Hammerspace: This Company’s Data Orchestration System Makes Unstructured Data A Global Resource

By Amit Chowdhry ● Nov 21, 2023

Hammerspace delivers a global data environment that spans across data centers, AWS, Azure, and Google cloud infrastructure. Pulse 2.0 interviewed Hammerspace CEO David Flynn to learn more about the company. 

David Flynn’s Background

David Flynn

Flynn told me that he had the privilege of working in the HPC industry in the early 2000s, building the world’s largest supercomputers for Los Alamos National Labs and the DOE National Labs. Flynn said:

“That exposure, combined with other career arc experiences, ultimately led me to build embedded systems. As Chief-Architect at Linux Networx, I helped create the OpenFabrics stack and designed several of the world’s largest supercomputers leveraging Linux clustering, InfiniBand, and RDMA-based technologies. I also served as Project BlackDog’s Chief Scientist and Vice President of Engineering and worked for Network Computer Inc. (Larry Ellison’s company) and Liberate Technologies, a spin-off of Oracle Corporation, developing thin-client solutions.”

 I served as President and CEO of Fusion-io and was the visionary behind the company’s technology and market strategy. Following Fusion-io, which was acquired by Sandisk in 2014, I was CTO and a Board Member at Primary Data. In 2018, I co-founded Hammerspace with Trond Myklebust, the maintainer and lead developer for the Linux kernel NFS client.”

Formation Of Hammerspace

How did the idea for the company come together? Flynn shared:

There’s an interesting theme that came into play early in my career, and that is that flash technology was driven by consumer electronics. I recognized the opportunity to retrofit the consumer electronics-driven innovation into the slower-evolving data center world and have it disrupt data center storage infrastructure. And that’s why I was very early in recognizing the shift towards solid state storage and away from mechanical hard drives.”

 This idea led to me creating Fusion-io and provided the foundation to see the potential of flash technology for solid state storage devices, which generally was used for embedded systems. Fusion-io was acquired by Sandisk in 2014 for $1.1B. It helped me to acquire Tonian assets to launch Primary Data around data management software in 2013. I founded Hammerspace in 2018 and financed the majority of the company myself. My vision for Hammerspace was to make all enterprise data globally accessible, useful, and indispensable, sparking the next level of business innovations. We enable a global data environment for organizations, which unifies file and object silos into a single network-attached storage (NAS) resource and can provide access to unstructured data in hybrid or public clouds.”

Core Products

What are the company’s core products and features? Flynn explained:

“Hammerspace’s Data Orchestration System makes unstructured data a global resource, so teams can access, activate, and monetize their data without interrupting user access. It enables organizations to dynamically orchestrate their data across multiple vendors and operators without creating unnecessary data silos.”

“Hammerspace provides users and applications with the experience of local file access to the same files across existing storage silos, as though all the data everywhere had been aggregated onto a local NAS. This approach encompasses data that may be stored on any storage type from any vendor, including one or multiple cloud and cloud regions. The Hammerspace scale-out architecture provides low latency performance needed for read/write operations, even for extremely high-performance applications, enabling customers to better leverage their current storage investments while accommodating future growth.”

Favorite Memory

What has been Flynn’s favorite memory working for the company so far? Flynn reflected:

I am always inspired by our customers. Ensuring customers’ successful adoption of the Hammerspace technology – especially as our deployment sizes scale – is always on my mind.”

“One of our customers said to me recently that Hammerspace’s software feels magical by allowing one to optimize the maximum value from their digital assets across an entire global data environment that can span vendor silos, clouds, and locations.”

The next challenge I see for Hammerspace is around hyperscale customers and the scale requirements of their deployments. So, that might sound mundane, but it’s what I’m most obsessed about because everything else flows from it – most importantly, whether we are doing all we can to make a difference for our customers. If we can do that, everything else flows from it. And nothing else matters if we can’t.”

Challenges Faced

What challenges have you faced in building the company? Flynn acknowledged:

“The biggest challenge is technological, displacing data storage’s role as the data presenter. Storage infrastructure is what people depend on to render data to them. To replace that with data orchestration is just an immense amount of work. It’s building a file system and a new way of moving data that’s behind the file system.”

