Nutanix Buying PernixData: My Critical Analysis

Overnight The Register posted an article claiming that Nutanix is about to buyout PernixData…this has apparently come through reliable sources and hasn’t been denied by those who have been asked at PernixData. I tweeted that I was pretty bummed at the news and as a PernixData Customer and PernixPro I feel inclined to comment on why I do feel that PernixData missed out on being able to maybe go at it alone. This isn’t going to be a post around Nutanix or why they felt they needed PernixData technology, though it’s apparent that they potentially required a performance boost somewhere along the line in their architecture. Possibly they where after the advanced analytics that Architect provides…or maybe they needed both.

FVP is Brilliant Tech!:

There is no doubt that FVP is brilliant and pretty much anybody who has it deployed will attest to the fact that it delivers as promised. On a personal note it came to our rescue when we had performance issues in one of our storage platforms and allowed us to deliver services with low latency and decent performance. The ease and elegance of the solution meant that you could install FVP within 15 minutes across an existing Cluster utilizing investment in flash or memory meant that it should have been a no brainer for a lot of people with existing performance issues.

Apart from the “band-aid” use case the premise of in host caching should have lead storage and platform architects to consider installing FVP into hosts for accelerated performance of read and write IO and allow for cheaper dumb storage to provide the capacity. It’s something that I guess serves as the basis for more storage platforms but the beauty here was that you could potentially cater the solution to fit specific requirements or budgets and have the flexibility to upgrade/downgrade when required.

The introduction of using memory to cache was truly amazing and the possibilities for extreme caching though FVP does have some limitations and gotchya’s but overall it’s very slick technology.

Architect is Very Handy:

Architect was released last year and is installed with the FVP binaries so it’s implanted into the kernel ready for action. Once unlocked it presents probably the best set of platform analytics in the industry. The granularity of the data and metrics it presents is brilliant for any architect or operational person to use in either planning for, or managing storage. The potential to combine FVP and Architect into a full self healing analytics platform was pretty exciting. The Register post mentioned the fact that PernixData where looking at developing their own storage platform to combine all elements…this would have…and still may make sense though there is a lot of competition in the storage array space and maybe the risk of getting into the hardware game means this was just a rumour.

The Problem:

While I don’t pretend to fully understand the ins and outs of how a company prices their solutions, but I can say from experience that FVP and Architect are expensive. I’ve been involved in trying to justify spend on FVP internally and I can tell you that it was/is a hard sell. For the most part if there wasn’t a need to solve a storage problem most would, and have, found FVP too expensive. This isn’t to say that it doesn’t add value, cause certainly it does, however when you break it down and look at the cost of FVP compared to a physical storage array the numbers look kind of sick…especially given that FVP is just software that utilizes existing or new hardware.

Based on some internal workings, breaking it down the cost of FVP over three years could equate to the cost of 2 or 3 New Generation Flash Based Arrays or legacy SAN systems. That’s a hard pill to swallow and it comes down the crux of why I think FVP was priced too expensively for it to gain the market penetration that might have meant this sale to Nutanix could have avoided.

Maybe the exit was always planned and I am coming to understand more and more that startups in todays technology world are governed by the investors who want a return on their risk…VCs don’t pander to what’s cool or what’s great tech…they want their investment to be realized. In this case it looks as though PernixData missed a golden opportunity to get the pricing right, not sell FVP as traditional hardware and penetrate the market more. I know lots of people who would have looked at and implemented FVP if the price was right.

Again, I might be over simplifying the economics of it all but proof is now possibly in the pudding. I’ve blogged about FVP Freedom which was a great initiative to get FVP into as many labs and peoples platforms as possible. Rather than give it away for free maybe the focus should have been on getting the pricing right for FVP. Would have gone a long way to many today not feeling bummed, disappointed and annoyed that a company with such great people and technology may be swallowed up. I am guessing that in today’s tech sector with so many vendors playing in the same space we should come to expect more situations like this…doesn’t make it easier to swallow.

End of the day I feel that the pricing model forced people to see FVP as a purely band-aid only solution that was used only in times of desperation…it didn’t deserve that reputation, but it was widely known as truth both inside and outside of PernixData. Be interesting to see how this pans out after/when/if the deal is finalized. To quote one person …FVP users seem to be the big losers if this goes through.

Investors will always try to get their money!

6 comments

  • Nutanix might be buying the people and not the tech?

  • * Disclaimer Nutanix Employee *

    Rumor’s aside….. Regarding your comment:

    “though it’s apparent that they potentially required a performance boost somewhere along the line in their architecture. Possibly they where after the advanced analytics that Architect provides…or maybe they needed both.”

    What experience do you have with Nutanix, specifically around performance testing and analytics which you’re relying on to make such comments?

    You also stated:

    “Based on some internal workings, breaking it down the cost of FVP over three years could equate to the cost of 2 or 3 New Generation Flash Based Arrays”

    If the above is true, Why did you choose to use Pernix rather than buying the all flash array/s you’re referring too as being cheaper?

    • Hey Josh… Think most people know who you work for 😉

      So to answer that first question it was a general statement based on what PernixData do…was posing the question rather than stating fact.

      To answer your second… You missed the point around FVP being purchased to cover an existing investment. Most purchase using finance and you can’t break terms … It’s like buying a house realising you want a better one but not being able to sell it. That is to say you still carry the debt of the purchase. FVP allows you to keep that backend storage that might have otherwise been performing poorly and give it some possibility of an extended life… Remembering that FVP doesn’t give you any extra capacity.

  • It would be great if they could get FVP & Architect build into there hypervisor(AVH) & get vGPU working. 🙂

  • I agree that FVP and Architect are brilliant technologies, but (as VSAN was/is) I have never been able to calculate a win/win, not even by a close shot, when compared to f.eks. a combination of a Storwize V7000 and FlashSystems 900. Consdering that SAN devices can be utilized by non-virtual workloads as well, it’s never been any competition.

    Sometimes i wonder who/what causes such ridiculous prices. Priced to fail.

  • Peter Cmaylo

    Anthony you should take a look at a company called Enmotus: http://www.enmotus.com, performance architecture beyond caching!!

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