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Pivot3 storage moves toward composable capabilities

CEO Ron Nash said Pivot3 and NexGen Storage are integrated as a single code base. NexGen gives Pivot3 automated QoS and dynamic provisioning for multi-cloud enterprises.

The Pivot3 storage portfolio has expanded into different directions over the years. Pivot3 started out selling -- and still sells -- storage for media and surveillance before moving into hyper-converged infrastructure after HCI gained popularity.

CEO Ron Nash said the acquisition of NexGen Storage in 2017 was a watershed moment for the vendor, based in Austin, Texas. NexGen gave Pivot3 storage quality of service and nonvolatile memory express (NVMe) PCIe flash -- capabilities that underpinned the 2017 launch of the Pivot3 Acuity HCI system.

In the last month, Pivot3 added HCI products to expand its use cases. The vendor launched a ruggedized Intelligent Edge Command and Control system that's optimized for analytics and virtual desktops and built for defense and intelligence operations in the field. It also forged a partnership with Lenovo to sell a set of edge computing systems for smart city security, based on Pivot3 HCI software and Lenovo ThinkSystem servers.

Nash said Pivot3 now has its sights set on adding composable infrastructure as a series of enhancements to its HCI platform.

He added that Pivot3's average selling price per unit increased 74% since the Acuity launch. With the NexGen integration complete, composable infrastructure is part of Pivot3's strategy to sell more to enterprises with sprawling application workflows that need both automation and scalability, particularly in a multi-cloud environment.

"When you first start out, you put your blinders on and try to go as fast as possible," Nash said. "It's almost like a demonstration market. But you have to keep innovating. You can't keep still. Things that were seen as innovative a few years ago aren't so innovative anymore. That's both the beauty and the challenge of technology."

Pivot3 CEO Ron NashRon Nash

We recently spoke with Nash on the Pivot3 storage strategy and product roadmap.

How do you evaluate the advent of composable storage? Some observers claim it is more flexible than hyper-converged infrastructure, which pacakges compute, networking, storage and virtualization on a single hardware appliance.

Ron Nash: Well, you could run composable units on a hyper-converged platform now, if you wanted to. In fact, that's the direction we're heading.

The composable stuff is really just a packaging exercise: You deliver processing, storage, networking and such as definable units that you can mix and match in different measures to meet different service levels. But once you start running composable units, you can run it on a hyper-converged infrastructure plaform just fine.

It is additive. It gives you one higher level of abstraction, above the hyper-converged infrastructure platform you have now. That's why we're interested in it. We'll have a policy-driven engine that allows you to specify those pieces and, in the parlance, compose those units such that we can provide modules of performance that people will need.

Would this be a different licensing model for Pivot3?

Nash: Yes, it would be another software layer on top of the hardware modules. We're abstracting just one step farther from the hardware into the software zone.

The direction we're taking is to make the composable stuff into a software mechanism. That software layer will manipulate the platform underneath to [provision] the right type of units to provide the right service level at the right cost level and right security level. They don't have to think about the hardware underneath. They'll think in terms of the load they have.

How soon do you expect this feature to go live on Pivot3 storage?

Nash: We are working on it right now. We have parts of it operating in our lab. We won't have one grand step where we announce composable as a part of a big picture. We'll have a series of releases over quarters that add different capabilities as we move down that road.

How rapidly are Pivot3 storage customers adopting a multi-cloud strategy? And how is it reflected in your growth?

Nash: I read a research survey that 80% of CIOs [are using] multiple clouds. To me, that's [the equivalent] of crossing the chasm. Everybody put their toe in the water, figured out what the cloud was and then had to bring stuff back on premises. You need the ability to go into and out of the public cloud and private clouds.

We're making our platform with high performance, such that it runs far more of a company's applications than our competitors. That means we're getting more load and bigger orders.

We have had people buying a bigger platform from the get-go, but our average selling price increased 74% in the last year. We've gone from a baseline of hundreds of thousands of dollars [per sale] to 74% higher on average. That's massive. Usually, you're happy if you get a 5% increase year over year.

Which vertical sectors account for the most growth in Pivot3 storage?

People are starting to get away from the early romance of the cloud -- the idea that I could pick one cloud and put everything on it. That was never going to happen.
Ron NashCEO, Pivot3

Nash: We recently announced our revenue growth at 70% year over year. Growth is coming in the hybrid cloud and software-defined data center. People in that market are becoming more educated and discriminating. If you've got a little bitty job, there are a whole bunch of [vendors] for that.

The strengths of Pivot3 storage are ultrahigh performance, large application environments that need to scale, automated quality of service and policy management. We have broadcast that to the market, and enterprise customers are getting a bead on us. They seem to know when to call us.

Pivot3 and NexGen Storage are integrated in a single code base. Trace the impact the NexGen acquisition has had on your cloud business.

Nash: We are benefiting from the amalgamation of the NexGen and Pivot3 teams. You've got to have automation if you're [managing] data that's scattered across private, hybrid and public clouds. The fact we had the forethought to start working on the automation layer is really paying off now.

People are starting to get away from the early romance of the cloud -- the idea that I could pick one cloud and put everything on it. That was never going to happen. People now have a more sophisticated view. They say, 'I need some private cloud capabilities inside and probably need two or three different public clouds, based on the job and service level.' And they need the ability to connect these clouds and move data back and forth. That plays to our strength as a platform, with automation layers that let you keep up with it.

What's been the most surprising feature that customers are requesting?

Nash: The one people are asking about most is encryption. We have customers in government and security that need to encrypt data, so we've always done that. But we're starting to see the early edge of a wave for encryption in many more companies. They have growing concern about [cloud] data breaches and being able to protect people's personal identities. They think, 'Why not just encrypt everything?'

As NVMe over Fabric gets going, we'll move from a world of electromechanical devices and storage controllers to a world that looks more like memory. If you're working in memory, the cost of encryption is in single digits, in terms of the impact on performance. If you've got the right architectural platform, the cost of encryption is well worth it.

Our erasure coding is not content-aware, but it uses a linear algebra algorithm that works just fine. That's going to make a huge difference for us on encrypted data. We can get storage efficiency that is as good on encrypted as ion unencrypted data.

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Pivot3 is the first HCI vendor to integrate NVMe flash storage. What advantages does this provide in a multi-cloud setting?
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