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Exabyte era nigh for Nexenta

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The exabyte era is hurrying closer for ZFS storage supplier Nexenta, which hopes to have its partners ship more storage boxes than NetApp in five years time.

We were briefed by CEO Evan Powell following a Nexenta customer and partner shindig in Amsterdam. He said Nexenta was running at around $500 million a year in partner sales and getting ten per cent of that; meaning $50 million a year revenues. The anticipation is that there will be $1 billion in partner sales in 2013 and $2 billion in 2014, giving Nextenta revenues of $100 million and $200 million respectively.

For comparison FalconStor is currently running at almost $100m a year revenues and CommVault and OCZ at roughly $400m. Nexenta has a way to go but is doing very well indeed for a storage software company whose product is based on Open Solaris and ZFS.

Nexenta flash

Nexenta has recently qualified STEC SSDs for use in its arrays, and they provide 253,469 sustained write IOPS when 24 of them are used in an EraStor 255 all-flash appliance, with 2.8GB/sec throughput and less than 2ms latency. There were 200,000 read IOPS by the way. EraStor is a partnership between a bunch of European Nexenta channel partners and it provides the hardware while Nexenta provides a reference architecture.

These are goodish numbers for an SMB flash array but are not in the high-performance area. There a Kaminario K2-F MLC flash array delivers up to 600,000 random read IOPS and has an 8GB/sec bandwidth. A Nimbus S-class does up to a claimed 800,000 IOPS. Back down in SMB-land Pure Storage's 300-Series does 300,000 random read IOPS and 180,000 random write IOPS. WhipTail's ACCELA does 250,000 random write IOPS and has a 1.9GB/sec bandwidth. The EraStor box beats that on the numbers we've quoted here and gives the Pure Storage box a good run for its money on those numbers too.

We're told; "A second benchmark, using STEC SSDs with a larger system, is currently in process at Nexenta and is expected to exceed a nearly double sustained write IOPS performance at low latency." That would mean around 500,000 IOPS. Nexenta's channel will like that. Powell said; "STEC has a very high penetration of the all-flash appliance suppliers." It's in Pure Storage for example.

Interestingly Nexenta has a technology alliance with NAND fab operator Toshiba.

Roadmaps and exabyte sales

A coming development is for a data computing appliance, with applications and storage in the one box, Powell saying; "We're headed there." New versions of the Nexenta Elastic Framework management feature are also in development, with v4.0 coming in the third quarter and v5.0 in 2013. Powell mentioned object storage as well; "You'll see object storage scale-out with us within 12 months. We're in beta right now. We have customers who want us to support Swift right now."

The use case today is for backing up big and slow buckets of data, with some deployments in the 80PB area; "We have some customers talking about exabyte deployments. We're in 50 engagements of 10PB or more and a couple of them are talking about exabytes."

Powell said he'd told the company that the name of the first salesrep to sell an exabyte NexentaStor deployment would have his name tattoo'd on Powell's arm. Perhaps he's not serious.

V3.1.3 of its NexentaStor product is out with Intel Romley support, remote replication written by Nexenta to improve on the ZFS feature, domain group support and upgrade readiness for the next major release, v4.0. Powell said Nexenta is adding enhancements to NexentaStor's ZFS dedupe all the time.

NexentaVSA for View is generally available, giving Nexenta a VDI capability which it says adds a lot of automation to the previously manual VDI process. The storage cost per VDI instance is $35. Tintri's is $23 and GreenBytes is $12. Dell EqualLogic and HP LeftHand (P4000) are in the $200-300 area while NetApp, with its A-SIS dedupe, says VDI instance costs can be as low as $50.

There is a cloud archive facility whereby a NexentaStor system can backup data to Google, Amazon and OpenStack Swift clouds. There is a Hadoop connection for Nexenta being developed as well. Nexenta has boosted its support and is reliant for a lot of business on repeat purchases by customers. Powell said the average lifetime purchase with Nexenta for a customer is seven times the initial purchase; 18 times the first order though for the top customers.

Overtaking NetApp

Nexenta has some 4,500 customers currently and finance is the leading vertical. It was number six. One US finance customer has 3PB of Nexenta storage. Powell is bullish about the future; "In five years Nexenta will be the leading storage supplier in terms of the number of deployed units. It's NetApp today."

What we have here is a company that made its first sale in 2008 and has been growing sales in triple digit percentages annually since. It's a measure of Sun's and then Oracle Sun's failure that its Open Solaris/ZFS-based storage has languished while Nexenta's has erupted. You get the feeling that Nexenta customers would like the enterprise reliability and rock-solid reputation of NetApp kit but, firstly, can't afford it and, secondly, think Open Solaris + ZFS is superior to Data ONTAP even though it lacks many of NetApp's data management features.

NetApp is growing strongly and consistently in unified storage sales; look at the financial results, but Nexenta is growing faster, from a smaller base of course. If its growth projections come good then it will progress from being an irritating flea bite for EMC and NetApp to being a thorn in their feet. Powell I think relishes the prospect. He's on a charge and convinced Nexenta is going places, big places, exabyte-scale places. ®

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