On June 1, 2010 we paid a visit to Nexenta, to attend a company presentation delivered by Jon Ash, VP of Sales and Marketing and and Brad Stone, CTO. There are 30 people working for Nexenta, a lot of the development being done in Russia, and there are also contractors working for them (including some figureheads such as one of the people who wrote ZFS, a file system devised by Sun, now acquired by Oracle); but the strength of Nexenta is not in its headcount. “We are 30 people plus 30,000 others who work for us, but I don’t pay for the 30,000” Jon Ash says. By that he means that Nexenta is based on the opensource model and that the community developing for them are doing this for free, as is the case of Linux or any other opensource solution for that matter.
As a matter of fact, the numbers may be a little different as Dmitry Yusupov, Nextenta’s co-founder told us, it’s only 10 people who develop on the more proprietary layers of Nexenta and 50,000 who take part in its testing and evolution at various levels. Anyway, this gives us a flavour of what the company is all about, this is Opensource and collaborative work
Nextenta is a software company, founded in 2005 and Nexentastor is its software package which supports all sorts of technologies: CIFS, iSCSI, NFS, FC etc. 20 applications exist and are now part of the application catalogue. Nexenta’s founders wrote the iSCSI stack (“i” stands for Internet and SCSI is the name of a protocol for disk controllers). They are both Russian and they came to the Silicon Valley to develop their business and take it to the next step. Nexenta is acknowledged for disrupting the market and if they succeed it will have a great impact on the industry, and if nothing else, it will have a huge impact on prices.
Using the Internet to increase brand awareness
One of the things I found most interesting though is how a very small company with virtually no brand awareness at all can work its way through the big names and become a supplier of significant players in the marketplace just using the Internet and leveraging the tools which enable to boost a reputation. The Nexenta web lead generation model is depicted above as shown by Jon Ash during the presentation.
To conclude this brief introduction to Nexenta and its offer, and before letting you delve into the script of the presentation by Jon Ash, let me introduce you to Dmitry Yusupov, co-founder of Nexenta who describes the ups and downs of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who came all the way from Russia to settle down in California. I found this interview very refreshing and very tale-telling of the courage required to become a full-fledged successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur. There are a lot of take aways to be taken from this interview:
Following is a transcript of the presentation by Jon Ash
- It’s a unmatched enterprise features with 70-80% savings.
- ZFS: best system in the world.
- Nexenta OS: 1 million users around the world. It’s an open source model, it had never been applied to storage yet and this is giving a fair advantage to Nexenta over Netapp and others. Nexentastor is a closed source layer on top of the open source core in order to commercialise it. The enterprise edition adds synchronous replication to ZFS as well as ease of use. Optional modules include VM management + worm + Pomona.
- Extremely scalable: it can be even run over a laptop. Nexenta licences is a universal licence which can be passed from one machine to another. Only software suite able to do compression, dedupe and in-box virus scan (according to Jon ash Sun can do all other features apart from virus scan).
- a graphical interface is made available to the administrator.
- Comparing us to other vendors, Nexenta offers – according to Jon Ash – more features, is more scalable all that a superior price
- “Nexenta is a kind of Linux for storage and that has never been done before”. It’s just storage that hasn’t gone the non proprietary route and we are trying to change that, all at a price point which is making things more rewarding.
- The pricing is extremely aggressice, 60-70% lower than competitors but the discounts are low. This is just the opposite of what the market is doing on average. Jon Ash says that the “industry is set up in this crazy way” and that hardware vendors “own the client” and that this is not the way it should be.
- on the Web side: Communities, bloggers, partners and adwords lead to serious web traffic and that brings trial users, interested partners and eventually conversions. 3-5% conversion rates on average of the people that download the software. The result is that Nexenta is doing more web hits than Netapp on certain days only via word of mouth.
- Business model: the ZFS core is free but all that goes on top has to be paid for: Gui + all additional functionality (synch replication, optional modules etc.). Support also has to be paid for but the licence is perpetual and is paid once and for all.
- adoption hotspots
- cloud computing with discussions engaged with all major providers at the moment. Some vendors are asking the company how you can deploy the software across 10,000 servers at the same time!
- virtual desktops: handles bootstorms (ability to boot large numbers of desktops at the same time)
- What Nexenta provides is fast storage. Nexenta starts with the core and adds things to it and tries and make things better.
- Work with people like supermicro to achieve certification, work with LSI, HP, Xyratex and Dell certifications
- growing channel with 100+ resellers
- Nexenta is acknowledged to disrupt the market and if they succeed it will have a great impact on the industry, and if nothing else, it will have a huge impact on prices. Legacy storage technologies
- how come you don’t have more clients if it’s so good and so cheap?
- it’s a different model, and Nexenta didn’t want to scale before the service was built and there was certain functionality we needed. this is taking time to scale.
- how do teach your clients to store cleverly rather than just do dedupe and compress?
- it’s an area where we need to do more. We need to partner with different people in different areas and we are starting to partner with people in order to do that but this is not done yet. It’s a huge opportunity for us.