"Since you're abstracting away the devices from the network controls and pushing the intelligence of the network to the farthest edges, the physical infrastructure is still there, but you're not requiring as much from it," Cherian explains. Switches and routers, he says, simply aren't designed to handle the massive amount of changes that occur within a cloud network. MidoNet is designed for the dynamically scaling network requirements of a cloud. Initial deployments of the system work with OpenStack-powered clouds.
Headquarters: San Jose
Focus: SAN-less storage and compute clusters
Product availability: Generally available
Funding: $71.6M from Lightspeed Venture Partners, Blumberg Capital, Khosla Ventures, Battery Ventures and Goldman Sachs
Management: Founder and CEO Dheeraj Pandey, former vice president of engineering at Aster Data (now Teradata), managed the storage engine group for Oracle Database/Exadata; vice president of operations David Sangste, formerly with EMC, Data Domain, Hewlett Packard; vice president of engineering Bill Culman, formerly of QuorumLabs, Interwoven, BEA Systems and Tandem Computers.
More information: Nutanix
Efforts by big name vendors such as Cisco, VMware and EMC (via their VCE venture) to combine data center elements such as compute, storage and networking into one plug-and-play system have been mildly successful to date, according to industry analyst Arun Taneja. What Nutanix is doing is different though, what Taneja calls "hyper-convergence."
Nutanix sells a hardware-software combination that combines compute and storage, meant to allow for easy scalability to a massive size with simple management. In 2011 the company won a best in show at VMworld in the virtual desktop category and investors have already poured more than $70 million into the company. Nutanix says in 30 minutes its system can be installed and IT admins have a data center in a box, ready to scale just by adding more nodes.
The key, says CEO Pandey, is the notion that data stored in Nutanix is written locally and stored redundantly across however many nodes are included in the deployment. That allows for easy horizontal scaling - just add more boxes to increase capacity, while not degrading performance. Nutanix is built on Intel Sandy Bridge processors and the VMware ESX hypervisor, but its Version 3.0 software released in December expands support to Red Hat's Kernel Virtual Machine (KVM). Automatic redundancy across the system means virtual machine-level disaster recovery capabilities, while the VMware platform allows for vMotion - the transferring of virtual machine instances -- across nodes within the system.
Nutanix is playing in a crowded field with some heavy hitters. Along with VCE, IBM has Pure Systems and NetApp has FlexPod. Taneja, the analyst, says those are "pseudo" convergence efforts -- disparate pieces assembled together and optimized to work collectively. "Hyper-convergence can only happen if you start afresh," he says, which is exactly what Nutanix has done.
Headquarters: Palo Alto, Calif.
Focus: Hardware-independent SDN switching systems
Product availability: OpenFlow-enabled Open Switches are shipping now
Funding: $6.5M Series A from Vantage Point Capital in October 2012
Management: Co-founders James Liao (CEO) and Lin Du (vice president of engineering) were with Woven Systems; other execs from InfloBlox, Dell and Alcatel-Lucent.
More information: Pica8