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Pivot3 Looks to Couple Virtual Servers, Networked Storage

By Kenneth Corbin (Send Email)
Posted November 2, 2011


In this era of big data, in which enterprises pair virtualized servers with shared storage and networks, they often find themselves dealing with a staggeringly complex--and expensive--IT stack.

Pivot3, a firm specializing in software that couples server virtualization with shared storage, refers to those challenges as "the three S's": simplicity, scalability and savings.

"Enterprises with storage-rich applications quickly face the fact that large-scale storage is difficult to management and extremely expensive," said Pivot3 co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer Lee Caswell.

Founded in 2003, Pivot3 touts its flagship vSTAC software as a unified compute and storage product geared for server admins, running on commodity x86 hardware and embedding server virtualization within the shared storage layer.

"For users, the result is a set of converged storage and compute appliances that are easy for server administrators to understand, seamless to scale by simply adding appliances, and cost-effective since the appliances are based on high-volume commodity servers," Caswell said.

The vSTAC software, Caswell explained, "repurposes cost-effective server appliances into scale-out storage building blocks with embedded virtual servers."

Pivot3 loads the vSTAC OS software onto appliances specially customized for various market segments. It then sells them to resellers that in turn integrate application software, switches and other components into the system.

The founders of the eight-year-old company, based in Austin, Texas, drew inspiration from Google File System, which tapped into commodity servers to create a highly reliable, scalable system due to what Caswell described as "elegant software." In founding Pivot3, they sought to do the same thing with RAID, coupling server virtualization with shared storage in a high-performance, parallel-networked environment.

"We had built many generations of custom RAID controllers and believed there was a similar opportunity to build reliable, scalable block-based storage systems without proprietary hardware," Caswell said.

Pivot3 boasts a network of more than 500 global clients, spanning markets such as retail, education, transportation and the public sector. But it's not always an easy sell.

Storage administrators, in particular, are frequently resistant to Pivot3's pitch to tie virtual servers into a scale-out storage area network, Caswell said, explaining that they are often "confused, and sometimes threatened" by Pivot3's proposition.

"After all, for the last 30 years, high-performance storage has been purchased and managed separately from physical servers," he said, noting that the application approach can drive storage admins "out of their comfort zone."

"Our unified appliances appeal more to server admins who need to solve storage-rich application needs without becoming storage experts," Caswell added.

Pivot3 has slated an array of software and hardware advances on its roadmap for the coming year. Caswell declined to elaborate on the specifics of the company's software plans, but on the hardware front, Pivot3 is looking ahead to incorporating the projected server developments into its platform, including Intel eight-core CPUs, flash on the motherboard and 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports.

Pivot3 is also moving ahead with new leadership. On Tuesday, the company announced the appointment of Rich Bravman as its new CEO, replacing Robert Fernander, who will stay on with Pivot3 but focus on business development. Bravman is a veteran technology executive who most recently served as vice president of corporate development and chief marketing officer at NCR Corp.

Kenneth Corbin is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. He has written on politics, technology and other subjects for more than four years, most recently as the Washington correspondent for InternetNews.com, covering Congress, the White House, the FCC and other regulatory affairs. He can be found on LinkedIn here

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