- Cleversafe created object storage software and storage solutions to make better use of multi-server systems, cloud storage, and backup storage platforms.
- Cleversafe developed and managed dsNet software and its suite of features until the company was purchased by IBM in 2015.
- Cleversafe grew into a large operation with funding from the Central Intelligence Agency, In-Q-Tel, Motorola Solutions, BVC, Presidio, OCA Ventures, and Alsop Louis Partners.
The History of Cleversafe: What to Know
Cleversafe was an American company that pioneered a new storage management system and object storage software that increased server maintenance, stability, and security. It achieved this by creating object storage software and storage solutions that made better use of multi-server systems, cloud storage, and backup storage platforms. The idea was created by the company’s founder, Chris Gladwin, in 2004.
Gladwin’s storage platform would encrypt any unstructured data and pack the key in with it. Then it slices up the data into smaller pieces to be distributed across multiple server positions. The data can still be accessed through PerfectBits which rearranges the data to be useable while stored across multiple systems. Cleversafe named this software dsNet for the dispersed storage network.
- Year Founded
- Chris Gladwin
- Cloud storage and security
- Chicago, Illinois
- Key People
- Chris Gladwin, John Morris, Jason Resch
- Notable Products
dsNet allowed for scalability that wasn’t previously available with other storage solutions. The method allows for as many servers as a company wanted or could afford. Then it selects how many servers to store data across. This allows for other servers to act as mirrors and further backup.
That means out of your maximum servers (M), only a specific number of necessary servers (N) need to remain functioning for the data to be accessible. That means that (M-N) servers can fail without losing access to the data or data integrity.
After years of innovation in the cloud storage, server, and backup industry, Cleversafe had grown into a large operation with funding from the Central Intelligence Agency, In-Q-Tel, Motorola Solutions, BVC, Presidio, OCA Ventures, and Alsop Louis Partners. Much of the company’s success in its later years can be attributed to the efforts of John Morris, CEO of Cleversafe in 2013.
Morris had been tasked with building an aggressive sales and marketing culture to increase the software’s user base. His efforts were so successful that the company rose from a value of $50 million to $1.4 billion, paid by IBM.
The Founding of Cleversafe: How It Happened
American entrepreneur, Chris Gladwin, found himself stepping out of one technological venture, MusicNow, into his very own. He found that, while working at MusicNow, storage solution companies weren’t offering the best functioning services for what the new high-tech world was demanding.
His primary concern lay with the growing need for better storage management and security. As MusicNow dealt with digital downloads and storage, he was in a clear position to analyze what was missing and needed.
As with many companies now, he recognized a major problem with bandwidth access and data security. As a software specialist, he couldn’t solve the hardware aspect of bandwidth. However, he did manage to find a way to spread the bandwidth burden. He also managed to solve some security concerns with a dispersed storage method.
His idea was to create a method for data encryption and dispersion that could be spread across multiple variations within the server environment restrictions. It allowed for unstructured data to be encrypted with the key attached to it. Then the encrypted set is sliced into smaller data bits to be secured across a specific number of servers available within the network. This network system was named dsNet, a dispersed storage network.
His software company, Cleversafe, developed and managed dsNet software and its suite of features until the company was purchased by IBM in 2015. Throughout its time, the company had 318 patents granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office. Among these invention patents, the most named inventor was Jason Resch with 139 of the 318 patents listed with his name and 315 patent applications in total.
After the acquisition by IBM, the software and the company’s patents were distributed across IBM’s system. Today, IBM offers object storage software, storage platforms, and other storage solutions.
Cleversafe Through the Years
Cleversafe only saw eleven years before it was eaten by one of the largest sharks in the industry, IBM. During that time, the company managed to create a great storage platform and software solution for high-volume data companies to work with that eventually ended up in IBM’s list of assets.
The founding years of Cleversafe saw to it that the company developed and patented hundreds of software systems technologies. In these early years, Cleversafe made its name with a solid software storage solution that complimented the growing server rooms and cloud storage platforms throughout the industry.
The main feature offered by Cleversafe was named dsNet. dsNet stands for the dispersed storage network. The name is fairly straightforward and descriptive. The dsNet object storage software allowed for unstructured data to be encrypted and packaged with a key to be sliced into bits and stored on separate servers. This storage platform allows the owner to expand their server room for operations like industrial information or cloud storage rather easily.
The idea was well-formed in Gladwin’s mind, but yet to be fully realized. The first four years were spent on the development necessary to create a successful, working dsNet platform. By 2008, Cleversafe’s dsNet was up-to-par and operating as intended.
In 2008, Cleversafe won a Chicago Innovation Award for “Data Backup and Security”. This signaled a rise in interest from investors and interested parties like the CIA’s In-Q-Tel. These investments ramped up until they came to a head in 2013. Cleversafe had made enough to build the second-largest cloud storage company by volume.
The increase in Cleversafe storage servers once again proved the scalability of the dsNet software platform. Claiming the second largest storage vendor title is no laughing matter. Even more, it was achieved very quickly with little friction or unforeseen problems.
