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Startup PernixData brings The Advantages Of Virtualization To Enterprise IT Storage

Any IT professional in charge of data center management would surely agree that virtualization has changed how most modern data centers work. One is, the inability to keep up with the increased efficiency of modern data centers is storage. This creates bottlenecks to the performance of the applications themselves.

Any IT professional in charge of data center management would surely agree that virtualization has changed how most modern data centers work. One is, the inability to keep up with the increased efficiency of modern data centers is storage. This creates bottlenecks to the performance of the applications themselves. From the perspective of IT's internal customers, however, its not the technology architecture that interests them, but the performanc of the underlying applications themselves. 

Hence, IT managers are faced with a challenge - how to break through the storage bottleneck and improve the performance of the underlying applications, but without having to spend a fortune or even need to tear out their existing investments in storage hardware. One startup that is addressing this issue is PernixData. Through its FVP software platform for storage acceleration, PernixData seeks what it describes as the "storage holy grail - decoupling performance from capacity." Joining today to discuss more about Pernix Data's technology is their VP of Marketing Jeff Aaron.

IT Specialist: Thank you for sharing your thoughts Jeff. For starters, can you provide some brief background on PernixData, such as what year you were started and the background of the founders?

Jeff: PernixData was founded in 2012 by Satyam Vaghani and Poojan Kumar, two leaders in the virtualization space.

PernixData’s CEO, Poojan Kumar, previously ran the data services group at VMware. Prior to that, he helped create ExaData and played a significant role in its growth into a multi billion-dollar business for Oracle.

Satyam Vaghani, who serves as the company’s CTO, was formerly CTO of the storage group at VMware, where he invented some of the core virtualization technologies that are fundamental to this day, including VMFS and VAAI. 

IT Specialist: What was the inspiration behind the founding of PernixData, what problem or paint point in the IT universe were you formed to solve?

Jeff: Virtualization has changed data centers forever, blurring the lines between physical resources and compute. But storage can’t keep up, creating I/O bottlenecks that hamper the performance of virtualized applications. This is one of the biggest challenges facing companies today.

PernixData brings storage into the virtual age. By virtualizing server flash and RAM, we are picking up where VMware left off – creating a strategic infrastructure that decouples storage performance from storage capacity. This maximizes VM performance, minimizes storage costs, and lets companies of all sizes cost effectively scale-out storage performance with compute.

IT Specialist: Your website describes PernixData as a "Software Platform for Scale-Out Storage Acceleration". Can you explain more broadly what software-designed storage is – does this mean there is literally no hardware involved?

Jeff: Software Defined Storage (SDS) describes the notion of managing storage using software instead of via the underlying hardware infrastructure. It usually involves pooling available hardware resources and intelligently managing them via software.The result is better flexibility, easier interoperability, and increased efficiencies. 

PernixData FVP is 100% software that turns available server hardware (flash/RAM) into a clustered pool of resources for accelerating storage IO. As it works with any server or storage, and it adds a new level of flexibility and performance on top of that hardware, it definitely fits into this category.But, SDS is a very overused and misunderstood term, so I personally avoid using the term myself.

IT Specialist: How would you describe the traditional storage solutions used by IT departments, and how far down the road are enterprises to moving from bare metal to software for their storage requirements?

Jeff: Traditional storage is inherently flawed because it requires end users to purchase capacity when they need more performance. This is expensive, inefficient, and may not even solve application performance issues. 

A new decoupled architecture has emerged that solves this challenge. It puts performance in high-speed server resources (like flash and RAM), while keeping capacity and data services in shared storage. This is the best way to minimize VM latency while scaling out IOPS in a cost effective manner.

PernixData provides the software that makes a decoupled storage architecture work. It does not replace the need for hardware in servers and storage; it helps end users take advantage of these resources for optimal performance, automated resource management, lower costs, and other advantages.

IT Specialist: Could you give us a brief overview of how your technology works in terms of its specific features? In particular, could you highlight both the key features as well as advantages of your core PernixData FVP product?

Jeff: PernixData is fundamentally changing how storage is designed and operated in virtual data centers. Our flagship product, PernixData FVP™ software, virtualizes server flash and RAM to create a low latency IO acceleration tier. By decoupling storage performance from capacity, PernixData FVP software maximizes VM performance, minimizes storage costs, and lets companies of all sizes scale-out storage performance in an easy and cost effective way. 

