At its Pure Accelerate 2017 conference this week, Pure Storage gave a new interpretation to the term data warehouse.
A reported 3,000 analysts, customers and resellers gathered in a soon-to-be-demolished San Francisco warehouse situated near the city’s central waterfront. Festooned in Pure Storage orange and black, the horseshoe-shaped facility closed its doors for the last time when the conference ended June 14, capped by a celebratory concert by Snoop Dog.
Last week, work crews started to lay the blasting caps that would raze the World War II-era steel plate shop in moments.
Now Pure is trying to make disk storage as obsolete as the warehouse. One of the messages of the show was that flash is the future, particularly NVM Express (NVMe) flash storage.
“We chose an old warehouse because it’s a little irreverent, just like us. And we also did it to juxtapose old and new storage. We see ourselves as disrupting legacy disk,” Pure CEO Scott Dietzen said during his Pure Accelerate 2017 keynote address.
John Cosgrove, Pure Storage chairman and founder, was more blunt.
“Disk has no future; it’s just a matter of time. We are going to provide flash systems that will compete on cost with tape,” Cosgrove said.
Pure Storage executives fired a steady stream of volleys at legacy vendors, particularly all-flash market leader and chief nemesis Dell EMC. And Dell EMC fired back with a series of blogs during Pure Accelerate 2017 trying to debunk Pure’s claim of highly scalable storage. Dell EMC questioned whether Pure arrays can handle mission-critical workloads and criticized its NVMe strategy.
Pure executives shrugged off the criticism, noting that nine-year-old Pure Storage is on pace to crack $1 billion this year and expects to hit $2 billion by 2018. “We leave it up to customers to decide,” Pure CIO Yousouf Khan said.
There are no more warehouses lined up for Pure Accelerate 2018, which is slated to take place in Las Vegas.
Other tidbits from Pure Accelerate 2017
For all the talk about NVMe flash and NVMe over fabric these days, the transition won’t happen overnight. That’s because installing a new network is costly and messy, and most organizations don’t need the massive bandwidth increase yet. Still, storage networking vendors are ramping up preparations.
Brocade Communications Systems is fielding more and more requests from existing Fibre Channel (FC) users regarding the impact of NVMe flash, said Curt Beckman, a Brocade principal architect for NVMe over Fibre Channel. Brocade is in the process of being acquired by Broadcom.
“Customers are hearing a lot of hype about NVMe. We think there will be an explosion of NVMe storage for volumes on the back end, just like [what occurred] with SAS and SATA. But the 80% of the customers already on FC are going to want to use it as their NVMe fabric,” Beckman said.
The University of California Davis isn’t implementing NVMe now, but storage administrator Danh Duong is marking its progression. Duong’s team supports the UC Davis campus and resells services to other campuses in California’s university system.
“We have some campuses telling us ‘Give us the fastest storage you can. We don’t care if there is a price premium.’ And there would be a price premium,” Duong said.
Simplicity and ease of use are more important than ever. This refrain was echoed by a number of Pure customers. One example is Domino’s Pizza, which streamlined its digital business by replacing legacy storage with Pure Storage FlashStack converged infrastructure, which includes Cisco servers and VMware software. The pizza chain gets approximately 60% of its orders via its mobile app, up from 30% a few years ago, said Kelli Zielinski, manager of storage and compute at the pizza chain. Zielinski turned to a FlashStack converged infrastructure combining Pure arrays with Cisco servers and networking.
“We can’t always predict when the demand to our infrastructure is going to be impacted,” Zielinski said. “Traditional arrays were not keeping up with our peak issues.”
Enterprises expect vendors to deliver more for less. This one is isn’t exactly a revelation, although the advent of the cloud is leading some organizations to abandon the forklift approach. The World Bank Group switched to Pure after receiving a $20 million bill to upgrade its previous vendor’s storage, said Arthur Riel, a director of infrastructure, cloud middleware engineering and finance.
“A big part of my job is to save money,” he said. “It really comes home to you at the World Bank, where you’re not just trying to beef up the bottom line or increase the bonus pool. If I can save a couple million dollars a year in storage, I start asking, ‘How many schools can that build in Country X? How many water filtration systems can it buy in Country Y?'”
