This is Greg Stuart with vDestination and today we are in the Virtual Boardroom with a special guest, Nexenta CEO Evan Powell. Evan took time out of his busy schedule to sit down with me in the Virtual Boardroom and discuss Nexenta, how they pair with VMware, their hot software and where they are going in the future. I want to take a moment to thank Evan and his team for getting this set up for me so that we could put together this blog post. It’s taken me awhile to get this one done, been super busy lately, but this was by far the best conversation I’ve had yet in the Virtual Boardroom, hope you enjoy!

Greg Stuart (GS): Welcome to another edition of The Virtual Boardroom here on vDestination.com. I’m lucky to have Nexenta CEO Evan Powell join me in the boardroom for this edition. Evan, I would like you to introduce yourself to my readers and talk a little bit about your background, how you became the CEO and anything else you would like us to know about yourself

Evan Powell: First off, thank you Greg for the opportunity to chat with your audience. I joined Nexenta in the fall of 2007 and at that point, frankly, Nexenta was more of an open source project than a commercial entity, there were no commercial customers. The project was called Nexenta, it was a project that came out of the Open Solaris and Linux communities to provide an open enterprise class easier to use version of Solaris. What they had found, the founders, who had written the iSCSI stack for Linux so very very deep experience in open source and storage. They found that there was a great demand to bring a NAS unified storage solution into the open source community and the enterprise community based upon the technological underpinnings that I can talk about more. I joined really to get the commercialization going and here we are a little over 4 years later, a couple hundred people and arguably based on some metrics, the fastest growing storage company in terms of units sold, certainly of the last several years.

My background, way back, I was an investment banker, etc. My background, more recently has been helping to found, build and grow enterprise software companies, so I’m a software guy at heart. What I saw in Nexenta was an opportunity to bring the openness of open source the business model of software to really the last bastion of lock in based business models, that being the enterprise class storage market.

GS: OK, very good. Let’s talk a little bit more about Nexenta. Doing some research for this chat, I was on your website and came across your solution NexentaStor. what can you tell us about NexentaStor, what is the premise behind it? How is it being received and who are you supporting with this solution.

EP: Yes, sure. Well Greg, we were talking about VMworld briefly before the interview and if you were at VMworld and did a hands on lab, then you’ve used NexentaStor. VMware is a major customer of Nexenta and they use NexentaStor just as an example, for hands on labs and other cloud-like deployments. As you probably know, hands on labs which hosted 2000 or more labs at VMworld was actually running out in the Cloud. There was a datacenter in Las Vegas, a datacenter back east in Florida and one in Amsterdam. The storage, NexentaStor the software was just running on industry standard hardware, meaning in this case super micro servers attached to lots of disks with some SSDs in the servers and the end result was, VMware and of course all the users of hands on labs got an incredibly high performing unified storage solution at nearly 10 to 15 percent of the costs of the legacy systems that could achieve that kind of performance. Something like 145,000 VMs were created and destroyed over the course of 3 days, billions of IOPS were served, etc. That gives you some idea, NexentaStor is being very widely deployed in the cloud whether its a VMware type environment above us or an open stack, Nexenta is the storage for Creative Telecom’s cloud which is thought to be the largest public cloud in Asia. Then it gets pretty broad, so cloud is big but it is unified storage so you if you need NFS, CIFS, iSCSI any kind of block fiber channel or related protocols, you could run NexentaStor on again, commodity hardware and get the performance of high end legacy storage systems form a vendor perhaps like NetApp at a fraction of the cost up front and overtime because again there is no vendor lock in.

GS: That is very interesting about the VMworld hands on labs, I know that was a huge set up and yes, interestingly enough it was completely in the cloud this past year. It was awesome to see complete performance in the Cloud, knowing that many people are still on the fence about cloud performance. If you were on the fence prior to VMworld 2011 then I think the hands on labs presented an opportunity to really drive the cloud and kick the tires. The hands on labs were definitely a tour de force for VMware last year and should be even better this year. Now that we have a better understanding of what Nexenta Stor is and a great real world example of what it does, I would like to shift our discussion to the available plugins for NexentaStor. I know that there is a plug in for High Availability (HA) and one for HA Cluster along with the virtual machine datacenter plugin which I really like. Could you expound on those some and explain how they partner with HA and HA Cluster?