FVP software has established PernixData as the leading provider of storage acceleration software. Unique features include:

  • Fault-Tolerant Write Acceleration. FVP is the only storage acceleration software with both read and write acceleration with fault tolerance, optimizing the performance of every VM.
  • Virtualize any high-speed server resource. FVP is the only storage acceleration software that lets users virtualize server flash and/or RAM with complete fault tolerance, creating an enterprise-wide acceleration tier that works with every server configuration.  
  • Optimize any storage device. FVP is the only storage acceleration software that optimizes any shared storage device, including file (e.g. NFS), block (e.g. iSCSI, fibre channel, FCoE), and local datastores. This eliminates rip/replace of existing storage, and future proofs against future storage investments. 
  • Clustered Platform. FVP allows any VM to remotely access the flash/RAM on other hosts, ensuring seamless support of all VM operations and products (e.g. vMotion, HA, DRS etc.)
  • 100% seamless deployment. FVP is deployed inside the hypervisor using public APIs certified by VMware (as part of their Partner Verified and Support Program). No changes are required to VMs, hosts or primary storage.

IT Specialist: What role does the enterprise IT professional play in implementing and managing a PernixData solution – how easy is it to install and then manage? For IT pros who are used to managing hardware for their enterprise’s storage requirements, how difficult is it to make the transition to your software solution? 

Jeff: PernixData FVP requires no changes to existing VMs, hosts or storage.  Deployment typically takes less than 20 minutes using common virtualization tools, such as vSphere update manager (VUM). 

All FVP operations are managed seamlessly from within vSphere, such as configuring FVP clusters and monitoring application and storage performance.

PernixData is also the first storage acceleration vendor to natively support vSphere web client and Powershell, enabling these tasks to be automated and/or handled using any web browser – no separate client software is required. With FVP, the user experience is identical to that experienced natively with vSphere, with the addition of unprecedented visibility into workload characteristics. In this respect, adoption of the PernixData solution is extremely easy and non-disruptive.

 

Below is a sample screenshot:

IT Specialist: What has been the response to your solution in the enterprise market? Are there any particular reference customers or case studies you’d be able to share?

Jeff: We first started shipping FVP in August of 2011. In less than 12 months, we won over a dozen industry awards, including Best New Technology at VMworld and Forbes Most Promising Private Companies. 

In addition, in a short period of time, we have secured an amazing list of customers, from small businesses to large enterprises and service providers.  They are using FVP to scale VDI, optimize database performance, improve web services, accelerate their cloud offerings, save storage costs, and much more.

Below are some examples:

  • Tata Steel offloaded 1.2 billion IOs from their storage in the first five days of using FVP. 
  • Cardinal Innovations was able to downsize their storage upgrade, spending $8.42/GB with FVP vs $21.81/GB without (a 62% cost savings).
  • CHR Hansen, a global biosciences company, has reduced Sharepoint queries from five seconds to well under one second.
  • BlackPepper, a web hosting provider, has seen MySQL queries reduced from 300 ms to 30 ms.
  • Maniilaq Health Services reduced HorizonView VDI boot times from one minute to under eight seconds.

IT Specialist: I am also very curious who your main competitors are – are you finding that you are taking business away from the larger legacy storage vendors like an EMC?

Jeff: PernixData does not replace shared storage devices from EMC, HP, Dell, etc. In fact, we enable a new storage architecture that actually complements them. But, FVP eliminates the need to overprovision these devices using unnecessary hardware.

IT Specialist: Turning now to the corporate level, can you tell us how much money PernixData has raised and who your core investors are?

Jeff: PernixData has received funding from the top VCs in Silicon Valley, including Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers and Lightspeed Ventures. In addition, individual investments have been made by Mark Leslie, former CEO of Veritas, John Thompson, Chairman of the Board at Microsoft, and Lane Bess, former CEO of Palo Alto Networks.

As of July 2014, PernixData has taken approximately $27 million in two rounds of oversubscribed funding.

IT Specialist: Finally, for people who may be interested in testing the PernixData solution or beginning a dialogue with you, what is the best way for them to start working with you?

Jeff: We offer a free trial of FVP software, which can be requested on our website here: http://info.pernixdata.com/trialreg.

You can also follow @PernixData on Twitter for up-to-the-second news.

IT Specialist: Thanks so much for sharing all this information Jeff, and all the best going forward.

 

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