Like other vendors, Pure Storage is expanding to the edge. Pure Storage and Google introduced a prototype for Pure Edge, which combines Pure’s NVMe-based FlashBlade appliance with Google cloud storage and database software. The device allows rapid iteration of software for data analytics of sensor-based edge computing devices for use on oil rigs, windmills and other ruggedized environments. Pure did not give a timetable when Pure Edge would be commercially available.
The Rubrik Cloud Data Management platform has been beefed up with upgrades that are in line with the data protection startup’s mission to be a full-scale cloud data management platform.
Rubrik’s Alta software now supports Microsoft Hyper-V and Nutanix AHV hypervisors, to go with previous support for VMware. Rubrik also integrated its software with Oracle Recovery Manager (RMAN) and added support for instant recovery of physical SQL databases.
The Rubrik Cloud Data Management offering combines backup, recovery, replication, Google-like search, analytics, archival and copy data management under a single platform. Rubrik Alta protects workloads natively in Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and private clouds. The company aims to make its software a full-scale cloud data management platform with orchestration and reporting.
Alta provides application-consistent snapshots and restores in the cloud, a single control plane for data protection services for native cloud applications and the ability to replicate data between clouds.
Microsoft Hyper-V support allows the virtual machine deployments to perform flash-optimized, parallel ingest for accelerated snapshots along with incremental forever backup, scale-out deduplication and data compression. Point-in-time recovery, as well as search and restoration of files, is also supported.
“This support for Hyper-V is the same functionality we have with VMware,” Rubrik CTO and cofounder Arvind Nithrakashyap said.
Nine upgrades in less than two years
Version 4.0 of Rubrik Cloud Data Management marks the ninth product upgrade since the Palo Alto, Calif., company started shipping products in 2015.
RMAN support allows Rubrik Alta customers to manage the backups from that application via a policy engine.
“Customers can now orchestrate application data across multi-hypervisors and cloud environments,” wrote Biswaroop Palit, director of product management at Rubrik, in a company blog post.
Rubrik Cloud Data Management software has a CloudOn capability for application mobility across the data center and cloud environments for jobs such as Test/Dev and disaster recovery.
The vendor’s software runs on a backup appliance that uses SuperMicro servers with flash and spinning disk, and has capacities that range from 28 TB to 120 TB. It runs the proprietary, distributed Rubrik Cloud-Scale File system.
The company recently raised $180 million in Series D funding round, bringing its total funding to $292 million. Rubrik CEO Bipul Sinha said the company has a $1.3 billion valuation and he plans to go public in approximately two years.
Dell EMC revenue from storage systems in the first quarter dropped 16% from 2016 according to IDC, a fall Dell EMC executives blame on a change in the vendor’s reporting calendar.
Dell EMC uses the Dell Technologies earnings calendar, which is different than EMC’s old earnings calendar. Dell’s first quarter finishes at the end of April, where EMC’s first quarter used to complete at the end of March. IDC compiles its worldwide storage tracker numbers based on the calendar quarter, with its first quarter ending in March.
So what’s the big deal? IDC is counting the same three quarters’ of sales for all the vendors and comparing results to the first three quarters of 2016. But Dell EMC executives say the first calendar quarter of 2017 had no end-of-quarter push for them. Savvy storage buyers know their vendors always make a special effort to close deals in the last month of a quarter, and Dell EMC’s last big push came in April – too late for IDC’s first quarter. Dell EMC cites that as a one-time excuse, so the vendor will have to come up with something else next quarter if sales continue to lag.
Dell EMC president David Goulden noted at Dell EMC World last month that the calendar change would skew IDC Q1 revenue numbers downward for his company, although it remained in the lead. Goulden repeated that during Dell’s earnings call this week. After IDC’s numbers came out Thursday night, senior vice president of marketing Sam Grocott explained how the changes in the Dell EMC revenue reporting calendar impacted the numbers.
“We don’t have that traditional close-of-quarter month counted in Q1,” Grocott said. “That’s a fundamental issue that we will get caught up on in Q2. We’ll just have the end-of-quarter show up in the first month (April). This was a one-quarter blip and will normalize going forward.”
