ClearSky Data Raises Another $20M Amid Cloud Arms Race

Xconomy Boston — 

[Updated 11/13/18, 12:05 pm, with executive comments throughout.] The data storage wars rage on.

Boston-based primary data storage and backup provider ClearSky Data has raised $20 million in new funding to bring more customers aboard its “on-demand” hybrid cloud storage system. To date, ClearSky has taken in $59 million from investors.

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that more money is flowing into enterprise data storage and cloud services outfits aiming to manage the cascades of business data faster and cheaper. In October, IBM (NYSE: IBM) dropped $34 billion to pick up Red Hat and boost its cloud business; in August, Palo Alto, CA-based VMware (NYSE: VMW) snatched up Boston-based CloudHealth Technologies; and in September, another Boston-based cloud storage company, Wasabi Technologies, took in $68 million to wage cloud warfare on Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL), Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), and IBM.

The $20 million ClearSky investment comes from an unnamed “market-leading technology provider”; Lincoln, MA-based Pear Tree Partners; and earlier investors, including General Catalyst Partners, Highland Capital Partners, and Polaris Partners. ClearSky CEO and co-founder Ellen Rubin declines to identify the mystery technology backer but says it is a “publicly traded” “well-known brand” in the enterprise infrastructure world.

ClearSky says it has already doubled sales from last year and is growing its customer base to include businesses such as Partners HealthCare, Massachusetts General Hospital, Nuance Communications, and Unitas Global. The funding is meant to expand the company’s sales, marketing, and support staffs, Rubin says.

The company’s system consolidates the myriad levels of traditional data storage into a single system that manages on-site file storage, off-site backup, and disaster recovery. ClearSky shuttles an enterprise’s in-demand data to on-site “edge” storage, while less frequently used data is backed up at local data centers and multiple cloud-based servers.

“Traditional approaches to enterprise data storage are breaking down in the face of exponential data growth, cloud-first IT strategies, and the need for data access across multiple locations,” George Crump, president of Storage Switzerland and an IT analyst, said in a prepared statement. He concluded that chief information officers are increasingly preferring “a hybrid cloud strategy to gain the resilience and durability of the cloud with the performance you can only achieve at the edge.”

A second prong of ClearSky’s news is a partnership with Equinix, a Redwood City, CA-based company that manages a network of data centers across the world. In essence expanding the company’s footprint of data centers, the deal will triple the number of markets for ClearSky, Rubin said.

This network of nearby storage — not on-site and not in the public cloud — is what Rubin says gives ClearSky its edge by slashing latency for enterprises accessing stored data.

“It’s one of the things we think is unique and addresses fundamental challenges for using cloud for enterprise computing,” Rubin says. “What’s unique is we’ve taken this fully managed storage approach. The state of the industry is: I’ve got gear, put it in your infrastructure and there’s a cloud gateway for cold data.”

“We have decided we are going to handle the whole lifecycle,” she adds.

Taking a holistic view to data storage means ClearSky is aiming to eat everyone else’s lunch — Dell EMC (NYSE: DVMT), NetApp, Nimble Storage, Pure Storage, Veeam, and Cobalt Iron.

Rubin says she’s keeping a close eye on how companies are increasingly storing data across many public cloud services, as the names above and others like Oracle and Iron Mountain have started to catch up to Amazon.

“I continue to be struck by the players in the cloud wars. Obviously in the beginning it was Amazon, and it was Amazon, and that was it,” Rubin says. “Multi-cloud is more than I’m just saying it, and I have to go figure out whether there are better options.”

ClearSky also announced it added Roger Cummings as chief revenue officer. Cummings most recently worked at Boston-based SevOne, the maker of monitoring software for IT infrastructure. ClearSky’s last capital infusion came in a $27 million deal in November 2015 that included a strategic investment from Cambridge, MA-based Akamai Technologies (NASDAQ: AKAM).

Photo: ClearSky co-founders Laz Vekiarides and Ellen Rubin, courtesy of ClearSky