The pearls of wisdom perfectly summarize the efforts of Ash Young, a technology leader with over two decades of experience in storage. Young is the pioneer of open source NAS stack, unified block storage stack for Linux, storage management software, and has been heavily involved in NFV. Yet, his contribution to the storage industry does not end here. He was profoundly inclined to create a smart storage solution that goes beyond gathering data to actually apply analytics, AI, and machine learning to the raw data for processing it. “This can reduce costs, latency, and more importantly, network backhaul as it enables edge devices to respond to an event by analysing data rather than sending it to cloud, and waiting for a command from it,” he says. Working with various partners across verticals like telecom, IT, and more, Young understood that everybody wants to expand from the data center out to the edge but are clueless about doing it. So he wanted todevelopproducts to leverage AI and machine learning at the edge. In 2017, Young laid the cornerstone of his company, Cachengo, to provide high performance and easy to deploy storage systems to meet the increasing demands of edge computing. While other providers move the data to computing, the company drives the computing to where the data sits. “We are revolutionizing the storage industry to fill the void of end-to-end solution for deploying and managing AI at the edge just like how Apple defied all the reasoning and logic by introducing iPod in the early 2000s when the mp3 player market was completely fragmented,” explains Young, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Cachengo.
Cachengoconstantly works on evolving its products to meet market demands. The company engineered its products in a way that it can be installed in locations that are very small in size. The company offers an ultra-smart drive suited for the edge called Symbiote, which infuses computing power directly onto a drive.“Symbiote is our execution engine. It is designed to go places that traditional computing technologies cannot, whether due to space, power, or cost constraints,” says Young. Each Symbiote drive becomes a stand-alone computational platform and server, addressable over the network, and can act as an object storage device. Unlike its competitors, Symbiote enables clients to control the drive’scapacity with the option to choose the type of software to run.The Symbiote drives can then be clustered and packaged into a variety of configurations. Cachengo has designed smart storage hardware that combines eight Symbiotes in a small (4" x 6") package known as Bento. The hardware is optimized for the edge computing, can easily be installed in a car's glove box, on a plane, or a power pole. Similarly, the company’s Pizza looks like a medium-sized pizza yet packs 32 Symbiotes for an unprecedented amount of computing and storage power in one low-power package. In addition, Cachengooffers Juke that builds upon the same Symbiotes and the same modular sled that’s used in both Bento and Pizza.
Yet Juke can house 96 Symbiote servers in a 1U by 30” enclosure. That’s more than 4,000 servers in a standard 72” rack.
We are revolutionizing the storage industry to fill the void of end-to-end solution for deploying and managing AI at the edge just like how Apple defied all the reasoning and logic by introducing iPod in the early 2000s when the mp3 player market was completely fragmented
To connect millions of Symbiotes, Cachengo created a new type of SD-WAN, Hive Connect, which is like the conscience for the system.It enables clients to handle all of its communications without depending upon Secure Shell. They can communicate with all of the Symbiotes for diagnostics and deployment of applications. Such a capability helps them to clubSymbiotes together as a teamthat acts as a single unit.“Unlike other SD-WANs, we don’t utilize any kind of VPN, everything is truly peer to peer,” says Young.Cachengo empowers clients to carry out all the functions that can be done via SSH through its Hive in a fully trackable, secure, and auditable fashion. The company also provides a Hive Portal, where clients can easily configure Symbiotes by simply using the drag and drop feature. They can easily select an application or service from the catalog and drag its icon onto the node to provision, which happens within seconds in the Hive Portal. In some cases, deployments, which have taken hundreds of hours to provision, now take just seconds with the Hive Portal. In a nutshell, Cachengo provides the required tools to run the servers and racks in an extremely simplified manner such that clients can use them without coding.
Elaborating on a customer success story, Young talks about a content company that approached Cachengo to help with their next-generation cloud platform. The client was intrigued by Cachengo’s reference platforms and its value proposition of Capex and power savings. After examining the client’s use case, the company decided to integrate an object classification engine into its file system. This allowed the client to screen every frame in every scene for relevancy, a particular color, brand, and more. “The outcome of this enlightened the customer to new revenue generation means, based on what we had developed. At that moment, we transitioned in their eyes from a cost center to a revenue center.”
A Silver Lining in the Cloud
Cachengo’s team is constantly reading about new trends and talking to customers to stay ahead of the innovation curve. “In the end, we tend to be ahead because we simply dare to imagine what is possible and go for it. I think Steve Jobs had a really good take on this.
Currently, as the world copes with the COVID-19 pandemic, Cachengo has taken the challenge as an opportunity. Rather than laying off its employees, the company decided to retrain people. “It is not easy teaching Linux, the command line, or even how to write code to people with business, fitness, or even English majors. However, we took up the challenge and transformed ourselves and our people to adjust to the pandemic. "In fact, this is what helped Cachengo establish its AI/ML design, integration, and test center in West Tennessee, where the company is not only working with its own technology but also working with top firms like SAS, Ampere, and Supermicro. “At a time, when others were downsizing, we started to hire more and more people. We have been growing this entire time.” Moreover, the pandemic is requiring the shift to work from home and online learning, where computational power is of utmost importance. Cachengo’s low power small form factor perfectly fits the bill. In the future, the company will continue on its mission of providing smart storage for the edge while reducing power consumption.
Keeping a Finger on Market Pulse
Geographically, Cachengo has its presence in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Tokyo. “When you set out to transform the digital edge, you can either wait for all of the dependent stars to align, or you can start to fill in the gaps yourself.” Typically, venture capitalists instruct their portfolio companies to focus on one thing. In the past, this has worked well for the VC who has investments in the right categories of requirements. But the edge is proving to be more complicated than that. And customers want a more turnkey experience these days. That is what Cachengo provides.
“Symbiote is our execution engine. It is designed to go places that traditional computing technologies cannot, whether due to space, power, or cost constraints”
Elaborating on the company’s future missions, Young explains that while the federal government is directing tens of millions of dollars into each state for various Broadband initiatives, there is still scope for improvement.“The problem is an access problem, not a bandwidth one. We see the potential for bringing Broadband to every rural home, farm, small business, and to every back road or small country highway in America,” he adds. And it is not just rural areas. “I hate traveling back to Silicon Valley only to find myself in Palo Alto, unable to check emails. This highlights just how bad the access problem is for all Americans. I believe we can drive the subscriber cost for unlimited voice, data, and hotspot to $30/mo. The time has come to ensure the whole country has access.” He also believes that he can give municipalities and farmers the capabilities to become their own operators and to flip the script by building out the densest network ever imagined, where they get to generate the revenues to reinvest in themselves. Young's ethos of innovation also touches upon the agricultural sector, where he aims to offer technology to ease their jobs, drive new revenues, and help them re-invest in farming, leading to a revolution. "And so, here we are. We produced a product to deliver low-power storage and analytics at the edge, only to find that there is no edge. So, now we are working hard to build that too," says Young.