VMware has products that span data center automation, network virtualization, storage, and end user computing, in addition to its vSphere data center virtualization platform. Some former VMware engineers have gone on to create startups that add value to the VMware ecosystem and sometimes even compete with VMware. These are three startups that I find particularly interesting.
PernixData's founders include two VMware alum: Poojan Kumar (who is the CEO) and Satyam Vaghani (who is the CTO). The startup's primary product is PernixData FVP; the solution looks to improve storage performance by leveraging local SSD installed in the VMware vSphere hosts. The technology works by pooling locally installed SSD into a mini-storage cluster that is leveraged as read and write cache for SAN-based primary storage.
Smaller storage vendors have teamed with PernixData to offer an integrated solution that combines lower range or middle range storage arrays with PernixData FVP. The combination allows organizations on tight budgets to get the performance of an all-flash array at a lower entry price.
Some have questioned the future of PernixData due to a recently announced round of layoffs. The company claims it's more of a right-sizing vs. a retreat. PernixData has claimed record sales in its most recent quarter.
VMware has begun investing heavily in hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) systems. VMware fist entered the HCI market with VMware VSAN. Later, VMware introduced the EVO:RAIL HCI architecture based on VSAN. Several startups have appeared in the HCI space, and SpringPath, Inc. is one of them. SpringPath, Inc. was founded by VMware alums Mallik Mahalingam (who is SpringPath,Inc.'s CTO) and Krishna Yadappanavar.
SpringPath, Inc. is a software only HCI play. The HCI vendor allows the creation of a complete HCI solution by leveraging commodity x86 servers that meet the VMware hardware compatibility list. Unlike VMware VSAN, which requires vSphere, SpringPath, Inc. works with a variety of hypervisors and container software.
I initially spoke with the team at Platform9 when they were in stealth and developing a product strategy. The solution was born out of the frustration of the loss of VMware Lab Manager, a self-service portal that developers and infrastructure used to provision virtual machine resources. As VMware shifted its strategy to cloud-focused technologies, Lab Manager was deprecated. The loss of Lab Manager left a void for simple to use lab provisioning, as vCloud proved to be too complicated.
Four of Platform9's executives come from the ranks of VMware:
- Sirish Raghuram, CEO
- Madhura Maskasky, VP of Product
- Roopak Parikh, VP of Engineering
- Bich Le, Chief Architect
Platform9 has since pivoted away from the narrow focus of replacing Lab Manager. The company's shipping product offers customers quick deploy of OpenStack via outsourcing the management layer to Platform9. By providing OpenStack management in its cloud-based service, users aren't burdened with the difficulties of managing OpenStack. OpenStack APIs allow developers to provision resources without operation teams experiencing the steep OpenStack learning curve.
These three startups offer unique takes on the value of the VMware ecosystem and expand upon the use of VMware vSphere along with competing hypervisors. Do you find their technologies worth exploring? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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Keith Townsend is a technology management consultant with more than 15 years of related experience designing, implementing, and managing data center technologies. His areas of expertise include virtualization, networking, and storage solutions for Fortune 500 organizations. He holds a BA in computing and a MS in information technology from DePaul University.