Try-before-you-buy software. Back in vogue for the storage giants?

Take her for a test drive, and you’ll agree

Comment Nexenta, Nutanix and Unitrends are all giving away software. Why? And EMC has just open-sourced its ViPR controller, while Coraid’s AoE technology is also being made open source. Free storage software seems to be in the air.


Nexenta’s NexentaStor 5 Community Preview will be introduced at the Citrix Synergy conference this week. It’s an early access version of the next generation of NexentaStor, a SW-only storage product.

The company claims more than 46,000 Nexenta Community Members “will have a premiere opportunity to influence the direction and development of the next major release of NexentaStor".

The company has good open source creds, participating in the overall software development community via the Nexenta Community and in Illumos, BSD, LINUX, OSX initiatives as well as efforts.

NexentaStor 5 CP includes iSCSI Block and NFS and SMB File storage services, “high performance, high concurrency, management framework", self-documenting REST API, updated Command Line Interface for simpler deployment, configuration and management, and more performance and efficiency.


Nutanix is beta-testing a community edition of its hyper-converged system software, a limited-scale version of the full Nutanix software stack. It seems to be an obvious free try-before-you-hopefully-buy gig.

It’s hoping for deployment into existing development/test and staging environments and has set up a NEXT online community for users to ask and/or offer best practices guidance and problem-solving. The Nutanix CE software runs on standard x86-based servers from nearly any vendor, including Dell, HP, Cisco, Lenovo, Supermicro and others

Nutanix co-founder and CEO, Dheeraj Pandey, claims that “Community Edition is the next step in democratising hyper-converged infrastructure technology, enabling anyone to experience the transformative benefits of our software.”

In a blog he writes that Nutanix can “now prepare for the careful curation of feedback coming from the community, the rebellious 'certification' of our software on an unknown server, the constant engagement with the skeptic on [the] Next Community portal.”

“We hope the software will continue to delight as it breaks open from the appliance shell. We hope it’s protected from abuse and undue expectations, as we let go.”

Thus, this all looks like a free try-and-then-hopefully-buy scheme with the community being a framework for peer-to-peer info exchange and for feedback to Nutanix on product development issues.

Beta software availability starts on June 8 and you get a chance of goodies if you sign up now; the first 500 registrants will be entered to win a home lab valued at up to $3,000 and one of five .NEXT Conference passes.


Unitrends’ SW backs up virtual servers and offers disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) from the cloud. It hired a new CEO, Kevin Weiss, in January. He jumped on a well-performing ship as the company announced its best-ever financial results, with revenues growing 36 per cent in the fourth fiscal 2014 quarter and 33 per cent for the full-year.

Mike Dalton was appointed SVP, worldwide channels and international field operations, in March. Do we detect an effort to grow the company and take it to an IPO?

That apart, Unitrends has now decided to bring out Unitrends Free. It’s for IT professionals needing to protect data in their home labs, early-stage virtualisation projects and small environments. Data can be recovered at the file-, instant- and virtual machine-levels and there is free vSphere and Hyper-V Backup for Unlimited Virtual Machines (VMs) and Sockets.

There’s a community forum around the product, with Unitrends saying IT professionals can “capitalise on free ... capabilities enjoyed by existing Unitrends customers, as well as easily exchange ideas, get technical support and drive dialogue on effective methods for backup, archiving, instant recovery and disaster recovery.”

They can also “search the forum and collaborate to help one another, while also earning attractive rewards".


Unitrends isn’t in the business of selling a service to give it away free. Our understanding is that Unitrends wants green field SOHO users and users of existing virtual server backup products to test it out to see if it’s okay to use and better than the competition. Some of these will convert to paying customers. All of them will be exposed to the Unitrends brand in a densely crowded backup world.

We can’t see Unitrends turning itself into an open source backup and DRaaS software supplier; its channel would be in turmoil. El Reg thinks this free low-end SW gig is a marketing wheeze rather than real free software commitment. If more of its SW becomes free we’ll change our view.

Get a free trial of Unitrends Enterprise Backup here. The product is in beta test at the moment. ®

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