EquityZen's Blog On Startups and Their Economics

But What Does It Do? A Summary of 5 Disruptive Technology Companies

Sterling Vitcov | June 24, 2015

When a company disrupts a sector, it’s usually due to an innovative technology. But innovation often brings complexity, and therefore confusion, to a potential investor in that business. Here I attempt to offer up a top-level explanation of five “tech-heavy” companies and their core product, in layman’s terms.

Traditional enterprise IT infrastructure generally requires separate machines for computational tasks and storing data. Nutanix seeks to disrupt this model by providing customers with a hardware appliance that combines up to four commodity servers with hard disk and flash (similar to solid state drive) storage. Their secret sauce is the Nutanix software, which allows simple but powerful scalability and management of clusters of multiple Nutanix boxes. By combining these traditionally disparate datacenter elements, Nutanix’s “hyperconverged” solution can lower operating and infrastructure costs by as much as 60% while increasing scalability. Notable customers include eBay, Toyota, Panasonic, Honda, and many other large multinationals.

PureStorage’s flagship product is the FlashArray, an all-flash storage array designed to replace traditional hard disk arrays. Although FlashArray’s pricing and features are comparable to those of hard disk arrays, the use of flash storage instead of spinning disks means that FlashArray is faster, more power efficient, more reliable, and much simpler than hard disk arrays. PureStorage has attracted clients that include Shutterfly, SurveyMonkey, and Sierra Nevada.

MongoDB is an open source, NoSQL, document-based database. Unlike traditional database software models such as relational databases, which are difficult to scale and require a static data mode, MongoDB allows dynamic data storage, enabling users to store any data in any format without having to worry about modifying the underlying database. Moreover, MongoDB scales effectively due to automatic sharding, a process that distributes the data in the database across a cluster of different machines. As a result, MongoDB provides a unique combination of agility, scalability, and performance. Notable clients include Adobe, eBay, BuzzFeed, and many others.

Cloudera offers a custom, open source distribution of Apache Hadoop called CDH. This software library provides a framework for distributed processing of large data sets across clusters of computers, scalable from a single server up to thousands of machines. Business executives, scientists, media and advertising professionals, and governments are often faced with datasets so large and complex that traditional data processing applications are inadequate and this is where CDH and Cloudera can help . In addition to developing and maintaining the CDH distribution, Cloudera provides an enterprise, subscription-based support and management service, as well as consulting and training on projects using CDH. Cloudera has high profile client list such as Orbitz, AMD, and Samsung.

Databricks’ flagship product is the Databricks Cloud, a platform for big data processing. Databricks Cloud is built around Apache Spark, a fast, large-scale data processing engine for Apache Hadoop. Databricks offers managed Apache Spark clusters as well as a range of ancillary services including data exploration and visualization tools, and a third-party API that integrates Databricks Cloud with a number of visual business intelligence tools. Ultimately, Databricks empowers businesses with  large amounts of data to gain valuable insight and business intelligence from that data without the upfront costs of complex infrastructure and data hosting. Notable customers include OpenTable, myfitnesspal, and Automatic.
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