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Panzura Acquired: The End of the Cloud Storage Gateways

Panzura was acquired by private equity last week, which we believe signals the end of the cloud storage gateways. Now, only the cloud file services platform players remain independent – Dell EMC, NetApp, and Nasuni.  There are good reasons for this.

The cloud storage gateway market was created about 10 years ago to address a specialized workload – sharing large files across multiple locations. It was very popular in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry, which requires many stakeholders to collaborate on large project files. These gateways served as a “bridge” between on-premises file storage and public cloud object storage by providing a hardware appliance that would serve as a front-end cache for frequently used files. They had the right idea: provide low-latency, high-performance access to files on-prem, while leveraging the scalability, durability, and low-cost of the public cloud. But they all took a hardware-defined approach that at the end of the day was dependent on selling boxes. As cloud adoption and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) matured, these “bridges” were no longer needed because enterprises were willing to go “all in” with the cloud and a true software-defined, software as a service (SaaS) approach. Panzura’s acquisition takes place after long list of cloud storage gateways have been shuttered (Twin Strata, StorSimple, Maginatics, Avere are others), in part because of this market shift.

In our early years, industry analysts put Nasuni into the cloud storage gateway category because they didn’t know where else to place us. However, we made a significant strategy pivot four years ago to establish a new category – cloud file services – and built a file storage platform around our software-defined, cloud-native architecture. Like most successful software disruptors, we found our “second act.”

This pivot enabled Nasuni to address a much larger market and disrupt the multi-billion-dollar NAS and file server infrastructure category that spans all industries (not just AEC). We saw the proliferation of IaaS and cloud in the enterprise and knew that traditional NAS infrastructure was going to be the next big data center technology to move to the cloud. We made significant enterprise-grade performance additions to our platform and built strong partnerships with the public cloud leaders, Microsoft Azure, AWS, and Google. This multi-cloud strategy gives customers choices and flexibility in leveraging the cloud object storage solution that works best for their workload.

Looking back, this pivot was critical to our success. It is why Nasuni is  in a strong position to disrupt NetApp and Dell EMC, and why the other cloud storage gateways have faded from view. It is why we are growing more than 50% ARR and replacing NetApp and Isilon at petabyte scale. It is why our platform is now the trusted way to modernize on-premises file storage by the largest companies across all industry sectors, including Meredith Corporation and AECOM.

The only reason we were able to make this pivot is that our founder had a fundamentally different vision. The roots of Nasuni are in a cloud-first architecture that makes file infrastructure software-defined. From day one, Nasuni designed and built a file system that resides entirely in cloud object storage, and pushes data down to edge locations (cloud edges or physical edges) from the cloud. This “upside down file system,” in which the entire inode structure resides in cloud storage, is the polar opposite from the cloud storage gateways, which stored files, metadata, and inodes mainly on hardware boxes on-premises and pushed data back up to the cloud. This critical difference is why Nasuni can offer infinite scale at a dramatically lower cost for large enterprises. We take full advantage of object storage economics, and don’t require expensive hardware on-premises.

This cloud-native architecture also gives customers unprecedented agility. Because we use lightweight VMs to cache active files and our edge appliances are stateless, Nasuni customers can go completely cloud with no physical appliances (with our edge VMs deployed in different public cloud regions), or hybrid cloud (with our edge VMs deployed on-premises).

Another critical architectural decision our founder made was to use object storage as the “hub” for all file system changes and use elastic cloud services to manage file propagation and locking across all edge locations (the “spokes”).  Alternatively,  cloud storage gateway vendors like Panzura took a peer-to-peer approach in which their hardware boxes all talked to each other, and one hardware box was designated as the “master.”  This model performed well for smaller organizations with a few sites, but did not scale well. It was also much more expensive to operate. Panzura’s business model also became outdated because you still had to purchase big, expensive hardware boxes on-premises and buy it all upfront out of CAPEX. Nasuni is true SaaS, with our deployments and business model (OPEX).

The end of an era is never easy, and I’m sure we will hear Panzura’s new leadership say it is “business as usual.” Unfortunately, the writing has been on the wall for a few years. These types of acquisitions can be unpredictable for employees and customers, so now is the perfect time to move to an established, modern platform with a history of incoming Panzura migrations. For that reason, we are now offering a special Panzura migration package for Panzura customers. We have migrated many customers from Panzura over the past few years, so we know what it takes and how to make the migration quick and easy. If you’re a Panzura customer who would like to transition to Nasuni’s cloud-native platform, we hope you’ll take advantage of the incentives we’re making available.

We may have been lucky or good (some say it’s better to be lucky than good), but we appreciate more than ever that we were able to make the pivot from a niche player in multi-site file sharing to a market disruptor for NAS consolidation and cloud modernization. The choices are now much simpler.  Customers can choose Nasuni’s cloud-native, software-defined file services platform, or hardware-defined file storage platforms from Dell EMC and NetApp that have been “lifted and shifted” to the cloud.

May the best technology and go-to-market strategy win. Contact us if you have any questions.

Updated: 5/12/2020, 5/21/2020

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