Cohesity’s revolutionary converged secondary storage platform hits general availability

Led by the original co-founder of Nutanix, Cohesity aims to disrupt the market for secondary storage the same way Nutanix disrupted primary storage.

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Mohit Aron, Cohesity’s founder and CEO

Santa Clara CA-based Cohesity, which came out of stealth this spring, has launched its product, the Cohesity Data Platform, a web-scale offering designed to consolidate all secondary storage functionality on a single platform.

The company’s founder and CEO, Mohit Aron, was the co-founder of Nutanix and author of the term hyperconvergence, and like Nutanix, Cohesity has a strong Google flavour, with many of their design and engineering team originating from there. Aron also intends that Cohesity will have a similar impact on the storage market as Nutanix.

“Nutanix disrupted primary storage,” he said. “Cohesity will do the same for secondary storage. “

While secondary storage is often equated simply with backup, Aron said Cohesity views it as a much broader concept, which today creates problems that need to be solved.

“We are redefining secondary storage as everything in the datacentre associated with non–mission critical functionality,” he said. “We liken storage in the datacentre to an iceberg, where the primary storage is just the small tip of the iceberg visible above the water, while the secondary storage is beneath. As a result, solving the primary storage problem only goes part of the way.”

Aron said their definition of secondary storage includes all manner of data protection, including archiving, test and dev, and analytics.

“These are typically bought from many different vendors, which leads to a high level of fragmentation with multiple vendors and multiple licenses,” he said. “The bulk of the data in secondary storage is dark data, so people don’t know what’s going on there. Because data protection is very fragmented, it causes expensive forklift upgrades when you fill up. And data protection is treated like an insurance policy instead of being used to its full potential. To do that, and draw insights from it, you have to migrate it to analytics or test/dev, which is expensive.”

Aron said Cohesity’s vision overcomes all these problems by consolidating secondary storage.

“We have built an infinitely scalable storage platform on which we will converge all secondary storage,” he said. “It removes all that fragmentation, all those extra copies of data, and lets analytics illuminate that dark data. People have been solving point problems in this space. We are the first to look for a comprehensive solution.”

Aron noted that infinitely scale-out systems in primary storage have only come in the last two to four years.

“Webscale companies like Google were the first to do that, to solve their particular problems, but their solutions were proprietary. It took a long time to bring these techs into the secondary storage space, which has more data than primary. There is still much more we can do, and we will be adding much more on to our platform, but we have achieved a major part of it now, and that is why we are going into general availability.”

Cohesity has had an early access program up since they emerged from stealth with a funding announcement in June, at which point they had two customers.

“Now we have 15 customers,” Aron said. – “We are announcing a new feature, Analytics Workbench, which allows customers to inject code into the appliance to their can run their own custom queries.” This complements Cohesity’s native analytics capabilities which provide real-time metrics and forecasting. While Cohesity says this eliminates the need for separate data analytics infrastructure, support for integrated third-party analytics applications will become available in 2016 for those who want that option.

“We will also soon be announcing support for encrypted data at rest, and we have more announcements coming,” Aron said.

While Nutanix started in the mid-market, and then gradually moved up to the enterprise once the market became aware that the product worked, Aron said that the increased maturity of the market since Nutanix started will allow Cohesivity to pursue a different strategy.

“Unlike Nutanix, we are positioning this as an enterprise product from the outset although we are also selling into the mid-market,” Aron said. “While Nutanix had to educate the market, now the enterprise is waiting for a product like this, which allows us to tackle this market much earlier than Nutanix did.” They are staying away from the SMBs though because at a starting price of under $USD 120,000 for a Cohesity appliance, Aron acknowledged the ROI is hard to justify.

“It would be easier for SMBs as software only,” he said.

Nutanix’s model of selling 100 per cent through the channel is also being used by Connectivity, even though Aron acknowledged that Cohesity’s sales specialists will be doing the heavy lifting at the outset.

“In the beginning, we don’t expect the channel to be able to provide much help selling them,” he said. “This was the case with Nutanix too, but the channel provided the introductions to customers, and we paid them the commissions, and eventually when they are trained well enough they can deal with the customer directly.”

Today, Cohesity has signed up about 20 partners, a number that Aron said will increase over time. Two of these partners are in Canada.

A key issue for both Cohesity and its partners is the degree to which Cohesity will ‘play nice’ with other secondary storage products – the ones it is ultimately designed to replace. Given that Cohesity’s channel partners have established relationships with those vendors, the company is strongly emphasizing that it is not incompatible with other secondary storage products. Much like Nutanix, it is being sold initially for specific projects, which can fit into a data centre filled with other products.

“We are not a ‘rip and replace’ solution,” Aron said. “We are something that can be bought for a small project right now, starting fairly small. Once we get in, then we expand from there.”

Aron also stressed that they can back up products like Isilon, which today have no backup, that they can expedite test and dev environments, and that they provide an Apple-like single pane of glass to manage all secondary storage.

Two hardware platforms for the C2000 Series were announced, with each 2U block containing four clustered nodes. Cohesity clusters can mix hardware generations and types, and can grow from four to four hundred nodes. The C2300 offers 48 TB raw HDD capacity and 3.2 TB raw PCI-e SSD capacity. The C2500 offers 96 TB raw HDD capacity and 6.4 TB raw PCI-e SSD capacity.