Nasuni Snags $20M More for “Storage as a Service”

Where else but the Boston area would you find a startup looking to disrupt traditional enterprise data-storage companies like IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, NetApp, and, yes, EMC?

The company in question is making progress in a crowded field. Natick, MA-based Nasuni has raised a $20 million Series C financing round led by an undisclosed new investor (not a venture firm). Previous investors North Bridge Venture Partners, Sigma Partners, and Flybridge Capital Partners also participated in the round. The startup has raised about $43 million since its founding in 2009, making it one of the better-funded storage startups around.

Nasuni is part of a wave of companies that are trying to turn traditional storage infrastructure into a utility service. The company’s technology takes care of cloud storage, data management, and online backup, and it’s geared towards distributed enterprises with offices in different locations. The software stores all of a customer’s files with a given cloud storage vendor (like Rackspace or Amazon), but it also keeps copies of working files cached to a local storage system so they can be accessed quickly and securely.

This sector of enterprise storage is highly competitive and is seeing some consolidation. Earlier this month, Microsoft said it is acquiring StorSimple, a cloud storage “gateway” company, in what looks like an effort to boost Microsoft Azure’s chances against the other cloud vendors. (Which makes me wonder who might be investing in Nasuni without disclosing it. Amazon? EMC? Hitachi?)

Nasuni’s CEO and co-founder, Andres Rodriguez, says his company is on pace to triple its revenues in 2012 as compared to last year. Its customers include Vistaprint, Walsh Construction, and organizations in manufacturing, law, and education. “We’re not talking about a new technology,” Rodriguez says, but rather, “a whole new way of doing business” in data storage.

Rodriguez is a storage and media veteran, formerly of Abuzz, The New York Times, and Archivas. Here are some more highlights from my chat with him:

On the challenge of selling storage: “Selling isn’t easy,” he says. “You’re telling customers you can run their storage safer and better than they’re running it today. It’s a hard thing to let go of your data. It’s a tremendous amount of work.”

On lessons learned from his previous companies: From Archivas, he says, the lesson was to “always sell a full system, a full solution,” and to “sell to mid-size enterprise first, they are much better early adopters.” At the New York Times, where he ran digital strategy as CTO, he was on the other side of the table, buying storage. “It’s like buying a car—they confuse you, and you end up paying much more than you came in with, for lots of things you don’t really need.” As a storage vendor, there’s “pressure to charge for new features,” he says, but “I’ll charge for capacity and that’s it.”

On Nasuni’s future: “We are heading toward becoming one of the great storage companies,” he says. “We will be the leaders in storage as a service.”

On the possibility of being bought by an Amazon or Microsoft: “We’re not a good acquisition target for them.”

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