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Hyper-converged newcomer Nimboxx adds VDI muscle

Rather than develop VDI software internally, the startup acquired Verde and plans to integrate it in the Atomic Unit hyper-convergence platform.

Nimboxx took a page from the big vendors' playbook and acquired desktop virtualization capability for its Atomic...

Unit storage hardware, rather than developing the software in-house.

The company, which came out of stealth in July, last week acquired the Verde business unit of Virtual Bridges for an undisclosed sum. Verde's bare-metal installation for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) includes storage orchestration for managing virtual machines in Windows and Linux.

Nimboxx said it will pick up hundreds of Virtual Bridges' customers and about 30 global resellers.

The Nimboxx hyper-convergence platform consists of the AU-110 hybrid storage array and MeshOS operating software. The AU-110 is a 1U 10-bay device that can be populated with SAS hard disk drives or solid-state drives. Each single-node unit provides up to 10 TB of capacity with SAS drives or up to 8 TB with two flash modules.

MeshOS supports backing up storage to public or private clouds, multi-tier caching and aggregating reads and writes in solid-state storage to boost I/O performance. Nimboxx said it plans to integrate Verde in a high-availability upgrade of MeshOS due out later this year.  Nimboxx execs initially said inline deduplication would be included in the 2015 refresh, but it remains a roadmap item for now.

Nimboxx considered developing its own VDI tool or adding it through channel partners, but ultimately the Verde deal was too good to pass up, chief marketing officer Trent Fitz said. Like Nimboxx, Verde is designed around the Linux Kernel-based Machine (KVM) hypervisor.

"VDI is a key storage workload for hyper-converged systems and Verde makes a natural fit for us. We now can offer customers a turnkey VDI solution," Fitz said.

Verde gives Nimboxx an integrated stack for orchestrating storage

Hyper-converged systems include storage, compute, network and virtualization in one appliance. The goal of hyper-convergence is to make it easier to set up, provision and manage storage for virtual machines (VMs).

Nutanix Inc. and SimpliVity Corp. are widely acknowledged as the leading hyper-convergence vendors due to their early market entry, but competitors have been swelling the ranks. Other hyper-converged providers include Atlantis Computing, Gridstore, Maxta, Pivot3, Scale Computing and VMware's EVO: RAIL consortia for Virtual SAN. Scale is the only vendor besides Nimboxx to use KVM as its core hypervisor.

Adding Verde enables Nimboxx to offer an integrated stack for orchestrating virtual storage, Fitz said. Most hyper-converged systems handle storage orchestration by running the hypervisor in guest VM mode.

"We have built the entire storage software stack and have direct control of bare-metal hardware, so we are able to accelerate performance of reads and writes," Fitz said.

Beta customer Nationwide Healthcare Services installed two Nimboxx AU-110 hybrid arrays to virtualize terminal servers as part of a technology refresh. The company spread storage evenly across the AU-110 appliances and saw "crazy" performance gain, said Nationwide IT director Joe Forman.

"I'm still amazed at how simple it was to set up. Once you power it on, you plug your laptop into a setup port, give it its IP address and it finishes itself. Adding the second Nimboxx to the cluster was even easier. I just gave it an IP address, told it where the other cluster was and it typed in the key for that cluster," Forman said.

"The pure performance gain we got, without rebuilding, was crazy. We basically just took our Unitrends [backup] image and restored it on the Nimboxx."

Acquiring Verde will help Nimboxx carve a niche in the crowded market for hyper-converged systems, said John Abbott, a founding analyst at The 451 Group.

"VDI is an obvious market for hyper-converged appliances, and adding Verde gives Nimboxx an easy route to market. It still plans to keep its focus on the hyper-scale opportunities for service providers and enterprises that want dense, scale-out systems. But the Verde unit will give it a dedicated resource for VDI opportunities, plus an established channel partner network to get it out there," Abbott said.

Nimboxx's Fitz said the vendor has a handful of paying customers in addition to "some very large prospects" evaluating its storage platform. The vendor targets midmarket customers with virtualized storage environments between 100 and 1,000 employees, particularly hospital/physician systems and regional banks.

Next Steps

Nimboxx picks up VERDE for a software-defined data center

Hyper-converged infrastructures continue to evolve

Dig Deeper on Hyper-Converged Vendors and Products

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Is VDI complexity holding you back from hyper-converging storage?
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VDI is an up-market venture for hyper-converged appliances and getting Verde with Nimboxx not only gives it easy access to the market but also builds its hyper-scale opportunities for enterprises as well as service providers using scale-out systems. The Verde addition is meant to be dedicated to the VDI hence establishing a channel partner network that makes hyper-converging storage more efficient. As a result, it can be run as a hypervisor or in guest mode.
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Are you using KVM at all?
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From my experience, in terms of performance, KVM will outdo Virtualbox anytime. Recent performance evaluations have placed KVM among the leading proprietary technologies, giving known top performers a benchmark. KVM costs less by 60 – 90 percent compared to other solutions, and what’s more, the core functionality remains the same. I am certain enterprises can save significantly on costs by switching to KVM. Moreover, the security offered by KVM is top of the league. It is built on Linux and is hence able to employ advanced security capabilities of SELinux. This is vital especially when dealing with virtual machines. 
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Tough to enter such a saturated market with two main front-runners. I wonder if they will become a take over target in the long run?

--KB

Karen J. Bannan, commenting on behalf of IDG and VMware.
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Great move. Buying the software rather than producing in-house means sacrificing on some tailored functionality, but allows a start up to focus on core goals.
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