Nutanix’s flagship product is a hardware and software appliance that’s installed in a rack in a customer’s data center. It combines flash storage and hard disk drives with up to four commodity servers, and adds a layer of proprietary software on top to make it run efficiently.
Google, Facebook, and other companies are using a similar strategy with servers, buying cheap hardware from white box vendors and doing the heavy lifting with software.
The approach Nutanix is using combines storage and servers, which used to be different parts of IT with different managers. Nutanix’s appliance runs VMware server virtualization software, which lets data centers run more efficiently by allowing multiple operating systems and apps to run on a single physical server.
Running VMware is a must for enterprises because it helps them deal with the complexity of running a kaleidoscope of apps from different vendors. Plus, virtualization software allows organizations to deploy apps to users quickly, said Greg Smith, Nutanix’s senior director of product and technical marketing.
Since storage is embedded in Nutanix's appliance, storage area networks, or SANs, aren't needed, Howard Ting, VP of marketing for Nutanix, told Business Insider. SANs are big business for EMC, NetApp and other storage vendors.
"We’re basically bringing storage into the server and doing it with commodity hardware," Ting said.
Nutanix has strong Google connections. Mohit Aron, its founder and former CTO, was staff engineer at Google from 2003 to 2007. Brian Byrne, staff software engineer at Nutanix, spent three years at Google developing the Google File System and its revamped successor, Colossus.
The Google File System, a software layer that wrapped together all the commodity servers inside Google’s data centers and turned them into a coordinated platform, has become a model that many other companies are following.
Last month, Nutanix hired two engineers from Facebook, Karthik Ranganathan and Kannan Muthukkaruppan, who have spent the better part of the last six years working on the social networking site’s big data projects.
Nutanix began selling its appliance 18 months ago and last week said it has reached an $80 million revenue run rate. The San Jose, Calif.-based startup has raised around $71 million to date from Khosla Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Battery Ventures and Goldman Sachs.
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