Posted: June 01, 2008
Tech StartupBy Eric Peterson
Company: Atrato Inc.
INITIAL LIGHT BULB
A 15-year high-tech veteran, Dan McCormick recognized a changing market for data storage technology about five years back. Corporate and government entities were looking for fast access to their vast seas of data — measured not in gigabytes but terabytes or petabytes.
"We saw a significant shift a few years ago with businesses like Yahoo and Amazon and Google and realized it was going to go from companies needing to better store their data to companies needing to better access their data," McCormick said.
Soon thereafter, McCormick co-founded Atrato — named for Colombia’s Atrato River, the fastest in the world — and started putting together a world-class data-storage team to develop the product for the 21st century.
Now CEO, McCormick launched the company in Minneapolis but relocated to Colorado within months. "It was really around the vast talented pool of people associated with data storage in Colorado," he said. "It’s proven to be a pretty good move."
IN A NUTSHELL
Currently 45 employees strong, Atrato launched its flagship product, the Velocity1000 — or V1000 for short — in March. The V1000 has a maximum data capacity of 50 terabytes and far outperforms the status quo in terms of both speed and performance.
But speed and performance are not the product’s only selling points.
"It’s a self-maintaining system," McCormick said. "The thing that fails most often (on traditional data-storage systems) is the disk drives inside. Our system is designed to handle failures. Instead of relying on humans to fix it, we built that whole process into the box itself."
McCormick said the V1000 should be able to go three to five years without traditional maintenance, an estimate the company established by testing the product for 23 hours a day for an entire year.
The V1000 is also green, said McCormick, noting, "We use 80 percent less power than a competing system today." He also said the product is more secure because the drives cannot be removed because of their "self-healing" characteristics. With traditional data storage, "You might not know your drives were gone for months. Our box is sealed shut."
Jon Huppenthal, president and CEO of Colorado Springs-based supercomputing leader SRC Computers Inc., is among Atrato’s customers. "We had some customers who wanted really large storage systems, terabytes of memory," he said. "It was unrealistic to have traditional memory."
But Atrato’s technology has proven a perfect fit for SRC’s highest-end clients. "Our customers believe it is revolutionary," Huppenthal said.
IDC pegged the data-storage market at $15 billion in 2008. McCormick highlighted Web 2.0 and supercomputing companies, government agencies, select financial institutions, oil and gas, and video-on-demand as target markets.
Atrato closed on an $18 million financing round in February, including investments from Aweida Venture Partners (headed by StorageTek co-founder Jesse Aweida, who also serves on the Atrato board) and the state of Colorado’s venture fund, High Country Ventures. "These are people who are legends in the storage space," McCormick said.
Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com