Storage Soup

August 22, 2018  1:36 AM

Pure Storage all-flash beats street, adds StorReduce dedupe

Garry Kranz Garry Kranz Profile: Garry Kranz

Pure Storage all-flash sales helped the vendor close a strong quarter in July, generating $309 million to beat its top-end guidance.  The revenue figure represents a 37% increase from the $224.7 million Pure reported for the same period a year ago.

Pure became profitable in March when it cracked $1 billion in revenue.  Last quarter, the all-flash pioneer posted a loss of $60.1 million and 26 cents per share. Adjusted earnings were 1 cent per share on net income of $2.4 million. The Wall Street consensus for Pure was revenue between $301 million and $307 million and a loss of 6 cents to 8 cents a share.

Pure Storage also snuck in its first acquisition since going public in 2015, picking up cloud-based deduplication software startup StorReduce for an undisclosed sum. StorReduce deduplication adds a missing ingredient to Pure’s scale-out FlashBlade NAS.

Analytics, consolidation fuel ‘million-dollar wins’

The Mountain View, Calif.-based storage vendor said product revenues topped $241 million, up 34% year over year, and nearly $68 million came from subscription software, a 51% jump. U.S.-based enterprise customers accounted for nearly three-quarters of Pure’s sales activity.

Pure Storage CEO Charles Giancarlo said end-to-end NVMe-based FlashArray//X produced more than half of all shipments last quarter. Pure introduced the X Series in May as the successor to its flagship FlashArray//M family.

“Our competitors are just beginning to bring their NVMe offerings to market, and only in their highest priced products. The speed of adoption of our (FlashArray)X family has been impressive” and is expected to provide the bulk of Pure Storage all-flash revenue by year’s end, Giancarlo said.

Pure Storage FlashArray is a block and file system with a massively parallel software architecture to manage flash. Early iterations of FlashArray were designed for traditional SSDs or PCIe-connected NVMe flash. The advent of FlashArray//X incorporated Pure Storage all-flash DirectFlash NVMe modules, although the dual-controller array also allows customers to use SAS and SATA SSDs.

The vendor said more than 400 corporate logos were added during the quarter, bringing Pure’s total to 5,150 customers.  That equates to about six net-new customers per day, including a “number of million-dollar wins,” Pure Storage president David Hatfield said.

New Pure Storage customers include Desjardin Group, Honda Federal Credit Union, MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, New York Genome Center, Royal Bank of Canada and TaxSlayer.

“We were particularly pleased with our progress selling into the cloud, healthcare and financial services segments. Our cloud segment continues to represent approximately 30% of our overall business and enjoys the highest win and repeat purchase rates across our customers,” Hatfield said.

New use cases emerge for FlashBlade

Although Giancarlo declined to break out by percentage of revenue, he said Pure Storage all-flash customers are adapting the FlashBlade platform for AI, analytics, backup and rapid restore.

FlashBlade adoption was aided by repeat purchases of large customers and “a material number” of new customers. That includes enterprises implementing AI workloads on Pure AIRI, which combines FlashBlade storage with Nvidia DGX GPU-based supercomputers.

Hatfield said StorReduce inline deduplication will bolster Pure FlashBlade to better manage unstructured data in multicloud environments. The vendor said it would share details on the StorReduce integration in coming months. StorReduce CEO Vanessa Wilson and an undisclosed number of StorReduce employees are reportedly joining Pure Storage.

“We don’t have dedupe in FlashBlade today and this is a natural fit. But in the broader equation here, often times we meet customers that have hundreds of petabytes of data. Bringing tens of petabytes to flash probably isn’t realistic. We get into discussions on how to move tens of petabytes to flash and place the rest of the data in the cloud,” Hatfield said.

StorReduce has “created a number of cloud partnerships as well, and we intend to embrace and extend those partnerships,” Hatfield added.

August 21, 2018  5:23 PM

Drobo, Nexsan HDD arrays merged in new holding company

Garry Kranz Garry Kranz Profile: Garry Kranz

If you’re a struggling niche disk array vendor, what’s the next step you take to survive? You combine your HDD arrays with another disk vendor in the same boat.

