UPDATED 11:00 EDT / JULY 01 2020

CLOUD

Started by ex-AWS execs, Vendia exits stealth with unique serverless data sharing platform

Serverless data sharing startup Vendia Inc. is exiting stealth mode today with a platform that melds two powerful technologies in a unique way: public cloud architectures and distributed ledgers.

Vendia’s platform gives companies a way to share information stored inside multiple public clouds and on-premises data centers with partners, in real time, without doing a lot of complicated engineering work. Early use cases include artificial intelligence and machine learning training and management of cross-company supply chains.

The startup, based in San Francisco and Seattle, was founded by Tim Wagner (pictured, left), who created the concept of serverless computing with Amazon Web Services Inc.’s Lambda service, and Shruthi Rao (right), who was previously the head of business development for Amazon Managed Blockchain at AWS.

It’s armed with $5.1 million in capital from a seed funding round led by Neotribe’s Swaroop ‘Kittu’ Kolluri. Other investors, including Correlation Ventures, WestWave Capital, HWVP, Firebolt Ventures, Floodgate and Future\Perfect Ventures, also participated in the round.

Vendia Share, the company’s initial product offering, can be thought of as a cloud-native virtual data lake that’s based on a serverless computing architecture, which means that there’s no need for customers to manage the underlying compute resources. The idea is to help companies overcome the challenge of working with data that’s spread across multiple platforms, including various public clouds and internal data centers, and share that information as needed.

The platform is inspired by the distributed ledger technology called blockchain that underpins cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, though it doesn’t use blockchain itself. Blockchains are distributed databases that exist on multiple computers at the same time, and are updated uniformly across all of those hosts whenever any changes are made to them.

In an interview with SiliconANGLE, Rao said that while working at AWS, many of her customers were asking for a way to track and share information that isn’t tied to one specific cloud platform. In the automotive industry, for example, one common problem that’s proven to be extremely difficult to solve is tracking the various parts used by car manufacturers for warranty recall purposes, she said. The problem is that the average car is made up of more than 30,000 individual parts, but it’s not always clear which manufacturer made them as it’s almost impossible to keep track of everything.

“Some dealers are on-premises and some are on different public clouds,” Rao said. “How can they all share data with each other, without giving up control of their data and also have some transparency? Nothing has worked.”

Blockchain technology at first seemed to be the answer. But Rao said blockchain has its own problems that prevent it from being easily deployed in these kinds of situations. For one thing, the technology is usually proprietary to just one cloud, and blockchains are customarily implemented on a single server for each user, making it difficult to scale up computing and storage.

There’s also no real model for managing all of that data. “Vendia is inspired by blockchain but not a blockchain,” Rao said. “I have my data everywhere and I need a mechanism to use that with multiple partners in real time.”

At the same time, serverless has had its shortcomings as well. “The big thing that serverless is missing is a replicated data store,” Wagner said. Vendia aims to provide solutions to provide the benefits of serverless and blockchain without those downsides.

Vendia Share also solves other problems, such as bringing data together from multiple sources so it can be used for artificial intelligence and machine learning. “Companies need to get data together before they can run AI or ML on it,” Wagner said. “But they don’t want to give up control of their data. And they need ongoing tracking to make sure it’s correct, up to date and OK to share with various parties and track it across different clouds and technology stacks.”

Alternatives to Vendia’s technology include traditional enterprise resource planning software firms such as SAP SE and IBM Corp. as well as newer blockchain tech such as Ethereum. But mainly, said Rao, the competition is companies cobbling together their own solutions in a kind of “DIY API soup.” That only works, however, for companies that have regular partners and don’t use too much data, Rao said.

For more complex business operations, such as a company that supplies blueberries around the country, it simply isn’t feasible, because it needs real-time data on where the trucks carrying their goods are, the temperature inside of those trucks and various other kinds of information. In such cases, companies require a much more all-encompassing mechanism for their logistics operations.

“Currently it takes a large team and months of work to implement a solution like this,” Wagner said. “At Vendia we can do that in minutes. Instead of using servers to do this, we’ve gone with a serverless architecture.”

Wagner and Rao said they’re working with early design partners in automotive, supply chain management and manufacturing, and with systems integrators and resellers such as like Slalom LLC and Trek10 Inc. They’ve reported a 93% cost savings compared with existing blockchain and ledger solutions, Wagner said.

“Their platform is several steps ahead in the distributed app development space, and they’ve directly addressed complexity and cost challenges,” Slalom Managing Director Ussama Baggili said in a statement. “They have solved for multi-party, cross-cloud and cross-account real-time data sharing, which gives us the foundation we need to build reliable distributed solutions for our clients in record time.”

Swaroop ‘Kittu’ Kolluri, founder and managing director of Neotribe, said the multiparty, multicloud data and code aggregation market that Vendia is entering is potentially “enormous” and constantly growing as companies attempt to use every last bit of data they capture.

“Vendia’s serverless-based technology offers benefits such as ease of experimentation, no operational heavy lifting and a pay-as-you-go pricing model, making it both very consumable and highly disruptive,” Kolluri said. “Given both Tim and Shruthi’s backgrounds, we know we’ve found an ideal ‘founder fit’ to solve this problem.”

Vendia said its product is already being tested by early adopters. It will be made generally available in early fall, when Wagner said it also is intended to work with Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform as well as AWS.

The company actually unveiled itself a bit last week in this video from AWS Serverless Community Day in which Wagner explains in more detail how serverless is evolving and what Vendia plans to do:

With reporting from Robert Hof

Photos: Vendia

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