Data Center & Storage Solutions

PernixData CEO exploits VMware gaps to speed up datacentre apps

Poojan Kumar doesn’t bristle when I ask about his company PernixData’s potential for an eventual IPO but he does borrow my notebook and sketch a series of fingernail shapes against an axis. A softly-spoken man, he gives careful consideration to his words rather than launching the bombastic raids of some of his fellow Silicon Valley CEOs. He has clearly thought out the progress of his three-year-old company, which is among the hottest of a crew of startups transforming the datacentre.

Kumar, CEO and co-founder, cites a PernixData investor, the former Veritas CEO Mark Leslie, and an article called The Arc of Company Life in which Leslie argues that for companies to continue to grow they must create serial transformations. Against that backdrop, an IPO is just another event, albeit a significant one, and Kumar doesn’t appear to be in a desperate hurry to get there.

“To IPO you have to have predictability,” he says over lunch in London. “To get that you need a good combination of healthy transactional business and the bigger transactions. You have to time it. Just because you have a $25m quarter, if that’s six guys giving you $4m each that’s not enough.”

Citing a few other recent well known tech floats he contrasts that consistent approach with “whale or elephant hunting” where a few deal wins see CEOs’ eyes light up and reach to ring the NASDAQ bell.

“Most successful companies need a five-to-seven years’ bake time and PernixData is three so we need two or more years,” he says.

Companies like Nutanix, Pure Storage, VCE, SimpliVity and Nimble Storage have changed the face of datacentres with approaches that dramatically accelerate storage, compute and network performance. San Jose-based PernixData is another company that is reconfiguring the sector with its FVP software for virtualising Flash and RAM to speed up and scale out applications. That also means buyers can purchase less storage and enjoy better control of what they have: a huge change for the huge enterprise storage sector.

“We’re going after the storage space in the datacentre but we’ve taken a very software-centric approach,” Kumar says. “Veeam is the closest comparison and a lot of momentum is shifting towards software - like Nicira [now part of VMware] in networking, everything’s becoming software-defined.”

High hopes

His ambitions are lofty: to become the “control plane” of the datacentre. “The target,” he says, “is every virtualised server on the planet. VMware created that problem and the hypervisor has become the new sheet metal.”

PernixData only began shipping FVP in August 2013 but it has raised about $62m in funds, recruited 160 people and sold to over 200 companies. Investors include luminaries like Salesforce.com’s Marc Benioff and the former CEOs of Seagate, Palo Alto Networks and Symantec. The company does not disclose revenues but said in August 2014 that they are growing at over 40% per quarter.

Kumar was raised in Hyderabad, India and like so many modern tech entrepreneurs studied at Stanford University where he considered dropping out such were the teeming notions of what he could build. Instead he led Oracle’s Exadata efforts that became a multibillion dollar franchise and then was at VMware, giving him an insider view of the way virtualisation was revolutionising IT. In a way, PernixData is doing for storage what VMware did for server compute capacity – adding intelligence and taking advantage of native resources.

Modestly he says that “anyone could have done the PowerPoint” he created to sell the fundamental thinking behind PernixData and suggests that much of what’s going on in the datacentre now is the flowering of the fundamental work Google was doing 10 years ago.

“You’re seeing it from Hadoop to predictive analytics and [in future] the network might become a bottleneck,” he believes.

But the upside is vast.

“Wherever VMware exists, the problem exists… and that’s where we’ll be.”


Also read:

PernixData applies VMware thinking to storage

VCE disrupts datacentre disruptors

SimpliVity joins the unicorns on the back of hyperconvergence

Nimble grows with slimmer, smarter storage

Pure Storage leads flash-y charge

Dell cosies up to Nutanix

Nutanix gains on demand for Google-like datacentres


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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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