That’s what low-end NAS vendor Drobo and ruggedized SAN specialist Nexsan have done, merging to form roll-up company StorCentric Inc. The Drobo and Nexsan brands will operate as separate divisions within StorCentric, with integration plans in the works.  Drobo CEO Mihir Shah and Nexsan founder and CTO Gary Watson will keep the same titles at StorCentric.

This is the second time in five years these two vendors have huddled under the same corporate umbrella.  Both  companies were affiliated with holding company Imation Corp., which in 2017 was renamed GlassBridge Technologies as part of its restructuring as an asset management firm.

According to an Aug. 16 securities filing, Drobo bought the assets of Nexsan from publicly traded GlassBridge for net cash of approximately $5.7 million. The sum includes repayments of intercompany debts. The deal was formally announced Tuesday.

Both Drobo and Nexgen rely primarily on disk storage, using a small dose of flash to accelerate hot data. StorCentric plans to market Drobo and Nexsan hybrid HDD arrays as complementary storage, Shah said.

“We see a large total addressable market opportunity by having both businesses together. When we looked at the quality and functionality of Nexsan products, we were missing those features in Drobo. We were not able to participate in a lot of large-deal opportunities and it became very apparent over the last two quarters,” Shah said, who cited support for dual-controller cards and 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports among key customer requests.

Watson said StorCentric plans to expand its portfolio through acquisitions.

“This is a true merger. We’re keeping the brands alive to make sure there is continuity (for) customers and partners. The goal is to add other brands and technologies under this umbrella. We have several acquisitions already piped up to go before too long,” Watson said.

You need a scorecard to trace the two vendors’ interconnected history. Geoff Barrall launched the Drobo direct-attached and NAS HDD arrays in 2005 as the flagship of Data Robotics. Drobo was adopted as the corporate name in 2011, two years after Barrall left the company he founded following a dispute with investors.

Barrall went on to launch file-sharing startup Connected Data Inc., which acquired Drobo in 2013. That short-lived merger ended when Connected Data spun out Drobo in 2015 to a group of investors headed by Shah. That same year, Imation paid $7.5 million to acquire Connected Data for its Transporter sync-and-share technology, which is integrated in Nexsan Unity flagship all-flash and HDD arrays.

Other Nexsan storage products includes Assureon archival and object system, E-Series high-density SATA block storage, and Transporter enterprise sync-and-share appliances inherited from Imation’s Connected Data acquisition.

Watson said Nexsan’s “murky” past ownership stymied its ability to innovate products needed to compete in enterprise storage. He said Drobo and Nexsan will share a combined integration roadmap.

“I think we’ll end up with situations where customers will use Nexsan for petabyte-scale storage in their data center, and use Drobo boxes” for individuals or dedicated work groups.”

August 20, 2018  11:04 AM

DRaaS Magic Quadrant shrinks; Microsoft, iland lead the way

Paul Crocetti Paul Crocetti Profile: Paul Crocetti

Gartner’s 2018 Magic Quadrant for disaster recovery as a service made 13 vendors disappear.

Gartner also thoroughly shuffled the deck among the remaining DRaaS Magic Quadrant survivors. Besides shrinking from 23 entrees in 2017 to 10 in 2018, the leaders quadrant dropped from five last year to two in the 2018 DRaaS Magic Quadrant.

Only iland remained in the top group from 2017, with Microsoft moving up from a visionary in 2017 to the other 2018 leader. IBM and Sungard Availability Services went from 2017 leaders to 2018 visionaries, and Recovery Point went from leader to challenger. The other 2017 leader, Infrascale, dropped out of the 2018 DRaaS Magic Quadrant completely.

The main reason for the reduced field is a change in the inclusion and exclusion criteria. The goals of the Magic Quadrant this year included providing more of a focus on helping to answer the question “If I want DRaaS and only DRaaS, which providers are the most relevant?” As a result, Gartner dropped many major data protection players.