The IDC report compares Dell EMC revenue from the first quarter of 2017 to the combined revenue from Dell and EMC last year.
Dell’s external networked storage systems revenue of $1.42 billion still nearly doubled second place NetApp‘s revenue, but NetApp shaved nearly 16% of market share off of Dell’s lead from a year ago. Dell EMC’s external storage market share of 27.2% slipped from 31.5% a year ago while NetApp increased from 12% share last year to 14%. Compared to the Dell EMC revenue drop of 16% year-over-year, NetApp’s $732 million increased 13.3% from last year. NetApp CEO George Kurian likes to brag that NetApp replaces an EMC system every day at a customer’s site.
Dell EMC’s networked storage market share was 32.6% in the fourth quarter of last year, more than Hewlett Packard Enterprise (10.2%), IBM (10.1%) and NetApp (10%) combined. Dell EMC stayed above 30% share in all four quarters of 2016.
IDC put the total networked storage market at $5.24 billion for the first quarter of 2017, down 2.8% from the first quarter last year.
HPE was third in the first quarter with $511 million and 9.7% share, followed by Hitachi with $449 million (8.6%) and IBM at $440 million (8.4%). All others combined totaled $1.68 billion – more than Dell EMC – for 32.1%. Only NetApp and IBM (up 2.7%) increased revenue year-over-year among the top five vendors.
Dell EMC’s total enterprise storage revenue – including servers – also slipped although it padded its lead a bit. Dell EMC’s total storage revenue of $1.97 billion was good for 21.5% market share, down from 25% a year ago. Dell’s total storage revenue slipped 14.6%. Second-place HPE fell even more, dipping 18.6% to $1.87 billion and 20.3% of the market.
NetApp, which does not sell servers, placed third in total storage with $732 million and 8% share. Hitachi with $460 million and 5% share and IBM with $455 million and 5% share followed. All others combined for 27% market share.
Overall, the total storage market dropped 0.5% to $9.17 billion. The decline among the leading vendors was even greater, but original design manufacturers (ODMs) that sell directly to hyperscale data centers gained 78.2% to $1.21 billion. That reflects a bigger problem for Dell EMC than its reporting calendar. It shows traditional storage vendors are losing business to hyperscale cloud-type data centers.
Dell EMC was the all-flash leader with 28% share but it’s 66% year-over-year growth in flash lagged the overall market gain.
Grocott said the new reporting calendar likely caused the share loss in flash, too. But Dell EMC does point to midrange storage as a legitimate soft spot in the first quarter.e still have work to do in midrange storage,” Goulden said Wednesday on the earnings call, and expressed hope that new releases of Unity and SC platforms launched during Dell EMC World would shore up that problem area.
Grocott said Dell EMC has made changes and “re-focused” its sales team around its midrange products – which also includes Isilon scale-out NAS – since the merger completed in September of 2016.
Top 5 Vendors Groups, Worldwide External Enterprise Storage Systems Market, First Quarter of 2017 (Revenues are in Millions
|Company||1Q17 Revenue||1Q17 Market Share||1Q16 Revenue||1Q16 Market Share||1Q17/1Q16 Revenue Growth|
|1. Dell Inca||$1,424.6||27.2%||$1,696.7||31.5%||-16.0%|
|3. HPE/New H3C Group b||$511.0||9.7%||$535.7||9.9%||-4.6%|
|Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Enterprise Storage Systems Tracker, June 8, 2017|
When technology executives discuss initial public offerings these days, they usually say how the goal has shifted from rapid growth to fiscal responsibility. In other words, investors want to see a path to profitability more than wild revenue increases.
That has particularly been the case in storage. The recent initial public offerings (IPOs) of flash pioneer Pure Storage and hyper-converged vendor Nutanix showed companies that grew revenue significantly often spent so much money doing so that they mounted hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. Because of the recent poor IPO market, investors started preaching that companies needed to pay more attention to the bottom line than top line growth.
Then along comes the Tintri IPO. Tintri filed its S-1 with the SEC last week to become a public company. Its finances look a lot like those of Pure and Nutanix — and Nimble Storage and Violin Storage before them — when they went public. Storage array vendor Tintri has grown its revenue and sales significantly in recent years, only to see its losses accelerate anyway. In Tintri’s case, it has lost $339 million since inception.
