Nirvanix Shutdown: Some Customers Face Mission Impossible - InformationWeek

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Cloud // Infrastructure as a Service
11:41 PM
Charles Babcock
Charles Babcock
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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.

[ Want to learn more about Nirvanix's troubles? See Nivranix Tells Cloud Storage Customers: Move Your Data. ]

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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User Rank: Ninja
9/26/2013 | 11:25:59 AM
re: Nirvanix Shutdown: Some Customers Face Mission Impossible
Welcome to the cloud! While it is tragic for the customers who have little to nothing to do with the demise of Nirvanix it hopefully teaches them a lesson: the cloud is volatile by design! The vendor can go belly up in weeks, the connection can be lost, and plenty more things can happen that jeopardize your data.
Use the cloud solely for things that are not critical and if lost result to a minor inconvenience. You have been warned many many times!
Ian Moyse
Ian Moyse,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/20/2013 | 4:35:30 PM
re: Nirvanix Shutdown: Some Customers Face Mission Impossible
like any market will have winners and losers and customers need to do diligence
on their provider which should include off boarding meaning how easy is it to
get your data back in a usable format and move elsewhere should you choose or
need, Good cloud providers will make this easy and are open and up front
about their provision for this,. Cloud is a long term play as a provider , not
a quick buck market and unless you differentiate the customer value you deliver
you can rapidly become marginalised and commoditised. The issue in this
case is the lack of time allowed to their customers to take the required action
due to not provisioning contingency into their own business models ahead of
time. Cloud in the majority is a highly positive outcome for the customer,
their will be exceptions like this along the journey of cloud evolution as
there was in the product world.

Ian Moyse
User Rank: Strategist
9/19/2013 | 6:19:40 PM
re: Nirvanix Shutdown: Some Customers Face Mission Impossible
Both EMC Atmos and Iron Mountain Virtual File Store preceded ceasing to exist as cloud storage. Atmos was closed in mid-2010. Iron Mountain announced in April 2011 it was exiting its cloud-based Virtual File Store business. But it had only been in the storage service for two years and had fewer customers than Nirvanix. It stopped taking new customers at the start of April 2011 before making its announcement. It also guaranteed continued customer service for two years, not two weeks. It helped customers move to another cloud service or get their data back on premises. Iron Mountain was an example of how to end a cloud service. Is Nirvanix following in its footsteps?.
User Rank: Author
9/19/2013 | 4:54:30 PM
re: Nirvanix Shutdown: Some Customers Face Mission Impossible
The "not enough tunnels" metaphor seems apt here. This is the first cloud storage evac incident on this scale, right Charlie? I wonder if this spells very bad news for all but the largest cloud storage vendors.
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