All vendors that sell exclusively through the channel — such as Unitrends and Datto — were left off the DRaaS Magic Quadrant, said Mark Thomas Jaggers, director of research and advisory services and lead author of the report. The other vendors dropped are Acronis, Axcient, Carbonite, Daisy, Databarracks, Evolve IP, Flexential (previously Peak 10), Infrascale, NTT Communications, Quorum and StorageCraft.

Gartner also dropped providers who had customers mostly with annual revenue of less than $50 million or did not have a large enough focus on DRaaS offerings.

There were no new vendors added to the 2018 DRaaS Magic Quadrant – all those that made it were also in the 2017 edition.

The leaders can scale quickly on demand and are taking “an aggressive approach in expansion,” Jaggers said. “They are growing and adding new features and new locations.”

Cost a key factor in DRaaS market

The DRaaS Magic Quadrant praised iland for its pricing, its online community for sharing best practices and its compliance team. Iland’s portfolio includes the iland Secure Cloud, iland Secure Disaster Recovery as a Service and iland Secure Cloud Backup.

“In the past 12 months, it has expanded its geographic presence, added new fully managed support offerings and expanded the platforms it can support through the use of additional service delivery partners,” the report said.

The other leader, Microsoft, provides DRaaS through its Azure Site Recovery (ASR).

“In the past year, Microsoft has improved its ASR cloud-to-cloud protection roadmap and improved its install experience by offering a new virtual-based appliance approach,” the report said. “… Gartner believes Microsoft will continue to invest heavily in ASR because the same service underpinnings are also being leveraged for its migration services.”

Microsoft also received high marks for its competitive pricing and “significant global reach and service consistency, which is scalable for the future.”

Rounding out the DRaaS Magic Quadrant, TierPoint is a challenger and Bluelock, C&W Business, Expedient and CloudHPT are niche players.

DRaaS is now a “mainstream offering,” according to Gartner, with the research firm estimating it to be a $2.4 billion worldwide business, expected to reach $3.73 billion by 2021.

Jaggers said he has seen pricing improvement year over year, and expects that will continue.

“There is a lot of competition,” he said.

Many of the DRaaS providers didn’t have a clear vision around the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and data privacy laws, Jaggers said, but he expects that element to improve as customers become more aware of the regulations.

Gartner defines DRaaS providers as managing server image and production data replication to the cloud, disaster recovery run book creation, automated server recovery within the cloud, automated server failback from the cloud, and network element and functionality configuration.

August 15, 2018  11:43 PM

Revenue from NetApp all-flash spikes on strong demand

Garry Kranz Garry Kranz Profile: Garry Kranz

Demand for NetApp all-flash storage surged last quarter, part of strong growth across its cloud portfolio that helped it beat guidance on earnings, margins and revenue.

And the storage vendor has plenty of room for continued growth in flash, CEO George Kurian told investors on Wednesday.

“All-flash arrays now (account) for 14% of our installed base. It remains a small percentage of our installed base, but we continue to gain share and outpace the overall market,” Kurian said.

NetApp said net revenues for the July quarter grew to $1.47 billion, up 12% year over year, although that’s lower than the $1.64 billion it reported in May. Earnings per share of $1.04 beat consensus estimates by 24 cents.

NetApp’s all-flash array business, including sales of All Flash FAS (AFF), EF and SolidFire systems, grew 50% year over to year to an annualized net revenue run rate of $2.2 billion. Product revenue of $875 million was up 20%, while revenue from hardware/services ($370 million) and software maintenance ($229 million) remained relatively flat. Growth in product revenue was mostly due to NetApp’s flash and multicloud Data Fabric strategy, CFO Ron Pasek said.

The quarterly revenue figures included $50 million in enterprise software license revenue from strategic partners. NetApp adopted new accounting standards last quarter that reflects revenue from these type of software agreements up front, rather than over multiple quarters.

