Nirvanix: Cloud hype at its most annoying

Posted on May 28, 2009

Nirvanix is a cloud storage company that offers several solutions around their Storage Delivery Network(SDN). Nirvanix is at its core an API-based cloud storage solution, similar to Amazon S3. In fact, what they’ve done is simply created a “better-s3-than-s3”, solution which adds a lot of intelligence to the backend storage to give you the benefits of global load balancing and Content Delivery Network (CDN) capabilities. As the CEO says, take Amazon S3 and smash it together with the Akamai CDN and you get Nirvanix.

Here’s what irritates me…. they keep beating on this “the box is dead” drum. That slogan is misleading at best, and hypocritial at worst. Hypocritical because one of the products they sell based on the Nirvanix SDN is a gateway NAS software solution called Cloud NAS, which is really just a FUSE module for the SDN. So I think what they really mean is “their box is dead… ours is great.” A much more truthful slogan might be that “disk is dead”, as you could call their CloudNAS box a “diskless storage server”.

There is really a lot of confusion in the cloud space between what is available as a common protocol storage solution (NFS, CIFS, iSCSI, etc) versus some API based solution like Nirvanix or S3. Are you going to run Exchange on Nirvanix? No, although you might backup Exchange to a service offered by some company which as its backed uses the Nirvanix SDN.

The same problem exists for S3… people commonly claim they use S3 for all sorts of things, but more often than not, they aren’t using S3 at all… rather they are buying a service from someone who themselves uses S3 as the backend store. It’s misleading and confusing to new consumers and busy IT pro’s who can’t keep up all the time.

So, Nirvanix is a great solution for any of you currently unhappy with S3’s scalability…. but, the box is not dead. Not by a long shot. Just a lot of marketing hype that confuses potential customers from fully understanding what the product really is.

If you are in the real world, not developing your own applications, and are interested in real storage protocols that anyone can use out of the box, go check out Zetta (currently in beta). Zetta is currently planning to offer multi-protocol access (NFSv3,v4, CIFS, WebDav, SFTP, with more to come) on a pay-for-what-you-use model. No setup, just mount and go…. that is the way it ought to be.

    Perhaps the best way to distinguish the two approaches is based on audience…

  • If you’re a (web) developer who just wants a way to store data that you don’t own… consider Amazon S3 or Nirvanix SDN.
  • If you’re a SysAdmin who wants a remote data store that inter-operates with your existing infrastructure… go Zetta.
  • … alternatively, if you want local storage that actually works and is easy to use, get an open storage platform.

Just as an aside… Sun knows how to smash stuff that’s actually working and continues to work. Far more entertaining than beating up eBay scrap systems in a field.