The company’s wild success lead to a newfound drive to expand even further. To this end, John Morris was named the President and CEO of Cleversafe. He was tasked with increasing the sales and marketing end of the business. As the software was fairing well on its own, the company believed the next step was to set out and sell it.
John Morris took his task to heart. In the next two years, Morris was able to push Cleversafe’s value from $50 million to a $1.4 billion offer from IBM. This acquisition by IBM included over 318 patents granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office previously held by Cleversafe and its inventors.
IBM’s acquisition of Cleversafe was the end of the company. IBM continued the development of the platform and software without regard for the brand name or company culture that existed within Cleversafe.
What are the Most Important Inventions from Cleversafe?
Most of Cleversafe’s inventions are merely features and patents for storage platform functionality to improve upon dsNet. This software acts as the suite that includes Cleversafe’s many software offerings. It even operated its cloud storage systems.
Cleversafe’s main software uses patented information dispersal algorithms to store unstructured objects at industry scale and higher. dsNet software has earned Cleversafe funding from organizations like In-Q-Tel, NEA, OCA Ventures, Presideo, Motorola Solutions, and more.
In 2008, Cleversafe was awarded the Chicago Innovation Award for Data Backup and Security for the technology industry. dsNet is the primary software that is responsible for Cleversafe’s success story and eventual sale to IBM.
The idea of dispersing information across multiple servers in several variations was truly a game-changer for data backup.
A feature of Cleversafe designed to virtualize and encrypt unstructured data. It stores the encryption key in the data, breaks the data apart, and places it on different storage nodes.
This piece of software was created to ensure the restructuring of data when it needs to be accessed after being SecureSliced and separated. PerfectBits rearranges the encrypted object to its original order to be read exactly as it was intended to be, even when dealing with massive amounts of data.
How Did Cleversafe Make Money?
Cleversafe offered storage solutions, object storage software, and cloud storage services. The company also received over $100 million in funding from venture capitalist firms and other interested parties.
During operation, storage solutions and software licensing were profitable enough. The company also offered cloud storage hosted in-house. In part, it was a consistent subscription in-come. However, it was mostly used to showcase their object storage software and storage solutions. The more users that could rely on their cloud storage, the more confidence was built in their storage platform.
Increased confidence led directly to the envy and support of other companies in the industry. At first, the support helped Cleversafe to expand, but soon the company decided it was better to cave in and sell for an extraordinary amount to IBM.
Cleversafe never acquired another company. Instead, the company spent its time and resources developing value in the form of technological solutions and software. This allowed the company to build confidence in what is built. That confidence directly translated into productive value and investments from venture capitalists.
After a few years of difficult and hard-won success, Cleversafe became an acquisition of an incumbent technology giant known as IBM.
Purchased by IBM
Cleversafe managed to last for eleven years in the technology arena as a standalone operation. However, as the scalability of services became more and more costly, Cleversafe tried to use the opportunity to expand. John Morris was appointed the President and CEO to achieve that mission.
Morris spent his time reworking the company’s marketing and sales strategy. It was a wild success that saw the company’s value increase ten-fold. Unfortunately, that value would not truly accumulate for quite some time and it was not guaranteed unless Cleversafe sold the company. As it happened, IBM saw the potential in the company’s object storage software and wanted to implement it into its own systems.
IBM offered $1.4 billion for the acquisition. Cleversafe accepted the offer. IBM received the systems and storage software solutions created by Cleversafe and 318 software and technology patents.
Cleversafe Notable Controversies
During the short years of Cleversafe’s existence, there weren’t many controversies to note. The company lived as many other one-hit wonders of the tech industry. It developed software with a single focus and achieved it incredibly well.
However, there was one specific instance that was not rare at the time. The tech start-up rush had prompted a massive growth in start-ups and patent disputes. Cleversafe was not immune from patent issues.
Cleversafe, Inc. v. Amplidata, Inc.
In 2008, Amplidata made a move to immigrate to Redwood, California. Once their company released their DSS service a year later, Cleversafe filed a lawsuit for patent infringement on three separate patents dating from 2005, 2006, and 2009.
Amplidata’s distributed storage solution was nearly identical to the idea created by Cleversafe. Ultimately, the case was ruled in favor of Amplidata. The result was a loss for Cleversafe, but Amplidata was asked not to infringe or use any of the three patents from the case.
Public opinions range from “wildly unacceptable” to “par for the course”. The less approving thought Cleversafe was pushing into the monopolistic territory. Some believed the software to be far too similar to be a coincidence. In either case, the court ruled that Amplidata did not infringe on the patents. Cleversafe, Inc filed for a motion to reconsider, but it was denied by the US District Judge.
This case never moved further. With no financial loss other than court costs, Cleversafe moved on with its ambitions elsewhere. As stated before, new companies that committed patent infringement were not rare. The environment of cut-throat enterprise allowed courts to easily dismiss some cases to focus on more pressing matters.
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