Non-GAAP gross margin of 66% was above the high point of NetApp’s guidance. Product margin of 56% marked an increase of 6 points, reflecting in part the inclusion of revenue from the enterprise licenses. Free cash flow of $262 million – cash generated by operations, minus expenditures and shareholder payouts – was 17.8% of NetApp revenues, compared to 27% in the prior quarter.

NetApp said it will issue a cash dividend of 40 cents per share in October.

The results mark the ninth straight quarter of gains for NetApp, bucking industrywide declines in networked storage sales. In July, analyst firm Gartner ranked NetApp second behind all-flash leader Pure Storage. But getting to that spot has been a tough slog for NetApp, which two years ago trailed competitors in both the converged infrastructure and all-flash segments.

Since then, Kurian said NetApp is the first storage vendor to introduce an end-to-end NVMe array, and it averages two SAN displacements a day of competing vendors.

“The market transition to flash, which is still in its early stages, creates enormous new opportunity for us. We continue to displace competitors’ legacy equipment and gain share in new workload deployments,” Kurian said.

The double-digit gains in product sales did not immediately resonate with investors. Shares in NetApp slid nearly 6.5% on heavy afterhours trading, closing at $82.47 a share, down 29 cents. The tepid response likely reflects investors’ ongoing unease with NetApp’s lackluster guidance in recent quarters.

Despite the strong financial results, NetApp gave cautious guidance for the second quarter. Pasek said NetApp is forecasting net revenue of $1.45 billion to $1.55 billion – barely meeting Wall Street’s expectations. At the midpoint, NetApp’s projection would imply a year-over-year increase of 6%.  NetApp shares are estimated to earn between 94 cents and $1, also lower than expectations. Consensus estimates are 97 cents per share on revenue of $1.5 billion.

NetApp all-flash and multicloud opportunities

Kurian said annualized revenue from cloud data services last quarter was approximately $20 million.

“(The 2019 fiscal year) is going to be foundational for the SaaS part of our business. Customers’ consumption patterns are shifting from (owning) data center equipment to hybrid cloud services. We are transforming our business to reflect that, while our competitors struggle to adapt to the cloud era and continue to fall behind,” Kurian said.

Product upgrades last quarter include version 9 of NetApp’s flagship OnTap operating system, adding NVMe over Fibre Channel as a non-disruptive software upgrade on the latest AFF arrays. NVMe over Fabrics technologies combine the performance of server-attached storage with the benefits of shared network storage.

NetApp all-flash product launches during the quarter included the NVMe-based AFF A800 array, which customers can add to existing SAN storage or buy as reference architecture for OnTap-powered AI workloads.

Expanded cloud offerings include beta of NetApp Cloud Volume Services for Google Cloud Platform and public preview of Azure NetApp Files, developed jointly with Microsoft.  Those cloud offerings are expected to be generally available in the second quarter. NetApp also supports Amazon Web Services cloud storage. NetApp also added cloud platforms to its FlexPod-SolidFire converged infrastructure.

Kurian sounded a cautious note on the global economy, which although strong, remains plagued with uncertainties surrounding tariff and trade policies. He said NetApp is planning ahead just in case.

“Enterprise IT spending is benefiting from the strength of the global economic outlook,” Kurian said. “We have shifted our investment and portfolio, and consequently our revenue mix, to high-growth areas of the market. We think this will continue for a period of time. At the macro level, as economic growth slows down, it will impact IT spending in the aggregate.”

August 14, 2018  2:16 PM

You’ll never guess what people use Pure’s FlashBlade to do

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Pure Storage is finding a use case for its FlashBlade array that no one expected when the all-flash system for unstructured data launched in 2016.

Brian Schwarz, VP of product management for  FlashBlade, said customers are using FlashBlade as a backup target as well as primary scale-out unstructured data. He said Pure has replaced the backup appliance market leader, Dell EMC Data Domain, in many cases.

Who would use an expensive all-flash system to do the job usually reserved for cheap bulk hard disk drive storage?

“People with tight recovery times,” Schwarz said during an interview last week at the Flash Memory Summit. “It’s expensive, but if your business is at stake, it’s a worthwhile investment.”

