You may have been surprised to see the name Pivot3 turn up as a leader in HCI in recent analyst reports. We are more used to seeing Nutanix & SimpliVity in the lead. Then a collection of others spread nearer or further way depending on the evaluation criteria. Pivot3 has made a huge amount of ground over the last year as an HCI vendor. The company has been around for a long time. Originally with a scale-out storage product that targeted video surveillance. This year they acquired NexGen storage, to add high-performance flash and storage QoS to their products. At the same time, Pivot3 hugely expanded their marketing team and partner program to make the products much more visible.
Lately I’ve been seeing Erasure Coding (EC) a lot more in products. Pivot3 use EC to distribute stored data over nodes in their HCI. EC allows data to be stored with high durability, Pivot3 can survive up to five concurrent failures. EC is also space efficient. In that high durability configuration, usable space is nearly 75% of physical disk space. The challenge with EC is that it tends to be CPU intensive or add latency to IO. Pivot3 always store all persistent data using EC, so they have had ten years to optimize their EC. I hadn’t thought about some of the other consequences of starting in video surveillance. One is that the sheer velocity of data means that there is no backup, the primary copy must be very durable. Another element is that the data is very critical. You cannot afford to lose the one video frame that allows you to identify who committed a crime. Customers who have used Pivot3 to store critical video data are more likely to trust them to store VMs. I was impressed with how the NexGen acquisition has been integrated. Within a few months of the deal closing, there was an integrated product. The initial integration is in management, a unified console to manage HCI and NexGen storage. This follows my expectation that HCI is about simplification. More than necessarily about a pure scale-out architecture on commodity hardware. Pivot3 delivers on the simplicity and policy-based management of the NexGen storage alongside their HCI. The harder job of integrating the NexGen features into the HCI storage is underway. Expect to see the separate NexGen appliance go away as the QoS and flash features are added to the HCI. This is a huge engineering effort. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.
The other part I found interesting is the differentiation in physical hardware. Pivot3 have solutions that work on blades as well as rack servers. They have support for a software only deployment model or hardware appliances. Even models with enough PCIe slots for Teradici cards with VDI. I think we can expect to keep hearing about Pivot3 HCI in the future.
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