tend to be very specialized. For example, a specific group of SSDs might exclusively work with cloud storage or with content providing or with streaming video. In those cases, a specialized SSD can deliver performance gains and cost savings. Those savings tend to be highest for hyperscale providers, Burlywood projects, but still will be substantial for smaller-scale cloud providers.

While the enterprise fits within Burlywood’s eventual mission for an all-flash data center future, the solution is mostly a cloud provider play right now. Yet even enterprises would see the gains if their cloud providers rapidly optimize their SSD.

Burlywood represents an interesting approach in the industry: some vendors try to be all things to all people. Burlywood, however, sees an opportunity to fill a narrow, but very important, niche. And as cloud computing grows, the potential need for this kind of service should grow with it.

More information is available on the Burlywood website.