Schwarz pointed to an evolution in the backup appliance market, and said Pure can be part of that.

“Startups in this space are shaking up the status quo in backup,” he said, referring to Cohesity and Rubrik. “There are some big changes coming in that area.”

He admitted no one at Pure saw backup as a use case for FlashBlade when it launched. Of course, Pure also also has customers using FlashBlade it for its intended purpose – high performance NAS and object storage. Early adopters are also using it for artificial intelligence applications, and Pure is going after that market with its AIRI system that integrates Nvidia DGX-1 AI supercomputers with FlashBlade.

Schwarz said we can expect more AIRI configurations. “We’re not done with AIRI,” he said. “AI’s not a finished topic.”

FlashBlade is still a small piece of Pure’s revenue compared to its original FlashArray block storage platform. But Schwarz said having FlashArray in the market has helped to get customers to look at FlashBlade. FlashBlade uses different core software than FlashArray and incorporates built-in Amazon S3 support for cloud object storage. But FlashBlade also borrows some features from FlashArray such Pure1 predictive analytics and compression.

“Data reduction has always been our secret sauce” going to back to the early days of FlashArray,” he said.

August 13, 2018  2:11 PM

Kaminario storage goes for a run on Western Digital OpenFlex

Garry Kranz Garry Kranz Profile: Garry Kranz

Kaminario storage continues to push farther and farther away from its reliance on purpose-built hardware.

The all-flash vendor has qualified its consumption-based Cloud Fabric software for Western Digital OpenFlex composable infrastructure, which the two vendors demonstrated last week at Flash Memory Summit.

Cloud Fabric is hyper-scale virtualization software that allows data center operators to separate physical compute and storage on Kaminario storage arrays, and now also on Western Digital OpenFlex F3000 NVMe all-flash systems. The partnership with Western Digital underscores Kaminario’s effort to generate revenue from sales of software licenses, after outsourcing inventory of its branded K2 arrays earlier this year.

Cloud Fabric deploys the Kaminario VisionOS operating system and Clarity analytics in a pay-as-you-use license.

“With this Western Digital partnership, we are broadening the (types of) certified hardware for our K2.N software stack. It’s not just a selling partnership with Western Digital, but a technology partnership to deliver a software-defined composable infrastructure,” Kaminario CTO Eyal David said.

Composable infrastructure converts physical IT into modular pools of virtual resources. Hewlett Packard Enterprise popularized the composable concept with its Synergy product, and Dell EMC this year launched its Kinetic platform. Startups Attala Systems and Liqid also are trying to make inroads by selling software that allows large enterprises to buy hardware components by the rack as an application requires it.

Kaminario launched in 2010 amid a roaring white-hot market for all-flash arrays. And while demand for flash storage continues to grow, a corresponding trend line is the delivery  of storage services in software packaged on commodity servers. That market shift has forced Kaminario and other all-flash array startups to change course, be acquired or go bankrupt.

Although Gartner lists Kaminario as a leader in the solid-state array market, the vendor scrapped the hardware model this year to focus on selling VisionOS as a software-defined storage license. Customers are still able to buy Kaminario storage arrays as a reference design from resellers.

One thing missing so far from the Kaminario storage software stack is cloud tiering for file and object storage. David said Kaminario has it on the roadmap and expects to add the feature within the next calendar year.

August 13, 2018  11:46 AM

Violin Systems prepares NVMe launch, but not for drives

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo
Violin Systems

Violin Systems will make its first platform launch since its resurrection when it brings out a flash array with NVMe support on the front end for host connectivity in September.

Violin CEO Mark Lewis said the vendor doesn’t need end-to-end NVMe yet because its custom built flash modules are faster than NVMe drives now.

The vendor’s flagship array is the Flash Storage Platform 7650, launched three months before Violin went into bankruptcy in December 2018. Private equity firm Quantum Partners acquired Violin’s assets in April 2017 and brought it back to life as Violin Systems. There were tweaks to the platform since then, but no new products.

