Briefing Note

George Crump, Senior Analyst

Nirvanix is not a client of Storage Switzerland

Storage Switzerland was recently briefed by Nirvanix, an early mover in the cloud storage market. The Nirvanix solution is deployed as a service that you connect to via an appliance or by extending your applications, leveraging the Nirvanix API set. This connection will typically go to a storage facility outside of your data center, although as part of their newest release Nirvanix will let you run their software on OEM hardware of your choice inside your data center and manage it all as a service (more on that later).

The key benefit of a cloud storage offering should be that you only pay for the capacity that you use. This is true, at least in the Nirvanix case, where you only pay for the storage that your data actually consumes, not for RAID overhead or meta data storage. You don’t pay for the data center floor space or power and cooling that the storage would require in your own facility. You also don’t pay for the maintenance contract that accompanies traditional storage. ‘Pure’ cloud storage then is extremely cost effective because you only pay for the “net-net” storage capacity.

Beyond this ‘pay as you go’ savings, the simplicity of pure cloud storage leads to another reduction in cost: storage administrator overhead. The storage expands automatically as you need it, no requirement to go through a complicated provisioning process. Also there is no need to subject the IT staff and users to the complexity and potential downtime of a technology refresh which is almost forced upon you when the initial warranty expires on most storage systems. Most IT professionals can tell a tale of how the cost of new equipment was almost the same as keeping the old system under its maintenance contract.

Nirvanix seems to get the “service” part of being a Cloud Service Provider. They allow for inspection of data centers, which we at Storage Switzerland think is a key requirement for cloud evaluation. Service Level Agreements (SLAs) alone don’t guarantee reliable storage infrastructure or sound processes and they are not worth the paper they’re printed on if your data is lost. All you can do is take legal action - your data is still gone. In reality the best way to get a sense of a cloud service provider’s competence is to visit their data center.

Another key service is that you can select which of their data centers your data is going to reside in. This is critical if you want to use cloud storage for disaster recovery or have specific regulations regarding the location of data outside of a country’s borders.

A key differentiator for Nirvanix is the variety of ways available to place data into their cloud. First you can interact with it directly via extensions to your application or via a third party developers’ product, like Nasuni, StorSimple or Symantec. These ISVs are getting smarter too. They will provide you with direct access to the Nirvanix service or you can use an existing Nirvanix account.

In addition, Nirvanix has it own CloudNAS gateway appliance that provides CIFS and NFS access to the cloud. Recently it has been enhanced to work in conjunction with existing NAS hardware as well as with file virtualization solutions like those from F5 that will allow automated migration to the cloud storage service.

The big news in our briefing was that Nirvanix will let you know run their software architecture in your data center on the OEM storage hardware of your choice, as we mentioned above. This allows you to develop a true hybrid solution but use a common storage infrastructure. This hybrid architecture can provide very fast access to semi-active data but then programmatically move it to a more cost effective and more secure cloud storage facility once it becomes truly inactive. Nirvanix’s enterprise cloud storage portfolio is currently available from HP and Dell. However, its cloud software—including a billion+ object store with support for cloud protocols such as SOAP and REST—is both hardware and file system-agnostic, and can be layered atop any OEM’s storage offerings to meet customer requirements.

Storage Swiss Take

Cloud storage is often a confusing topic for many IT professionals. As we said in the beginning, it means different things depending on your needs and potential use for it. Pure Cloud Storage really is at the center of the cloud storage initiative. While the value of quality software behind the scenes can’t be understated, the most important aspect is the service that’s wrapped around it. Nirvanix is an example of an organization that truly understands that concept.