That means either investors have decided they don’t mind losses so much after all, or Tintri will have trouble raising the $100 million or so it is looking for from its IPO.
Tintri started shipping its VMstore arrays in 2011, but the bulk of its revenue and losses have come over the past three years. The Tintri IPO filing reports revenue of $50 million for its fiscal year ending Jan. 31, 2015, $86 million for the following year and $125 million last year. That comes to revenue growth of 73% and 45% over the past two years. But annual losses over that period were $70 million, $101 million and $106 million, showing that more revenue only produced greater losses. Tintri raised $260 million in five venture funding rounds to pay off most of the deficit.
As with Pure, Nutanix and other smaller storage companies, Tintri faces the problem of having to pour more money into sales and marketing than it generates from sales to compete with IT giants. Only in the past year has Tintri’s revenue exceed its sales and marking budget, which came to $109 million. But it pumped another $53 million into research and development. That is a small sum compared to Dell EMC, NetApp, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Hitachi Data Systems and IBM, but enough to keep Tintri in the red.
Tintri IPO filing details spending increases
The Tintri IPO filing made it clear the vendor remains in growth mode, which means its expenses will rise.
“We anticipate that our operating expenses will increase substantially in the foreseeable future as we continue to hire additional employees, develop our technology and enhance our product and service offerings, expand our sales and marketing teams, make investments in our distribution channels, expand our operations and prepare to become a public reporting company,” Tintri said in its S-1 filing.
Tinitri’s revenue growth has come from its tapping into flash and enterprise cloud storage. It began selling virtual machine-centric storage for VMware customers. That has evolved into a private cloud platform through Tintri’s Connect services that include analytics, automation and self-service. To boost performance, Tintri added an all-flash platform in 2015. With the help of Tintri’s VMstore T5000 all-flash systems, the vendor’s average selling price rose from $111,000 to $160,000 over the past two years.
Tintri’s customer base quadrupled over the past three years to 1,273, while its employee headcount rose from 177 to 527 in that span.
If the Tintri IPO goes forward as planned, it will be in the same situation as Pure and Nutanix, trying to grow its way to profitability. Or it could end up like Nimble Storage, which sold itself to HPE after it became clear it would not reach its break-even goal anytime soon.
Recent Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE) storage acquisitions will play a key role in “reengineering” the company, CEO Meg Whitman said.
During HPE’s earnings call Wednesday night, Whitman called out hyper-converged startup SimpliVity and flash array vendor Nimble Storage among a list of “strategic acquisitions in key growth segments.”
“These were all the right strategic moves for HPE’s long-term success, but they were not done in a vacuum,” she said. “We’ve been reengineering our company while facing challenging market conditions, including stiff competition.”
For now, 3PAR all-flash arrays remain the highlight of HPE storage. Whitman said 3PAR all-flash revenue last quarter increased 33% year over year compared to an overall 14% decline of HPE storage sales. That tells you HPE isn’t doing a lot of business with its other storage products, and needs Nimble and SimpliVity to fill gaps.
Nimble, which sells all-flash and hybrid flash and disk arrays, also brings cloud-based predictive analytics to HPE storage. “We are seeing a rapid shift to all-flash,” Whitman said. “We’re extremely well-positioned here given our 3PAR portfolio and recent Nimble and SimpliVity acquisitions.”
All-flash and hyper-converged systems are high growth areas that still have relatively low adoption with room to grow.
“With Nimble, we now have a complete world-class flash storage portfolio from entry-level to the high end in a market growing around 17% per year,” Whitman said. “Nimble also brings a simple user experience platform based on predictive analytics that we plan to roll out across our storage portfolio.”
CFO Tim Stonesifer said HPE flash revenue is still negatively impacted by NAND shortages but he expects that to “loosen up” in the second half of 2017.
Neither SimpliVity nor Nimble products have driven much revenue yet for HPE. HPE closed its $650 million SimpliVity deal Feb. 17 and its $1.2 billion Nimble purchase closed April 17. A Nimble product was part of an HPE storage launch last week, however. HPE said it would ship Nimble Storage Secondary Flash Array SF-Series as well as a new 3PAR StoreServe all-flash array and MSA entry-level hybrid flash array.