Lewis said another platform is about to drop. NVMe may not be the main focus, but it will be included.

“NVMe doesn’t help us,” Lewis said during an interview last week at the Flash Memory Summit. “We’re faster than NVMe now, we don’t have a problem. The vendors using SAS and SATA drives, they have a problem that NVMe helps.”

Lewis expects to add NVMe to Violin’s custom chips in early 2019 and switch to off-the-shelf NVMe SSDs when the speed improves in late 2019. But for now, the new Violin platform will keep its custom flash modules.

“We will support NVMe on the front end in the platform we launch next month,” Lewis said. “On the back end, we already have our own storage. ATA and SATA were way too slow, so we built our own controller, FGPA, all of that. So right now, we are quite a bit faster than NVMe on the back end because we soldered the NAND into the board. We’re working with NVMe SSD suppliers to speed them up.”

Lewis said his plan is to sell Violin’s pure performance to customers who need it most, and leave the general flash storage market to the Dell EMCs, Pure Storages, IBMs, NetApps and Hitachi Vantaras of the world. He said the desire to compete across the board doomed Violin the first time around.

“Violin lost that focus,” he said of the flash array pioneer’s previous struggles. “We’re just going to focus on the Tier 0 performance low-latency space. That’s what we do really well, that’s what we do better than everybody else by a long shot, and there’s a market for that.”

Lewis said many Violin’s customers stuck with its storage during the bankruptcy period because they couldn’t find an alternative that gave them enough latency for use cases such as transaction processing. He said Violin has about 100 customers, including five new customers last quarter.

“We were very happy with that,” he said. “We’re like an A Round startup now, with a great customer base. The hardest thing for a startup is getting that early customer adoption, and we already have a lot of Fortune 500 accounts. And we’re back up to about 100 employees, counting contractors.”

Violin Systems didn’t make Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for all-flash arrays released last month. The latest Magic Quadrant included 12 vendors, with seven among the leaders. Lewis said he was happy to be excluded.

“Product sales went to zero last year, so you can argue we were too small [for the Magic Quadrant],” he said. “But I also told Gartner I do not have a strong desire to be on that quadrant. We’d become a niche player. The Gartner Magic Quadrant goes to execution about this massive all-flash array market, and it becomes a scale game.”

Lewis pointed to Tintri, which appeared in the Magic Quadrant as a visionary despite following Violin into bankruptcy, as proof that the Magic Quadrant inclusion does not guarantee success.

“Tintri’s core issue was similar to Violin’s,” he said. “They jumped in the deep end. Every one of their deals had Pure and Dell and HPE, and everybody else in it.”

August 10, 2018  3:05 AM

Dell EMC Isilon, ECS gain ClarityNow for unstructured data

Garry Kranz Garry Kranz Profile: Garry Kranz

Dell EMC on Thursday picked up file software to help project teams access, control and manage unstructured data on heterogeneous storage.

The deal for Agoura Hills, Calif.-based DataFrameworks is Dell EMC’s first storage-related acquisition since Dell Technologies merged with EMC in 2015. Terms were not disclosed. Dell EMC said the transaction would not be material to earnings.

The DataFrameworks flagship, ClarityNow, allows data sets to be grouped together and related to business projects or use cases. The tool will complement Dell EMC Isilon scale-out NAS and object-based Elastic Cloud storage, said Varun Chhabra, a senior director of product marketing for Dell EMC storage and analytics.

“ClarityNow gives users the power to manage where their data lives, so they can have a consistent experience. It allows you to cluster your usage by project so you get a better level of insight,” Chhabra said.

DataFrameworks has gained traction in electronic design automation, health care and media and entertainment. ClarityNow does not replace Dell EMC Isilon CloudPools, which migrates inactive data to Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Dell EMC Virtustream object storage.

“The ClarityNow piece is suited for very specific business workflows,  where the end user requires higher degree of control over where the data actually sits,” Chhabra said.

DataFrameworks patented a way to organize file-based workflows according to its business logic. ClarityNow agents scan multiple file directories and object buckets to present unified search results. A metadata server indexes tagged data and the software allows users to move active data between archive and production storage.

