Hyper-Converged Startup Nimboxx Exits Stealth With New Appliance, $12M In Funding

Hyper-converged infrastructure developer Nimboxx exited stealth mode Thursday with $12 million in new funding and the release of its first appliance combining storage, server, networking and virtualization technology.

Nimboxx, founded in 2012, is targeting midmarket customers looking to take advantage of the scalable data center technologies available to large cloud companies, said Trent Fitz (pictured), chief marketing officer at the Austin, Texas-based company.

"We're trying to take the way public cloud providers build data centers and package it for the midmarket," Fitz told CRN. "We're targeting the midmarket, not because of our technology, but because that is the best market to gain traction. In large enterprises, we would be fighting entrenched competition as well as storage and server and networking silos."

[Related: Gartner Converged Infrastructure 'Magic Quadrant:' Nutanix Top Visionary, VCE Overall Leader]

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The best way for Nimboxx to enter that market is via solution providers, especially service providers not looking to invest heavily in the necessary infrastructure, Fitz said.

"Service providers can provide hosted private clouds with OpenStack but need a half-rack or a full rack of equipment," he said. "They told us they need something different."

That "something different" is the Nimboxx Mesh Operating System, the company's software stack that includes server, storage, networking, security and virtualization hypervisor technology and installs on commodity server hardware.

The company's hardware is a 1U device containing a mix of flash and disk storage, and can generate 180,000 IOPS of performance, Fitz said.

Customers can deploy a single unit, or scale both capacity and performance by clustering multiple nodes, he said. It can be deployed quickly, with the ability to go from initial configuration to having virtual machines up and running in as few as seven minutes, he said.

That deployment speed is a big factor in why MSP Stream IT already has implemented beta appliances at two customer sites, said Rick Redfern, president of the Austin-based company.

"What's attractive to us is the fact that it's a complete out-of-the-box solution with a minimum impact on host operating systems," Redfern said. "The fact that it is a hybrid spinning disk and solid-state storage array helps keep costs down while providing performance. And the Nimboxx scalability is very attractive. I have a bunch of fast-growing SMBs that can benefit from that."

NEXT: Looking At Nimboxx From The Channel Point Of View

Stream IT will use the Nimboxx hyper-converged solutions as a platform on which to provide managed services for clients, and on which to do application development, Redfern said. "If we can mimic the capabilities of Amazon Web Services, it's a great development platform," he said.

Nimboxx also has proven to be a great partner, Redfern said.

"They've been great to work with," he said. "They were very involved in the beta process. It speaks well toward their future support for the channel."

Michael Tanenhaus, principal at Mavenspire, an Annapolis, Md.-based solution provider looking at partnering with a hyper-converged infrastructure vendor such as Nutanix, cautioned that all startup vendors in this part of the market, and not just Nimboxx, face the issue of how long it takes to build a system to support the channel.

"You can't help but look at the size of the company," Tanenhaus said. "If there's a problem, how long will it take to replace the box? Building up logistics and support takes time. If you are doing a configuration with only one or two boxes, it will be hard to get a replacement quickly. It's the same problem with all startups, including Nutanix at the beginning."

A key feature of the Nimboxx technology is the adoption of the KVM hypervisor, Fitz said.

"There's no need to pay for hypervisor licensing again," he said. "Customers in the midmarket can spend tens of thousands of dollars in VMware licenses with other solutions. Meanwhile, most public cloud providers like using KVM or Xen hypervisors, and not paying Microsoft or VMware for hypervisor licenses."

That in itself is not necessarily a major feature, said Greg Smith, Nutanix's senior director of product marketing.

Nutanix supports VMware, KVM or nearly any hypervisor, Smith said. "We're hypervisor-agnostic," he said. "We feel that's the right approach. We think customers don't want to get locked in."

Nimboxx for now sells its solution as a hardware appliance, but Fitz did not rule out making it available as a software-only solution for integrating onto other server hardware some day.

"We felt selling it as a hardware appliance makes it more consumable for more organizations," he said. "That is in line with our mission: There's no need to buy parts and pieces. Customers can scale it out as needed. But ultimately a software-only version will happen. We're in talks with some very large companies who are interested in putting our software on their hardware."