“Unlike the other companies I founded, Hammerspace was a bigger project than traditional VCs were ready to handle. Investors weren’t prepared to wait until this complex problem was solved. Building a file system that can span whole data centers, third-party storage systems, and flash inside of servers in a software-defined fashion is a lot of work to build. So, I had to go it on my own and take over the company’s financial burden.”

Evolution Of Hammerspace’s Technology

How has the company’s technology evolved since launching? Flynn noted:

The rise of AI and machine learning technologies has changed the game. When enterprises are able to orchestrate large amounts of unstructured data to algorithms, they will transform their businesses and ultimately win the race to reach the Next Data Cycle.”

“While robust tools now exist to analyze data and tease out actionable insights, file storage infrastructure has not kept pace with these advancements. Our technology enables businesses to efficiently access unstructured data, moving us closer to what the cloud was always intended to be – unified, seamless access to data, irrespective of geography, without silos, unacceptable latency or infrastructure limitations. We are revolutionizing AI development with our approach to data orchestration.”

Significant Milestones

What have been some of the company’s most significant milestones? Flynn cited:

When Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin selected Hammerspace as his company’s data platform for the hybrid cloud, it was one of the more significant milestones for the company. The potential of this is to orchestrate data in space. Data orchestration is necessary to automate data movement when contemplating those kinds of distances, bandwidth, and other constraints.”

Customer Success Stories

After asking Flynn about customer success stories, he highlighted:

We have built a customer base including the Jeff Bezos-backed aerospace company Blue Origin, the National Science Foundation, and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. More specifically, we are working with a ‘superscalar’ company to manage a significant amount of unstructured data that it’s currently using in the building and training of Large Language Models across tens of thousands of GPUs.”

“We provide radical input to feed data in and out of those training systems – with the convenience of a real file system. On the media and entertainment front, major media groups use Hammerspace’s technology to manage their data around special effects development in film and television productions, including projects like the Star Wars movies and Netflix’s Stranger Things, among other outsized productions.”

Funding/Revenue

After asking Flynn about funding and revenue information, he revealed:

In July 2023, we closed our first round of institutional funding.  Led by Prosperity7 Ventures, with participation from Pier 88 Ventures, ARK Invest, and others, we raised $56M. Prior to this financing, we saw a 300 percent year-over-year growth, a 400 percent increase in the mature sales pipeline, and grew our team by over 50 percent.”

“The new funding will support technology expansion and customer service, allowing us to expand our team of skilled professionals dedicated to helping customers utilize unstructured data.”

Total Addressable Market

What total addressable market (TAM) size is the company pursuing? Flynn assessed:

Unstructured data like scientific instruments, machine-generated data, video, images, audio files and office documents are creating the Next Data Cycle, defining how businesses create opportunities and activate innovations. AI, scientific discovery, machine learning, extended reality, autonomy, and corporate video are just some of the industries driving the creation and volume of unstructured data. International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that upwards of 90% of business information is likely to be formed of unstructured data by 2025.”

Differentiation From The Competition

What differentiates the company from its competition? Flynn affirmed:

Data orchestration is a new concept. Our Data Orchestration System provides a global namespace which all an organization’s file and data assets can be found, accessed, and moved as required. It offers fast access to data. Our technology is not a storage repository but a metadata-driven data catalog and software orchestration layer that sits above file and object storage systems – both on-premises and in public clouds. We are the only vendor that can turn metadata into actionable data via policy settings in the same way.”

“Several vendors have file fabrics that link remote and central offices and the public cloud, but they all have their own preferred silos. Whereas Hammerspace, not being a storage vendor, doesn’t have such a bias. Hammerspace’s technology is vastly simpler and more forgiving in terms of how it is designed.”

Future Company Goals 

What are some of the company’s future company goals? Flynn concluded:

The overarching goal of the company is to ensure our customers’ success. I measure that by how much time a customer is willing to invest in us. Learning a new approach to this new data-orchestrated paradigm is a commitment, and we want to make sure we are there to support our customers every step of the way.”

“We want to work with the world’s largest companies at the forefront of the AI race – where our technology can transform how they access and move data in their environments. To do this, we’ve hired some of the foremost engineers to help implement Hammerspace in these environments, starting at the pre-sales phase. We’re hiring people across that spectrum who are generally very engineering-centric and are becoming experts in this new notion of data orchestration.”