Data sets can be grouped or related to specific projects or business uses for access and retrieval. Data protection can be applied at the asset level, keeping certain files on disk for hierarchical storage management and parsing other files to low-cost tiers. ClarityNow will tag one attribute in an application and use it for metadata queries to other applications.

Customers use Dell EMC Isilon to consolidate multiple file data on a massively scalable NAS cluster. ClarityNow fills a void created by the end of life of Isilon Search, a Linux-based virtual appliance that provided file searching across multiple Isilon clusters. Chhabra said it was “too early” to discuss the ClarityNow roadmap, but he hinted future engineering could expand its use cases.

“We have ClarityNow to fill the gap, but it’s turbocharged, because you can search across Dell EMC Isilon, ECS and any other platform that DataFrameworks supports,” Chhabra said.

August 7, 2018  5:00 PM

CEO: Actifio funding round to help focus on customer growth

Paul Crocetti Paul Crocetti Profile: Paul Crocetti

Actifio today completed its second $100 million funding round in four years, as it moves closer to a possible IPO and seeks profitability and growth.

The Actifio funding round increases the company’s valuation to $1.3 billion, up from $1 billion in 2014, when it last raised $100 million. Total Actifio funding is $307 million.

Actifio, based in Waltham, Mass., was a pioneer of copy data management. The vendor now calls its technology “data as a service,” aiming to provide quick access to customer data wherever it lives. Its Virtual Data Pipeline features data management and data protection capabilities, including analytics, business continuity, governance and security. It covers the cloud, virtual machines and physical platforms.

While Actifio has been eyed as a main contender for an IPO, CEO Ash Ashutosh said last year that his company had to choose an area of focus: being profitable or going public. The company chose the profitability route.

Headshot of Ash Ashutosh

Ash Ashutosh

In the last two years, Actifio has had quarters where it was profitable, but not consistently enough, Ashutosh said today. So Actifio is keying in on what it does best and has identified a model for profit and growth. That will require more focus and organization, and the ability to say no, for example to smaller customers.

Ashutosh said Actifio would recommend a channel partner or service provider to interested SMBs. The company is aligned with about 200 channel partners and 110 service providers.

Actifio is focusing on enterprises, typically companies with $1 billion in revenue.

“That’s a massive enough market for us,” Ashutosh said.

While Ashutosh said an IPO is a goal, a bigger objective following the Actifio funding round is in acquiring new customers and further helping existing ones. Between 50 and 70% of sales each quarter are from the existing customer base, which is close to 3,500 enterprises, he said.

Product-wise, Ashutosh said he’s hoping to double down on significant investments Actifio has made in the last couple of years in the cloud and business-critical applications. He said he wants Actifio to be the go-to platform for customers who want to access data anywhere, from databases to complex SAP applications to the cloud.

Actifio is planning a product update launch soon. It will feature concentrations on cloud, security and analytics, Ashutosh said.

After staff reductions dropped the employee count from 360 to 346 last year, Actifio is up to about 400 employees. Ashutosh said he does not expect to add many employees with the funding.

Crestline Investors led the Actifio funding round, joined by North Bridge Venture Partners, 83North, Advanced Technology Ventures, Heritage Group, Andreessen Horowitz and other existing investors. Crestline is a new investor in Actifio.

July 27, 2018  10:51 AM

Gartner: all-flash array market ‘visionaries’ include Tintri

Garry Kranz Garry Kranz Profile: Garry Kranz

Several vendors with spotty fiscal histories made Gartner’s list of competitors angling for all-flash array market share.

Gartner listed Tintri as a “visionary” in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Solid-State Arrays research report, which was made available this week. Gartner  identified X-IO Technologies as a niche player following a management reorganization forced upon it by dwindling capital.

