All-Ireland cloud firm has the potential to scale up globally

4 Aug 2011

Cloud computing is inevitable, but encouraging Irish businesses to move to the ‘cloud’ and trust that their data can be stored and backed up remotely via a broadband link is no easy task.

In part, the battle is psychological, because firms are used to their data sitting within the four walls of their businesses. Technology uniquely created in Ireland by Belfast and Limerick firm DataGrid is aiming to make it easier for SMEs to adjust to this seismic change in computing, however.

DataGrid, an Enterprise Ireland high-potential start-up, has developed a hardware box powered by an Intel Atom processor that includes powerful software to allow firms to back up their data overnight to a data centre and retrieve it instantaneously when they need it.

It is appropriate that a country that has done so much to help build the cloud – from the hardware made locally by Intel and EMC to the software divisions of Microsoft, VMware, and many others – has spawned an all-island business.

The DataGrid Back-up Appliance and Cloud Services Solution has already excited the interest of major technology firms, including Intel and Microsoft, and the company is about to go global with various distribution deals. DataGrid appliances start at a 1TB (terabyte) size and scale up from there, with off-the-shelf systems currently available up to 10TB.

Managing director Deirdre McDonnell believes the technology addresses a need that no manufacturer has yet addressed.

“The product itself is a hybrid appliance that can sit locally in an office and by pressing a button replicates vital data offsite in a secure data centre.”

Made in Ireland

DataGrid’s technology is designed and manufactured in Belfast while commercial services development takes place in Limerick.

The technology has been designed by Sam Gaw who says that the system works on all operating system types as well as enterprise software from giants like Microsoft, Oracle and VMware.

“The data can be backed up during the night or any time the firm wants; it doesn’t interfere with their day-to-day operations. And if they want to retrieve the data they just flick a switch.”

Gaw says the product was primarily built for SMEs as an off-the-shelf appliance that can sit unobtrusively in their offices.

“We chose Atom processors because their energy consumption is very low.”

He adds that the company, as it grows, will be able to scale the product up to take on larger processors for larger enterprise needs.

“The beauty of this is scale; we built the technology so we know we can build bigger boxes. We are already being asked by firms with many branch offices to create a larger solution.”

McDonnell points to the company’s plans to scale up internationally: “We are in the process of preparing the system for a certain number of territories. The feedback we’ve gotten from resellers and colleagues in industry has been quite strong.”

She says the company has deliberately refrained from taking on significant venture capital so far.

“Our strategy has been that we want to develop this as far as we can without relinquishing too much control. I like to challenge the status quo and do things differently.”

One of the first international resellers to take on the DataGrid cloud appliance has been Steljes.

“We’re pretty excited about this technology. We’ve taken it to partners in Ireland and the feedback has been positive,” explains Greg Tierney from Steljes Ireland.

“From my perspective, what makes this unique is that it addresses SMEs’ concerns about security because the data is encrypted even before it goes to the data centre.

“It also means small and medium businesses are no longer having to bother with back-up tapes. This gets rid of the time-consuming work of backing up data and does it in real-time, inexpensively. I can see it doing very well internationally,” Tierney says.

Photo: Sam Gaw of DataGrid who designed the company’s Back-up Appliance and Cloud Services Solution

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years