EP: Sure, one quick point I would make is NexentaStor is available for free forever as a community edition so if you are interested in having your own hands on lab in your own lab or company lab, keep that in mind Greg, there is a 18 TB edition that is of no cost. Now, the plugins you just mentioned, we do sell and one of them is the HA plugin. Our mission in life, as a company I believe, is enterprise class storage for everyone. You’re not enterprise class as you know, as we define it, if you have a single point of failure, what the HA cluster does is allow NexentaStor to seamlessly fail-over if for some reason the server its running on fails, or for that matter the network connecting to that part of the server fails or for that matter NexentaStor itself, which should never fail, but lest say something happens and it fails. You don’t want to lose access to your storage in an enterprise class environment. You can set up NexentaStor in an active-active cluster and again have no single point of failure. Now a quick point is, while your readers are plenty technical to be able to grab NexentaStor community edition or as the VSA that’s available and run it on VMware or on bare metal, it’s worth noting that they can buy the whole thing maybe as a second phase, from a partner meaning the hardware/software pre-integrated, as an example we have Compellent/Dell is on OEM and we have a couple hundred partners all over the world who sell NexentaStor as an appliance.

You also asked about VMDC or VM Datacenter plugin, what this is, is our ability to see VMware environment and the Citrix and Hyper-V environment, display those to you in probably a pretty familiar interface, kind of a tree based interface and enable you to do point and click storage management for those environments. If you want to say for this VMware cluster, I need some fiber channel or for Citrix I want some NFS. You could do all of that and keep track of all those relationships through VMDC and basically the use case is stop using spreadsheets, we haven’t seen anything that enables you to do those many to many mappings across multiple virtualization environments if you like, obviously you can just use it in VMware if you want. Enterprise class storage is not just about keeping you data safe forever, which we believe unlike most new storage companies, we can make the claim that we do a better job at keeping our data safe that the legacy vendors out there thanks to the underlying file system. It’s also about features, not just HA, but features like replication. What I’m getting at, you can also, with VM DC, do point and click with data replication. For those who are interested, under the hood here were leveraging a tremendously powerful 128 bit file system called ZFS. Using that to snapshot the actual files in the case of VMDKs and so forth, so that’s part of the secret here.

GS: I actually didn’t know there was a free version of NexentaStor that you could plug into your home lab, and I’m actually downloading it here as we speak. I’ve got my home lab here and I think the majority of my readers have or want a home lab, so this is good to know. Free is an amazing word when it comes to home labs and we appreciate free versions of software that we can plug in and make our lab even better.

EP: Quickly on that point we have to do a shout out to a fellow blogger, Collin Macmillan. He’s done sort of a paint by numbers breakdown of description of how he uses it in his home lab. You can read more about Collin’s experience with Nexenta here.

GS: Great, thanks for the link. Again, anything we can do to make our home labs more efficient without raising the cost, is huge, so thanks. OK, so we’ve talked about NexentaStor, let’s talk about what’s on the horizon for Nexenta. Anything for VMworld 2012? Is there anything coming from Nexenta that we should be excited about?

EP: Yes, sure. We actually did a bit of a preview of a couple of things at last years VMworld. one of those was, what we’re calling NexentaVSA for View. It’s NexentaStor running ans a virtual storage appliance, we’re of course certified by VMware plus we have hardware partners who have certified us as a bare-metal install as part of a hardware appliance. Nexenta VSA for view, takes NexentaStor runs it as a VSA, but also makes it one button or two button easy to provision your view environment. You can sort of input, this is what my typical view user will look like, these are the SLA in terms of IOPs, tell me how many I can put on this physical box. Essentially with that it’s an ease of use around the integration into view, for the use of NexentaStor as a VM to dramatically accelerate of course performance of your view desktops, because the best IO out to your storage is the one that doesn’t happen. In addition to accelerating it, it just makes it easier. You can read the official press release for NexentaVSA for View on our website.

: Sounds good. Thanks for your time Evan, that’s all the questions I have for you. I’m leaving this blog post open to comments in case one of my readers might have a question. It’s been a great conversation, I’m looking forward to seeing how NexentaStor community editions stands up in my home lab and will probably do a post about it in the near future. GS

EP: Thanks so much for your time Greg, I appreciate the opportunity to reach out to your readers.

Until next time, this is Greg Stuart calling this Virtual Boardroom adjourned.

Greg W Stuart
Greg is the owner and editor of vDestination.com. He's been a VMware vExpert every year since 2011. Greg enjoys spending time with his wife and 3 kids. He works as a Sr. Consultant at VMware and resides in Northern Virginia, 15 minutes west of Washington DC.

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