HPE is selling SimpliVity software on ProLiant servers. Whitman said the SimpliVity product line is more integrated than Nimble but she expects the weight of HPE to increase sales of both the new product platforms. Nimble research and development will merge with the 3PAR R&D team.
The 3PAR product line came to Hewlett-Packard in a $2.35 billion 2010 deal.
As for future acquisitions, Whitman didn’t list any specific companies or technologies she would like to add but gave general guidelines for HPE deals.
“We have to buy it right,” she said of HPE’s acquisition strategy. “It has to be complementary technology that can leverage our distribution channels.”
She said HPE’s first option is to innovate organically, and it is also funding startups through its Pathfinder venture investment group. HPE helps fund storage startups Cohesity, Coho Data, Hedvig and Scality.
“I’m not looking for venture returns there,” she said. “I’m looking for companies that further our strategy of powering hybrid IT, powering the intelligent edge and the services that we can weave into our solutions.”
Seagate this week launched its highest capacity 10,000 rpm 2.5-inch, 12-gigabit per second SAS hard disk drive (HDD), which includes a dash of flash. The Enterprise Performance 10K HDD is designed for enterprise workloads such as databases, online transaction processing, virtual desktop infrastructure, and file and print servers.
The new Seagate SAS HDD comes in 2.4 TB, 1.8 TB, 1.2 TB and 600 GB capacity models, and infuses 16 GB of flash cache to speed reads. Barbara Craig, Seagate senior product marketing manager of enterprise HDDs, said the Enterprise Performance 10K HDD also adds firmware-based advanced write caching that can improve random writes by approximately 60% over Seagate’s prior generation.
“It’s kind of a poor man’s SSD,” Craig said.
Craig said the flash cache makes the new Seagate SAS HDD three times faster than previous 10K drives without flash. The advanced write caching technology uses enhanced algorithms and 8 MB of non-volatile cache and media cache, she said.
The Seagate SAS HDD has a five-year warranty, a mean time between failures of 2 million hours, and supports the company’s ninth generation of magnetic recording technology and enterprise firmware.
Can HDDs hold off SSDs in enterprise?
The high-speed SAS HDD market tends to be one where enterprises consider flash solid-state drives (SSDs), but Seagate claims its new HDD would hold appeal for a range of workloads with enterprise users.
“They may be turned off by availability of flash right now. It’s hard to get, and the prices are high,” Craig said. “Maybe some small- to medium-sized businesses or even large data centers, the performance on the 10K drive is close enough, and the cost is that much more impressive for some customers.”
John Rydning, an IDC research vice president for HDDs, said he does not envision enterprise SSDs reaching price-per-GB parity with 10,000 rpm HDDs over the next five years. Rydning predicted sustained demand for 10,000 rpm HDDs for storage workloads where they provide “good enough” performance. He wrote via an email that 10,000 rpm HDDs continue to provide a “good balance of performance and value for several storage workloads.”
The new Seagate SAS HDD ships with a variety of different model numbers. The 2.4 TB HDD is model ST2400MM0129, without encryption. The self-encrypting model that supports the Federal Information Processing Standard is model ST2400MM0149.
The HDDs support Seagate’s FastFormat technology to enable customers to switch between applications with block sizes of 512 bytes and 4 KB.
The new Seagate SAS HDD is currently shipping to major OEMs such as Super Micro and Huawei for qualification, according to Craig. She said channel shipments will begin in the middle of August.
Nutanix’s success selling hyper-converged software depends largely on how well it both competes with and partners with the large server vendors.
Nutanix revenue beat expectations last quarter, after giving a disappointing forecast three months ago. Its revenue of $192 million increased 67% and smashed its guidance of $180 million to $190 million for the quarter. The hyper-convergence vendor still lost $112 million – up from $46.8 million a year ago – despite the increase in sales, but still has $350 million in cash and investments. Nutanix also had a higher forecast than Wall Street expected, guiding for $215 million to $220 million.
On the earnings call, Nutanix CEO Dheeraj Pandey said the vendor picked up 790 new customers in the quarter including 50 new Global 2000 customers. He credited OEM partners Dell EMC and Lenovo for helping it land bigger deals.
