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Pivot3 HCI: 7 things you should know

Where did Pivot3 first target its hyper-converged storage systems, and where is it focused today? Find out answers to these and other frequently asked questions.

When Pivot3 was founded in 2003, it focused on the specialized but large market of storage of video files for the security and surveillance markets. With pedigrees that included experience from Adaptec, Compaq and particularly VMware, the founders started with the idea of building and selling a complete Pivot3 HCI storage system appliance built around virtual storage.

The Pivot3 HCI products are based on the company's vSTAC OS, which handles the management of the shared compute and storage resources in the appliance, in the place of a hypervisor. However, Pivot3 supports VMware ESXi and Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisors.

Pivot3 has expanded to other market sectors, such as government and healthcare, that have need for large data file storage systems. In addition the Austin, Texas-based company has hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) products for the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) market. With the release of its latest product line, Acuity, Pivot3 said it can support multiple types of workloads at the same time, in part because of the quality of service (QoS) management software it obtained when it bought NexGen storage in 2016.

What was the first customer market for Pivot3 HCI products?

Pivot3 launched its first hyper-converged products in the surveillance and security markets in 2008. Pivot3's first product was a virtual storage system for surveillance use cases, called High-Definition Video Storage. The company's storage system is a mix of primary and secondary storage use cases -- quick access to recent data and long-term storage of older data.

How does Pivot3's HCI storage differ from other secondary storage systems?

Most hyper-converged secondary storage uses some form of built-in data reduction, such as compression or deduplication. With an emphasis on security, government, healthcare and other markets that have a need for reliable, long-term data retention of large files, Pivot3 focuses instead on erasure coding. The data is broken up into smaller pieces, and erasure codes are appended to each piece. The new pieces are then distributed across multiple storage points in an array, meaning that, if one piece of data gets corrupted, the overall data file can be restored from one of the other smaller pieces.

Pivot3 maintains that traditional data reduction techniques slow down data storage systems too much for its customers and that they have fine-tuned erasure coding to the point where it has little effect on system performance.

Is Pivot3 a public or private company?

Pivot3 is still a private company, although CEO Ron Nash said it is looking to do an initial public offering. The company has raised a total of $253 million in funding, with the most recent round, a Series H worth $55 million, coming in late 2016.

Is large data storage the only market Pivot3 targets?

As early as 2011, Pivot3 launched an appliance focused on the VDI market, expanding beyond its core surveillance business. Both product lines are based on the vSTAC OS. But the VDI appliances are configured to provide high IOPS, and the large data storage appliances are tuned to benefit greater bandwidth and data reliability.

What is this vSTAC OS?

The Pivot3 HCI vSTAC OS is the company's storage system software, which treats the various physical storage devices in the hyper-converged appliance as a virtual storage pool. The software determines which virtual drive gets what piece of any large data file, which has been broken up in the erasure coding process.

How did the purchase of NexGen in 2016 affect Pivot3 HCI?

Just a few months after the NexGen Storage acquisition, Pivot3 released its first all-flash appliance, vSTAC Service Level Extension (SLX). The product married NexGen N5 Peripheral Component Interconnect Express flash arrays to vSTAC hyper-converged clusters. It also included the NexGen QoS software, which enables customers to set minimum acceptable performance levels for factors such as lag and IOPS.

What is Pivot3 Acuity?

When Pivot3 fully integrated the technology it obtained in the NexGen purchase into its existing HCI systems, it released in the summer of 2017 the Acuity line of appliances. Acuity products include the nonvolatile memory express all-flash storage that came from NexGen as part of the appliance and not as a hybrid product, as was the case with vSTAC SLX. However, Acuity appliances can be purchased as all-flash models or as hybrid storage models, with both flash and HDDs. In addition, the NexGen QoS software was incorporated directly into the vSTAC OS, creating a single management UI for end users.

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