Virtual Storage Startup Channels 'Consolidation 2.0'

Tuesday May 10th 2011 by Kenneth Corbin
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Fresh out of stealth mode, Nutanix is on a mission to help enterprises tear down the wall between storage and computing in their virtual data centers and in the process reduce costs and complexity.

Fresh out of stealth mode, virtual storage startup Nutanix is looking to help enterprises tear down the walls between storage and computing in virtual data centers.

In the process, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company promises to dramatically reduce the size and complexity of the virtualized environment with an appliance that looks to move beyond the common enterprise dilemma of opting for a costly network-attached storage (NAS) or storage area network (SAN) deployment.

"Today's enterprise IT leaders are trying to create their virtualization infrastructure using the traditional servers-connected-to-storage-over-a-network architecture, which worked well for relatively static workloads," explained Tiffany To, director of product marketing for Nutanix. "Virtualization has made data centers extremely dynamic -- VMs are created on the fly, they move from server to server and they heavily share resources."

Nutanix's flagship product is the Complete Appliance, a compute and storage appliance built around a converged architecture that aims to reduce the capital costs of a data center, as well as those of administration and power consumption.

"As the compute densities increase on one end and the data sizes grow on the other, the gap between compute and storage tiers is becoming harder to bridge," To said.

Nutanix calls its approach "Google-like," explaining that Complete Appliance is patterned after the custom Google File System that the search giant built to support its massive computing and storage requirements. Google's chief innovation, To said, was to pair the basic computing and storage components along with a software layer, skirting the problem of excessive network bottlenecks.

Nutanix's founders, veterans of Google, Oracle and Aster Data Systems, sought to make the converged architecture at the core of custom environments, such as Google File System and Oracle Exadata, available for broad enterprise adoption. "The key to democratizing this architecture and unleashing it for general-purpose computing was virtualization," To said.

With VMware and other hypervisors, businesses can converge the storage and computing environments in what To called "consolidation 2.0," melding Google's file system architecture with OS virtualization.

The company bills its solution as an alternative to popular public-cloud deployments, such as Amazon, which it points out can raise security and SLA issues, in addition to lingering concerns about overall reliability.

"Nutanix wants to help enterprises take a different approach to reducing their data center costs by instead enabling them to harness the power of the cloud-generation converged infrastructure architecture that Google has pioneered in their own data centers," she said.

"The Nutanix approach follows Google's model of leveraging smaller blocks of commodity hardware with a more intelligent software layer, delivering this to enterprises in a hardware appliance that brings the compute and storage together, eliminating the need for costly network-attached storage."

Last month, Nutanix emerged from stealth mode and announced that it had raised $13.2 million in series A funding from a group of investors that included Lightspeed Venture Partners and Blumberg Capital.

"Our biggest challenge right now is educating customers on the definition of converged infrastructure," To said. "The big OEMs have co-opted this term for their bundled hardware solutions, which use traditional compute and storage architectures without truly innovating on the fundamental building blocks. These solutions do not solve the widening compute and storage gap, and instead increase costs with bundling expensive, high-end components."

After only recently going public with details of its venture funding and product availability, Nutanix is keeping details of its product roadmap under wraps. To confirmed, however, that the company plans to release Complete Appliance for general availability later this year.

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