Nutanix, a San Francisco-based storage hardware maker, has raised $13.2 million in a Series A funding from Lightspeed Venture Partners and Blumberg Capital. The company is developing an appliance combining computing and storage on the same server nodes, a story that should resonate with customers concerned with scalability and performance.
When it comes to scale-out architectures and appliances, Nutanix’s founding team knows from whence it speaks. Co-founder, President and CEO Dheeraj Pandey was VP of engineering at Aster Data Systems and designed the storage systems for Oracle Database and the Exadata appliance before that. CTO Mohit Aron was a lead architect at Aster Data after spending time at Google designing the Google File System. Co-Founder and Chief Products Officer Ajeet Singh also worked at Aster Data and previously helped develop Oracle’s cloud computing strategy.
Pandey compares the Nutanix appliance to Google’s architecture in that computing and storage are both house in the same nodes. This is different from many traditional application architectures, where computing is housed on one set of servers and storage is either network-attached or housed in a separate SAN. With the Nutanix approach, Pandey explains, both storage and computing scale simultaneously, which can lead to massively parallel processing and storage. A big differentiator from other scale-out storage products, he said, is that many are file systems, but Nutanix is not so limited. The Nutanix appliance includes data management software that is akin to “bringing all of NetApp” to the system.
The key to Nutanix is virtualization, which provides the abstraction and the additional storage connections necessary to give Nutanix the performance edge it claims. The company is big on solid-state drives for performance and consolidation, but Pandey says legacy storage systems are limited to the amount of SSDs they can handle. With a virtualized computing layer, however, each virtual server and each physical node provide the requisite housing and connection to an additional SSD. The Nutanix appliance combines both SSDs and hard disk drives to achieve maximum levels of performance and affordability, Pandey said.
Despite the known difficulty of selling appliances versus software alone — something we’ve seen played out recently by both Schooner and Cirtas Systems — Pandey is confident in Nutanix’s chances. For one, he noted, converged infrastructure is hot right now thanks to products such as Cisco’s Unified Computing System, the Virtual Computing Environment’s Vblocks, HP’s BladeSystem Matrix and Dell’s vStart. However, explained Co-Founder and Chief Products Officer Ajeet Singh, those products involve separate storage components like customers could buy separately; the systems are really just enclosures. Pandey says it comes down to a choice between choosing the iPhone approach to integration or the Android approach of software on multiple devices, and Nutanix chose the former.