Maxta today shed its stealthy trappings to officially announce an enterprise software storage product that gives servers that are tasked with handling virtual workloads a high performance alternative traditional storage area networks (SANs).

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based storage software startup is headed by Yoram Novick, former CEO of data protection specialist Topio, which was acquired by NetApp in 2006. With his latest venture, he’s targeting virtualized environments by taking SANs out of the picture.

“We eliminate storage arrays,” Novick told InfoStor during a phone interview.

His company’s Maxta Storage Platform (MxSP) software runs on commodity hardware and leverages server-side flash (PCIe-based and SSDs) and hard disk drives to provide a shared pool of storage capacity for virtual machines (VMs). It offers “all the enterprise capabilities that you expect from an enterprise solution,” including data deduplication, inline compression, snapshots, replication and cloning capabilities, he asserted.

The hypervisor-agnostic technology completely integrates with server virtualization platforms, boasted Novick, slashing the time it takes administrators to configure and manage storage. Since VM-related data resides closer to server processors relative to a SAN, MxSP provides the storage piece of the virtual data center puzzle, says Novick, and provides a foundation for responsive private, public and private clouds.

In a blog post, Novick wrote, “It’s a complete storage stack with the true characteristics of virtualized computing: an efficient, flexible and scalable platform that aggregates and pools resources so they can be allocated at the appropriate granularity on demand.”

MxSP employs “data layout optimization” techniques, informed Novick, that “co-locate the data with the server that is running the virtual machine.” To further improve performance, read/write enhancements ensure that the software “only use disk drives sequentially, [it] never randomly writes to the disk drive.”

According to the company, MxSP supports an unlimited number of “VM-level snapshots and zero copy clones and zero copy clones instantly without performance degradation.” On the data protection front, built-in VM-level replication provides disaster recovery and high availability.

Maxta is also hoping to rewrite the economics of virtual data centers. Novick argued that while MxSP can help IT organizations trim their SAN hardware expenses, the real savings come from a sustained and profound shift in how business approach storage for their virtual workloads. For some early customers, which are putting the technology through its paces in production systems, “OPEX reduction is 85 percent, mostly from administration and management,” reported Novick.

Peter Levine, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz — his VC firm invested $10 million in the company — said in a statement that the startup “is all about software eating the storage array” and paving the way for end-to-end virtualized data centers. “Creating a full-feature storage array through software alone has been one of the holy grails of the storage industry,” he stated.

“Maxta is fundamentally changing the storage landscape,” stated a bullish Levine.