On Monday, Nutanix officially confirmed that it bought a startup called PernixData.
News of the deal had leaked a few weeks ago when PernixData’s outgoing CTO Frank Denneman told The Register’s Chris Mellor that the sale was already a done deal.
This is a brilliant move by Nutanix and a curious one by PernixData’s leadership.
It’s brilliant for Nutanix for a bunch of reasons. For one, Nutanix has nabbed a key person familiar with the tech of its biggest rival.
Nutanix helped usher in a new computer storage market known as “hyperconverged,” which combines storage along with compute power and the special software that manages computers called a hypervisor.
VMware is the biggest maker of hypervisors — that’s its flagship, bread-and-butter product — although Microsoft also has its own, as does Red Hat, Citrix, others.
Nutanix’s products works with VMware’s hypervisor, of course, but the company also built its own to take on VMware head on, a hypervisor product known as Acropolis.
Given Nutanix’s enormous popularity with businesses, this was a tricky move on Nutanix’s part to unseat the hypervisor king, so much so that VMware has tried to counter-punch and release its own hyperconverged storage product, known as EVO:RAIL. It didn’t sell well and The Reg reported in February that VMware had quietly shelved EVO:RAIL in favour of different storage software.
One of the co-founders of PernixData, Satyam Vaghani, was the early employee of VMware that built some of VMware’s key storage technology and then ran VMware’s storage business. (Storage giant EMC grew so nervous by these projects, it acquired a controlling interest in 2003 for about $635 million.)
So bringing Vaghani into the Nutanix fold is a big score.
Meanwhile PernixData’s other founder, Poojan Kumarwas a key engineer who developed Oracle’s compute and storage product, Exadata, which has become a multi-billion product for Oracle.
A not-so-big exit?
Meanwhile, word was that PernixData may have been running low on cash.
The startup makes software that allows existing flash storage drives to work faster and store more stuff. Instead of endlessly buying more storage, it lets a company use the storage it has more efficiently. It works with VMware’s hypervisor. Now it will work with
PernixData has nabbed about 800 customers. But even so, the software was considered more like a storage feature than a product that could evolve to become the basis of a giant tech company.
So in this tougher venture environment in 2016, we can see why PernixData may have struggled to raise more money to fund growth.
The curious part is the sale: how much Nutanix paid for it. Terms of the deal were not announced, and no one is reporting a whisper number.
PernixData raised $62 million in three rounds with its last a $35 million round led by Menlo Ventures in 2014.
Meanwhile, Nutanix appeared to be having its own form of cash problems. It was expected to have completed its IPO by now, but the IPO has stalled during this harsh IPO year where investors have lost their taste for unprofitable, highly valued tech startups burning through loads of cash.
In May, Nutanix took out a $75 million loan from Goldman Sachs that Nutanix CFO characterised as “insurance” while waiting to IPO.
So the likelihood is that, whatever Nutanix paid, it wasn’t a massive all-cash amount.
That said, if PernixData’s revenue growth is good, that could help Nutanix spiffy up its financials and convince public investors to bite at its stock at a price that would justify the $2 billion valuation its venture investors once gave it.
Nutanix also bought another startup, Calm.io, which made software to support the new DevOps and containers trends. Calm.io had raised about $4 million, according to its Crunchbase profile.
The Reg is reporting that the Calm.io deal was the one referenced in a Nutanix S1 amended filing, which disclosed 528,517 shares and $1.2m in cash.