Cirtas Systems, a cloud storage hardware company, is announcing today it has raised $22.5 million in a second round of funding and has named tech veteran Gary Messiana as its chief executive.

Small and medium businesses will care about this because it can help them cut costs. Storage systems are getting so complex that they require the architectural expertise of highly specialized people to solve. The amount of data in corporations is exploding so fast that it’s hard to keep up with storage growth needs. By shifting it to the cloud, or Web-based data centers that can be outside of a company’s physical premises, companies can offload the task to others and reduce costs.

Usually, there is a trade-off between the cloud and client-based hardware. The cloud can be slower, but Messiana (pictured below) said in an interview that his company has designed its cloud storage to be as fast as hardware on the customer’s site, mainly by caching frequently used data near the location where it will be accessed. Cirtas uses a hybrid of on-site and cloud storage.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company makes its Bluejet Cloud Storage Controller, a piece of storage equipment that sits in cloud-based data centers. Cirtas deploys Bluejet controllers in a customer’s data center. Bluejet functions just like an on-site storage array, and the technology seamlessly connects to and accelerates the performance of off-site cloud storage services, with fast response to user queries, said Messiana.

The product is aimed at medium and large enterprises and is available now. By tapping the cloud, the company hopes to solve complex security, performance and compatibility issues that stop companies from using cloud storage. One of the big benefits is that enterprises will be able to move their storage from one cloud service firm to another to get better pricing.

Cirtas said it has completed beta tests at more than a dozen enterprise customers across diverse markets. The company ties together techniques for optimizing networks to work with its virtualized storage arrays so that it can deliver what it calls the world’s first cloud-enabled storage system. The company’s first purchase order has come from beta user Robert Half International.

Cirtas said it can securely encrypt all data in transit to and from the cloud, making sure that only authorized users have access to data. If there is a security breach, the Bluejet technology can prevent data from being read or used, as administrators can control who has access. It can also anticipate storage costs and how they fluctuate. And it can manage data for speedy performance.

Cirtas raised money from Shasta Ventures and Bessemer Venture Partners. Existing investors also participating include New Enterprise Associates, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Amazon.com. The company plans to use the money to expand its infrastructure and accelerate the adoption of its technology.

Amazon is one of the big advocates of cloud computing, which can give businesses more options and better control over how they purchase data storage. Cirtas’s approach to the cloud is tightly aligned with Amazon’s, said Jeff Blackburn, senior vice president of corporate development at Amazon. He said Amazon was most impressed with the ability of Cirtas to migrate large quantities of data into the cloud in a fast, secure, and cost-effective manner.

Beyond Amazon, Cirtas has also secured a strategic alliance with Iron Mountain, which offers archive services. The Cirtas Bluejet product costs $69,995 per appliance. It is available from a variety of industry resellers. The company said it is making free evaluation systems available to customers.

The company was founded in 2008 by Dan Decasper and Allen Samuels. Its team includes veterans of Citrix, DataDomain, NetApp and Riverbed. Cirtas has more than 30 employees. Rivals include storage vendors such as EMC and NetApp, Twinstrata, Nasuni, StorSimple and Panzura.

Messiana replaces Decasper, who will become chief technology officer. To date, the company has raised $32.5 million. Messiana was previously an entrepreneur in residence at Bessemer. Prior to that, he was CEO of Netli and CEO of Dilient Software Systems.

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