Nirvanix Shutdown: Some Customers Face Mission Impossible
Cloud storage provider's pending shutdown gives customers 2 weeks to move data out -- and that's not enough time given bandwidth realities. One expert's advice: Panic now.
It's as if New York City filled up with residents over 100 years, then, in a catastrophic event, everyone tried to get out at once. The bridges, tunnels and tube trains aren't big enough to allow that.
Something like that appears to be happening with Nirvanix. The company has hit a wall financially and advised its customers Monday to move their data elsewhere by Sept. 30. Gartner analyst Kyle Hilgendorf said Wednesday that Nirvanix customers have flocked to Gartner seeking advice on how to quickly move their data. Customers have also told him that the initial deadline has been extended to Oct. 15.
That may not be long enough.
Nirvanix has hundreds of customers who have stored many terabytes or petabytes of data with the cloud service, as one of the best and most enterprise oriented ones available. According to InformationWeek's sister publication CRN, one of them has 20 petabytes of data stored on Nirvanix's Storage Delivery Network. The data trickled in slowly over several years. Storage Delivery Network was first launched in 2007. But the pipes that carried the trickle in are still the only pipes available to carry what is now a flood tide trying to get out.
Andres Rodriguez, CEO of Nasuni, a storage system supplier relying on major public cloud providers, said cloud exit pipes are designed to handle a few customers at a time, not the whole customer base. They have a set bandwidth under contract with the cloud supplier. Storage service providers in some cases will keep them minimal to hold down their network bandwidth costs. Their investment is in adding new customers, not helping existing ones exit quickly.
"Two weeks is too short a time," Rodriguez said in an interview. Each Nirvanix customer must locate another supplier, sign a contract and get connections made for the data to move from one service provider to another. Or the customer must establish storage capabilities on premises. Four weeks probably isn't enough time for that, either, he said.
It's as if a homeowner filled a swimming pool over many days, using a garden hose. Then he decides he must empty the pool quickly, but "if all he has is the garden hose, the water can't suddenly rush out through it," Rodriguez said.
With everyone trying to get their data out of Storage Delivery Network, each customer will be allocated a share of the bandwidth available. Rodriguez estimated that it might take 10-12 months to remove one petabyte under such circumstances.
Nirvanix officials have yet to comment publicly on what's going on. News that anything was amiss came from a U.K. partner, Cloud Aorta, which is now seeking to raise funds for Nirvanix. The Nirvanix website continues to call for business as usual with no reference to difficulties or a potential hazard of storing data with a company that may not have a future. In fact it continues to solicit new customers. Nirvanix CEO Debra Chrapaty took over nine months ago, leaving her post as CIO at Zynga to take the job. Repeated calls to company officials at its San Diego headquarters were routed to an answering machine, which records a message that fails to produce any corporate executive response.
Rodriguez's Nasuni is in a distinct but related business to Nirvanix. It supplies a system that spreads customer's data out over two cloud storage providers. Two years ago, it placed some of its customers' data on Nirvanix. At the time, it ran a test of downloading data from its main storage suppliers, and Rodriguez's staff detected slowdowns at Nivranix. The decision to stop doing business "was a technical decision. It was based purely on our own study," which was controversial at the time. Existing Nirvanix customers labeled it "unfair" after Nasuni published the results, recalls Rodriguez.
But Nasuni prompted 20 of its customers to move their data to the two vendors who showed the strongest download performance, Microsoft's Azure and Amazon Web Services' S3. The last customer finished moving off Nirvanix 30 days ago.
"We had seen the cracks in their system. The performance was dropping as you scaled up the download. I said to myself, 'These guys are falling further and further behind,'" as Amazon, Rackspace, Google and Microsoft all used highly scalable storage as their loss leader to get customers hooked on cloud computing. Their download performance can scale as download traffic increases.
Nirvanix appears to have conceived of itself as an archive of data in the cloud. Data steadily arrived in predictable, small streams. The business plan didn't anticipate a need to export all the data of all its customers over a short period. Unfortunately, that circumstance has arrived.
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