Nutanix executives spent much of the Thursday night earnings call discussing its relationship with the large server vendors who it competes and partners with.
Here’s a scorecard of Nutanix server relationships:
Dell EMC. The largest storage and server vendor is determined to be No. 1 in hyper-converged, and is looking to knock Nutanix from that perch with its VMware vSAN hyper-converged software and VxRail HCI appliances. Yet, Dell EMC also re-brands Nutanix software on its PowerEdge servers in a deal that Dell struck before it acquired EMC. Dell EMC XC Series appliances account for approximately 10% to 15% of Nutanix revenue each quarter. Nutanix did not give the exact figure for last quarter, but CFO Dustin Williams said it was below 15%.
“We compete and cooperate with Dell on a deal-by-deal basis,” Pandey said.
Nutanix revenue through Dell declined slightly last quarter from the previous quarter.
Lenovo. Lenovo doesn’t have a home-grow HCI product, and makes several vendors’ software available on its servers. Nutanix is its preferred partner, though, with a similar OEM deal that Nutanix has with Dell EMC. Nutanix executives said Lenovo sales rose last quarter, making up for the Dell declines.
“Lenovo is actually a great sign up for us,” Pandey said.
“Our Lenovo bookings increased sharply,” Williams said.
IBM. Nutanix and IBM last week said IBM would make Nutanix software available on RISC-based Power servers. Nutanix doesn’t have any revenue through IBM yet, but Depay said the deal had great potential.
“I think IBM could be dark horse,” Pandey said. “What’s interesting is, for the first time, a single control plane, a single data plane, a single hypervisor runtime can now span Intel x86 and Power microprocessor’s hardware.”
Cisco. Like Dell EMC, Cisco has its own HCI platform. Unlike Dell EMC, Cisco has no official partnership with Nutanix. But Nutanix and Cisco channel partners bundle Nutanix software on Cisco UCS servers. Depay said he hopes to turn Cisco into a willing partner, even if Cisco has its HyperFlex product.
“It’s perilous to predict what will happen in these situations,” Pandey said. “But one thing I’ve learned about the art of negotiation is that what was non-negotiable yesterday could probably become negotiable tomorrow.
“We’re hoping to have this process play out where Cisco understands what HyperFlex is, and Cisco also understands the value that we can bring to their rackmount servers. So I think there is something between us.”
Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Nutanix software is certified to run on HPE ProLiant servers, and sold on channel bundles similar to Nutanix on UCS. While Cisco has been mostly silent on Nutanix encroachment, HPE makes it clear it does not appreciate Nutanix piggy-backing on ProLiant. HPE marketing VP Paul Miller made that clear in a blog post titled, “Don’t be misled … HPE and Nutanix are not partners.” The blog urged customers to buy its SimpliVity software.
Nutanix executives said little about the HPE relationship on the call, except that it is early and they hope to build a relationship with HPE through successful channel sales.
Pandey made it clear Nutanix wants to provide its software on as many platforms as possible.
“We continue to build with ubiquity by offering customers’ choice of hardware, choice of hypervisor, and choice of public cloud providers for secondary storage, all managed by Prism,” he said. “Building an operating system is a journey and no more than one or two are successful each decade. It requires an immense focus in applications, interoperability, performance, security, automation and reliability and to make it all ubiquitous, that is location agnostic is the biggest engineering challenge.”
A DataCore IT survey on the state of software-defined storage, hyper-converged systems and cloud storage showed a gradual uptake of some of the most heavily promoted new technologies.
For instance, flash use is growing, yet it will represent only a small percentage of overall storage capacity in 2017, according to the DataCore IT survey of 426 customers and prospective customers conducted from late 2016 through April 2017 via Survey Monkey.
The majority (76%) of the surveyed IT professionals indicated flash would represent less than 20% of their storage capacity in 2017. Among that group, 14% weren’t using flash at all, and 32% projected less than 10% of their storage capacity would be flash-based.
However, the IT survey respondents listed all-flash arrays as their top preference to overcome performance problems, followed by software acceleration on the host machine and switching to in-memory databases.
Flash also factored into the responses to the question: “What technology disappointments or false starts have you encountered in your storage infrastructure?” Flash failed to accelerate applications for 16% of the IT survey respondents.