Tintri launched a lackluster initial public offering in June 2017. Poor sales and financial woes forced Tintri into bankruptcy last month. The vendor has agreed to sell its assets to DataDirect Networks under a court-administered transaction. Garntner noted that in the Magic Quadrant report, but those problems did not disqualify Tintri from inclusion. Gartner defines a vendor in the visionaries quadrant as one with innovative products but no demonstrated ability to capture market share or sustain profitability. “Visionary vendors are frequently privately held companies and acquisition targets for larger, established companies,” the report stated.

Gartner said a “reinvigorated” X-IO has regained momentum with customers and increased investment on innovation. Gartner considers the niche category for vendors focusing on specific markets or verticals, those ramping flash array products, or larger vendors having problems “developing and executing” their vision.

Violin Systems, formerly known as Violin Memory, did not make the Magic Quadrant. Violin is a pioneer in the all-flash array market that was rescued from  bankruptcy in 2016 by a private hedge fund.

The Gartner report mostly analyzes all-flash arrays that take SAS, SATA and nonvolatile memory express (NVMe)  SSDs, although storage systems are included that can use emerging storage class memory and other flash types.  Gartner excludes hybrid arrays that mix electromechanical spinning disk and SSDs.

Overall, Gartner included 12 solid-state storage array vendors, including seven identified as market leaders: Pure Storage, NetApp, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Dell EMC, IBM, Hitachi Vantara and Kaminario. Pure Storage has remained atop the Gartner rankings for several years.

Pure solid-state arrays include the block-protocol-based FlashArray family,  including FlashArray//M and NVMe-based FlashArray//X, and FlashBlade arrays for file and object storage. Among Gartner’s cautions on Pure is the he inability to disable inline data reduction on FlashArray and lack of data deduplication and replication on FlashBlade.  Pure also needs to expand its presence in government and other industry verticals, Gartner said.

NetApp’s incremental improvements in flash mark a departure from several years ago, when it lagged competitors in the all-flash market. Gartner said NetApp’s Data Fabric technology “resonates well” with enterprises that want a single platform to manage data across cloud, data center and edge infrastructures. NetApp in May added an NVMe-based version of its All Flash FAS arrays.

Also aiding NetApp’s rise are the emergence of the first all-flash arrays based on its 2015 acquisition of SolidFire, including the SF38410 and FlexPod SF converged infrastructure.  Gartner noted that NetApp has engineering work to do to extend the SolidFire Active IQ predictive analytics beyond storage and across the stack, and to enable inline deduplication on SolidFire hardware to be disabled on a per-volume basis.

Rounding out Gartner’s leaders are Hewlett Packard Enterprises, IBM, Dell EMC and Hitachi Vantara, which was formed in September 2017 from the amalgamation of Hitachi Data Systems, Hitachi Insight Group and Pentaho.

Kaminario’s financial situation is also unclear, as a private company that  last received venture funding in January 2017. Garntner highlights Kaminario’s partnership with Tech Data, which packages Kaminario software on hardware appliances, but also noted the deal signed six months ago is unproven. However, Gartner noted that Kaminaro grew its revenue and was able to outperform the aggregate all-flash array market in 2017. The vendor in January announced it would no longer directly carry hardware inventory,  but offer its K2 arrays as consumable reference architecture with its Kaminario Cloud Fabric software-defined storage utility

Gartner said the all-flash array market experienced 27% year-over-year growth in 2017, with vendors combining to generate $6.3 billion in sales. Arrays that use NVMe flash internally accounted for less than 1% of the revenue, although Gartner estimates NVMe storage will represent about 30% of the market by 2021.

Like Tintri, Gartner characterizes Western Digital’s Tegile IntelliFlash as a market visionary. Western Digital (WD) acquired Tegile in September 2017. The IntelliFlash all-flash system originally was developed by SanDisk, which Western Digital also owns.

All-flash challengers include Fujitsu, with recent product upgrades to its Eternus arrays, and newcomer Huawai Technologies,  a Chinese vendor that added the OceanStor Dorado V3 and OceanStor F V5 arrays to its all-flash portfolio. According to Gartner, challengers are vendors that “execute well enough to be a serious threat” to market leaders, but don’t possess the same “size and influence.”

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