Pushing for the pocket-sized data center
According to Nutanix President Sudheesh Nair, the Defense Department's interest in his company's solutions was sparked by two fundamental needs in the field: "How do you have the necessary security? And how do you push intelligence to the edge?"
The situational awareness data now available can be tremendously valuable in theater, Nair told GCN at Nutanix's NEXT Conference in Las Vegas, but not if warfighters have to wait for that data to be processed and relayed half a world away. And traditional systems were not exactly portable.
"You had two choices before," he said: "Either you throw away the intelligence and walk, or you carry the intelligence and then fall down because it is so heavy."
Nutanix' compact hardware, however, could put "the data center into a box -- so it's self-contained," he said. "The U.S. government recognized that really fast. And that's why DOD became one of our fastest-growing customers.”
Those DOD demands prompted the company to develop a truly ruggedized version of its hardware in partnership with the Crystal Group. The new units meet U.S. military specifications for withstanding shock, vibration, humidity and high-altitude operation, and they are sized to fit the shallow mounting spaces available on ships and submarines. Chris Howard, Nutanix's vice president for U.S. federal business, said the mil-spec machines would have uses far beyond the military -- everything from the oil and gas industries to disaster response. "The potential for us in that space is massive," he said.
Nair said this was just one more example where "the federal government is pushing the information edge."
"People kind of think that the federal government is behind," he said. "In certain cases it's true, but in other places they're far ahead." He cited cloud security as another case in point.
"We love the fact that the federal government is sometimes setting the standard for how tomorrow's security should be," he said. "Because two years from now, a bank will come to us and say, "Hey, we want it too."
And when it comes to form factor, Nair said that even smaller solutions are coming. "We are working on form factors that will be credit-card-sized servers," he said -- albeit a very thick credit card, where the depth might reach several inches, depending on the capacity. "We want a warfighter to walk around with a complete data center in a bag that's not adding more than a few pounds."
Troy K. Schneider is editor-in-chief of FCW and GCN, as well as General Manager of Public Sector 360.
Prior to joining 1105 Media in 2012, Schneider was the New America Foundation’s Director of Media & Technology, and before that was Managing Director for Electronic Publishing at the Atlantic Media Company. The founding editor of NationalJournal.com, Schneider also helped launch the political site PoliticsNow.com in the mid-1990s, and worked on the earliest online efforts of the Los Angeles Times and Newsday. He began his career in print journalism, and has written for a wide range of publications, including The New York Times, WashingtonPost.com, Slate, Politico, National Journal, Governing, and many of the other titles listed above.
Schneider is a graduate of Indiana University, where his emphases were journalism, business and religious studies.
Click here for previous articles by Schneider, or connect with him on Twitter: @troyschneider.