The most cited disappointments were “cloud storage failed to reduce costs,” selected by 31%, and “managing object storage is difficult,” mentioned by 29%.
Confusion over hyper-converged
The DataCore survey indicated there’s confusion over what the term “hyper-converged” means. Close to half (41%) of survey respondents think hyper-converged means software is tightly integrated with the hypervisor but hardware agnostic. Another 27% view hyper-converged as an “integrated appliance” with “hardware and software locked together.”
The majority of the IT survey respondents (67%) have not deployed hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), although 34% said they are strongly considering it. The primary reason for ruling out hyper-converged was lack of flexibility, followed by expense and vendor lock-in.
Among those who have deployed HCI, 6% have standardized on it, 7% have a few major deployments, and 20% have a few nodes. Top reasons for deploying or evaluating hyper-converged systems were simplifying management (48%), ease of scale-out (39%), and reducing hardware costs (35%). Leading use cases were databases, data center consolidation, enterprise applications such as customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP), and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).
Surveyed IT pros noted the following business drivers for implementing software-defined storage: simplify management of different models of storage (55%), future-proof infrastructure (53%), avoid hardware lock-in from storage manufacturers (52%), and extend the life of existing storage assets (47%).
When DataCore conducted the IT survey in 2015, a lower percentage (45%) indicated they were trying to simplify management of different storage classes by automating frequent or complex storage operations.
Top use cases that IT pros noted for public cloud storage were long-term archive (35%), back up to cloud and restore on premises (33%), and disaster recovery (33%). A small percentage (11%) said they use the public cloud for primary storage, but a substantial percentage (40%) are not currently evaluating or using the cloud for storage.
For IT pros unwilling to move applications to the public cloud, the primary reasons are security (57%), sensitive data (56%) and regulatory requirements (41%). The applications they’re most willing to move to public or hybrid cloud infrastructure were select enterprise applications such as Salesforce (33%), data analytics (22%), databases (21%), and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), according to the survey.
DataCore said the 426 IT professionals who responded to the survey are using or evaluating software-defined storage, hyper-converged systems and cloud storage. The majority of the respondents (84%) were from North America and Europe.
NetApp quietly slipped an acquisition of storage memory software startup Plexistor into an earnings call otherwise noteworthy for strong results last quarter and a disappointing forecast for this quarter.
NetApp CEO George Kurian disclosed the Plexistor acquisition during the Wednesday night earnings call. NetApp did not include the acquisition in its press release or filing with the SEC, and provided no financial details.
Plexistor, which developed software that uses nonvolatile memory as primary storage, fits into NetApp’s strategy of trying to dominate in flash and other emerging storage technologies.
Plexistor came out of stealth in late 2015 with SDM – a software-defined memory product designed to deliver high-capacity nonvolatile storage at near-memory speed. The vendor chased customers running big data analytics and in-memory database processing.
SDM talks directly to a physical memory device, presenting DRAM and persistent storage in one namespace. It uses dual-inline memory module (NVDIMM) memory cards, NVMe flash and a spinning disk tier.
In late 2016, Plexistor bundled SDM on Supermicro servers and Micron NVDIMM cards in a product called Persistent Memory over Fabric Brick (PMoF Brick). PMoF Brick was aimed at big data analytics and high-performance NoSQL databases.
It’s unclear whether NetApp will sell Plexistor as a separate product or embed the technology into its flash storage. Kurian referred to Plexistor as “a company with technology and expertise in ultra-low latency persistent memory. This differentiated intellectual property will help us further accelerate our leadership position and capture new application types and emerging workloads.”
SDM runs on servers, making it a candidate for incorporation in NetApp’s coming hyper-converged product that will use SolidFire’s all-flash technology. NetApp has yet to formally launch the hyper-converged appliance.
The Plexistor acquisition is an example of how NetApp is trying to use flash – as well as the cloud – to bounce back after a tough two-year stretch. Kurian said the vendor has turned the corner, offering its results last quarter as proof.
NetApp’s revenue of $1.48 billion last quarter increased 7.3% over the previous year and beat the consensus Wall Street analyst expectation by $400 million.
