Object First Launches with Backup Optimised Object Storage for Veeam

Veeam co-founders Ratmir Timashev and Andrei Baronov have launched a new company: Object First. Its goal is to provide an on-site object storage appliance specifically for Veeam backup data in the mid-enterprise. They’ve raised $12.5 million so far to bring their solution to market.

There will be a 2U 128 TB option and a 90TB version of the appliance to begin with, in beta for the moment and targeting general availability at the end of 2022. The sizing is squarely aimed at the stated target market of the mid-enterprise.

They’ve brought on industry veteran David Bennet (ex. Webroot, and most recently President and CEO at Axcient) as CEO. His experience with security buyers aligns nicely with the anti-ransomware pitch for Object First, as does his focus on the middle market.

“The backup world still uses old-style block and file technology,” says Bennet. “We believe there’s an opportunity now to say that the new way of doing it is object-based storage for backup.”

While there are other object storage options out there—such as Cloudian, Scality, Minio, and of course AWS S3—Timashev stresses that they are not optimised for backup data.

“They’ve built solutions for a specific use case: distributed enterprise applications,” says Timashev. “That’s where all the money is, and we understand that. But it means that they’re not very optimised for backup.”

“In their use case, you have to read and write little bits of data in multiple places, in lots of containers. In the backup use case, you need to write—and read—lots of data in one place,” he says.

This is why Timashev doesn’t see Cloud First as competing with other object storage vendors.

Object First plans to be generally available at the end of 2022 to coincide with the release of the next version of Veeam. Veeam V12 will add the ability to use object storage as a backup target directly from Veeam. Timashev said that Object First had been working closely with Veeam to add the necessary APIs to Veeam, and to optimise its object implementation specifically for Veeam backup data.

Object First hopes to bootstrap the market for dedicated Veeam backup storage targets. There’s a need for nearline capacity for rapid recovery, as restoring from cloud over the WAN just isn’t fast enough for mid-market companies that can’t afford the bandwidth and egress fees to restore 50TB after a ransomware attack. If they’re already using Veeam, Object First provides an option that is hard for mid-market companies to achieve in other ways today.

“We actually want people to use public cloud,” says Object First CEO David Bennet. “We slot firmly in between the primary copy and the public cloud and make the whole thing really easy as well.”

Analysis

With a total of $12.5 million in funding so far, Object First has managed to do a lot without taking on much external funding so far. They’ve also launched with laser-focused positioning which makes me very happy.

Object First cited IDC research indicating a roughly $2bn annual market for purpose built backup appliances. Primary storage keeps growing, and ransomware doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, so protecting it from damage is a growth market (unless Bitcoin properly collapses and cuts off the economic motivation for cybercrime, but that’s a digression for another time). Veeam customers are also a large enough market by themselves now, about 450,000 of them and around USD$1.3 billion a year (USD$647.17 in 2H 2021 as announced at VeeamON 2022).

While it’s billed as a hardware appliance, the appliance is really just a way to deliver backup-optimised object storage software. I’ve yet to see anything particularly special about the hardware, but it provides a convenient way to deliver the software to mid-tier enterprises that need backup storage but don’t want the hassle of figuring out the hardware bill-of-materials or how to install the software. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a software-only option appear in the future.

Object First is very carefully positioned to a clear subset of the market. Depending on the price/capacity/performance that is unveiled—I’m told it will be compelling—I’d expect the high end of SMB and the low end of enterprise will also be attracted to at least explore Object First as an option. And that’s the danger for enterprise object storage vendors.

This is pretty obviously just a first step. Data Domain should be worried, because this looks like a textbook disruption play to me (specifically, The Innovator’s Dilemma by Christensen). While Object First might not be going after the enterprise market today, it would be foolish to imagine that they won’t once the technology is more accepted and refined. Backup data is very sticky, so sweeping incumbents out won’t be trivial, but Data Domain did it so it can be done. Competitors should start working on a countermove if they aren’t already.

I eagerly await actual performance and pricing information, but even without it, I think Object First will do well. The founders have an excellent track record and the logic of the offer makes plenty of sense to me.

Storage is never boring.