May 18, 2017

Formation Data Systems closes its doors

Formation Data Systems (www.formationds.com), Software-Defined Storage player, seems to be in a tough position. We heard that the company has some financial difficulties that invite them to close doors without any other choice.
It was very short notice that surprised all the team except the management we hope. It represents a new failure in the vast fuzzy Software-Defined Storage (SDS) wave after Seanodes, Tonian Systems, MaxiScale, Infinit, Inktank or more recently Basho Technologies but we hear others... Three of these - Tonian, Infinit and Inktank - got some luck and finally a second chance and got acquired - saved - respectively by Primary Data, Docker and Red Hat, all at very good price.
The company was founded by Andy Jenks and Mark Lewis. The LinkedIn profile of Andy Jenks, who was co-founder, COO and board member until June 2015, indicates that the company was founded in Sept 2012. Mark Lewis was co-founder, chairman and CEO and he was also CTO at EMC many years ago, has spent some time at Compaq during the ENSA era, if some of you remember that initiative when SAN storage took off, and even before was at Digital Equipment. Crunchbase mentions 2013 as the founding year for Formation Data Systems (FDS). The other executives were Kevin Chew, Jeff Alexander, Eric Chan and Rick Walsworth. Rick Walsworth, VP Marketing, confirmed he has left the company even if his LinkedIn page continues to mention Formation Data Systems as we write this article. Vinay Rao, founding Chief Architect, Kiran Agrahara, Chief Solutions Architect, and Fred Langen, Customer Success Engineer, are looking actively for new position according to their LinkedIn pages.
FDS had raised $24.2 million in 3 rounds from 6 investors, among them Dell Technologies Capital and Mayfield Fund. Of course Dell who owns now EMC has already several SDS products in its catalog and Mayfield already invested in SwiftStack. Some individuals were also listed as advisors of the company such Kumar Malavalli, CTO and founder of Brocade, Aaron Levie, CEO of Box, Steve Luczo CEO of Seagate and Jerry Kennelly CEO of Riverbed.
Wow with all these brilliant people, top investors, and a hot market segment really promising, what happened?
It's a surprise for the industry and market observers. The company didn't publish any Tweets since November 2016, last PR was February 17th, 2017 and last blog post was published March 6th, 2017. Companies has to pay attention to these indicators, some times old school executives forgot them
Also, the management and career pages on their web site disappeared. The visibility of the company was really limited and known finally only by specialists.
This trajectory could serve to other companies to learn from this case and doing reiterate same mistakes. The company never took off even if on the paper the approach was almost compelling. It means that even with great DNA, track records and famous leader, starting, building and growing a company is a different story.
It represents of new failure for SDS, in that case probably too generic, wishing to do everything as a multi-protocol and generic storage software solution instead of addressing specific use cases. I know they tried to articulate this new position but obviously it was too late.
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