Kurian called the last fiscal year “a pivotal year for NetApp. We started the year with bold commitments, and we delivered against all of them. We did what many said could not be done: return the company to growth while simultaneously expanding operating margins. With each successful step in our transformation, my confidence in our ability to create new opportunities and execute against those opportunities grows.”
NetApp’s problems may not be completely behind it, though. Its forecast for this quarter fell short of expectations. NetApp guided for $1.24 billion to $1.39 billion this quarter, which amounts to around two percent growth at the midpoint and falls below analysts’ expectations.
When Kurian became CEO two years ago, NetApp struggled with its flash strategy and with a disruptive upgrade process that slowed customer upgrades from its Data OnTap 7-Mode operating system to Clustered Data OnTap (CDOT). The vendor was stuck in a cycle of flat or declining revenue, which it didn’t snap until the final quarter of 2016.
NetApp now stands second behind Dell EMC in all-flash revenue and Kurian said most of the capacity on NetApp FAS arrays has moved to CDOT. He said 95% of FAS systems that shipped last quarter had CDOT installed. “The transition from 7-Mode to Clustered OnTap is now behind us,” he said.
The transition from disk to flash continues. Kurian called it the “early innings” in flash, and said NetApp’s all-flash revenue grew almost 140% last quarter. He said NetApp’s All-Flash FAS (AFF), EF Series and SolidFire are on pace for $1.4 billion in revenue over the next year.
“We are winning with flash and expanding our intellectual property in this market, positioning us for success in the multiyear transition from disk to flash,” he said
As for the low guidance, Kurian said NetApp would rather err on the side of caution. “We really are giving realistic and, in some cases, conservative estimates,” he said. “We want to make sure we meet or beat every commitment we made, as we have the last four quarters.”
Pure Storage executives claim the flash pioneer is on pace for $1 billion in revenue for 2017, plus its first profitable quarter by the end of the year.
Neither goal is assured, but both seem possible following Pure’s first-quarter earnings report Wednesday. The vendor reported $183 million, up 31% from last year. It cut losses only slightly to $62 million compared to $64 million a year ago, but execs claim spending decreases in the second half of the year, along with revenue growth, should bring it past break-even for the first time.
Pure forecast revenue of $214 million to $222 million this quarter and from $975 million to $1.025 billion for the year. That annual prediction includes a second-half surge in revenue and Pure will have to hit the midpoint of its annual revenue to achieve the $1 billion goal.
Of course, there is still a lot of 2017 left. Dietzen said he is counting on Pure Storage flash products taking advantage of hot industry trends. He expects to cash in on the emergence of Express (NVMe) solid-state drives (SSDs) with new Pure Storage FlashArray//X systems, continued growth of Pure Storage FlashBlade unstructured data storage, and the need for storage for the emerging private cloud, artificial intelligence and machine learning markets.
Dietzen said FlashBlade, which became generally available at the start of 2017, is selling at twice the rate FlashArray did when it first launched nearly six years ago. “FlashBlade is transforming the unstructured data market in the same way FlashArray revolutionized structured data,” he said.
Pure Storage FlashArray//X is another key to Pure’s achieving its goals. While Pure currently trails Dell EMC, NetApp and Hewlett Packard Enterprise in all-flash revenue, the vendor is looking to pick up organizations that want the improved speed of NVMe over current SSDs. Neither Dell EMC, NetApp nor HPE have an all-NVMe system yet, although all major flash storage vendors will eventually add NVMe.
“We see a new set of use cases that NVMe opens up,” said Matt Kixmoeller, Pure’s vice president of products. “Certainly, faster database type workloads … but we’re also really going after consolidation of cloud providers. A lot of the cloud vendors out there have really consolidated on server DAS over the past few years, and now we have an opportunity to go in there with NVMe and take the flash out of each of those servers and consolidate it at the top of the rack to drive more efficiencies for them.”
Dietzen said Pure is looking to become the storage of choice for “roughly 80% of enterprise workloads not currently a candidate for the public cloud.” He said enterprises are turning to private cloud in great numbers.
“While we occasionally compete with the big three public clouds … our customers use Pure’s data platform in conjunction with the public cloud, particularly for datasets that are too large to move across the internet,” he said.