A conversation with Suresh Vasudevan, CEO of Nimble Storage

How he is changing storage

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In a broader sense though, SDN can be broadly interpreted to suggest that infrastructure products will increasingly tend towards software intelligence coupled with industry standard hardware.  In that sense, we absolutely believe in software defined infrastructure and our underlying architecture embodies that philosophy.

12. Let's talk green, many companies talk about it but they really don't do it. Can you tell us where you are going in the green space and how customer can save money with your products?

What we see routinely in most of our deployments is that the amount of hardware that a customer has to deploy to meet an application's performance needs and capacity needs is about 20-25% of competing products.  Furthermore, our systems use a combination of SSDs and low-RPM, high-density HDDs which consume a lot less power and cooling.  Both of these attributes combine to deliver an order of magnitude improvement in the power and cooling resources that our customers spend.

Secondly, what most customers have traditionally done to protect data is to deploy a three-tier architecture - a primary storage tier for the primary copy of the application data, a disk-based backup storage system for backups and an offsite storage system that has replicated data for disaster recovery.  Our systems have been designed to accommodate the primary application data as well as hundreds of de-deduplicated, compressed backups.  Consequently, many of our customers are able to collapse a three-tier architecture into a two-tier architecture, eliminating the need for a dedicated disk-based backup system altogether.  This further shrinks the amount of infrastructure needed and the associated power and cooling costs.

13. Right now we are at 40gbps, moving to 100gbps and beyond. Where do you see Nimble Storage moving to and how fast?

Our products are network attached over Ethernet networks, and we evolve as Ethernet speeds evolve.

14. Do you spend allot of time look at what other companies are doing in your space?

We do indeed spend time looking at what other companies in our space are doing from a competitive perspective.  At the same time, one of our most interesting recent innovations is in the area of how we deliver support leveraging a combination of cloud based monitoring and big data analytics - something that is uniquely different from how vendors deliver support within the storage industry. 

15. What is the one question when meeting with potential customers that you get the most and why?

There are two questions that compete for being the most frequently asked question:

  • How can you do this with such a small foot-print? This question comes up because the product configuration we propose often looks dramatically smaller than our competitors' proposals. A good example is a large insurance company that chose our product which was about 1/10th the footprint of their incumbent vendor - an industry leader who proposed a configuration of 6 racks of storage against a configuration occupying about half a rack!
  • Will you be bought? We are steadfast in our path to building a sustainable stand-alone company, but the question comes up often and is understandable question given the history of acquisitions in our industry.

16. How does your product work with wan acceleration?

Customers replication data between sites in order to not lose data in the event of a disaster.  With our systems, data is replicated over IP networks.  In that context, WAN acceleration appliances reduce the amount of data that is sent over WAN links.  However, since we have built several WAN optimization features into our products, the bandwidth reduction that standalone WAN optimization appliances deliver with us tends to be a lot lower than with other storage systems that also replicate data over IP networks.

17. How much can a company save by using your product over the other larger storage companies?

Our customers routinely see capital cost reductions of 50-60% and simultaneously see a dramatic improvement in their application performance, amount of useable capacity and their data is protected a lot better than with larger storage companies.  Additionally, our customers see 75-80% reduction in power and cooling costs compared to larger storage companies. 

Lastly, our customers are also able to leverage general purpose IT administrators to manage their storage, given the simplicity of our storage systems, without having to invest in training and certification programs for their IT administrators to become expert at managing a specific vendors' storage systems.  This also allows the IT administrators to broaden their skill sets and focus on more value added activities.

18. What is the biggest misconception about Nimble Storage that people believe or hear?

Perhaps the biggest misconception relates to a traditional belief about where iSCSI storage systems fit.  Many of our competitors prefer to think about iSCSI as inappropriate for performance intensive applications, despite the preponderance of 10GB Ethernet networks.  Yet, the most frequent drivers of why we win against our competitors is our superior performance - routinely by a factor of 5-6 times - compared to our competitors.  This is despite the fact that almost 60% of our competitive engagements are against products configured with either Fibre Channel or NFS as the storage protocol.

It is also true that this misconception is disappearing at a rapid pace as iSCSI has continued to grow faster than other protocols, and we now have dozens of global Enterprises deploying us in their data centers.

19. Why should large or medium-sized customers look at your product over the other large storage vendors?

The catalyst for why a customer should look at us is one of four potential catalysts. 

  • First, if the customer is looking to shrink their storage spend while simultaneously improving their application performance and scalability of their storage systems, they should consider us.
  • Second, if a customer is looking to significantly improve their ability to protect data and recover rapidly from disruptions or disasters, with a lower cost and lower complexity solution, they should consider us.
  • Thirdly, if a customer is looking to simplify the management of their storage and its integration into VMware, Linux and Microsoft environments, they should consider us
  • If a customer is looking to dramatically improve how their storage environment is supported, proactively rather than reactively, they should consider us.

20. If you could partner with one company right now to expand your product line or sales, who would it be and why?

There are three partners that are all equally important to us as strategic alliance partners - Cisco, Microsoft and VMware. 

  • Cisco because they are rapidly gaining share in the server market and we are closely aligned with them in joint engagements where a customer is looking to deploy compute, networking and storage for their projects - all in the form of pre-validated designs.
  • Microsoft given the extent of integration that our customers expect with Windows as as OS, with Microsoft applications, with Hyper-V and with Microsoft management frameworks
  • VMware because of their dominant share in server virtualization and the close collaboration we have with their hypervisor and with their management frameworks.

21. iPad, iPhone or Android? What do you own?

iPad and iPhone.

22. What kind of songs are on your MP3 player?

Rock bands from the 70s and 80s, Bollywood songs and some rap music.

23. Being an executive like myself you have to have a release. Mine is golf or my handheld satellite radio. What is yours? 

Mountain biking with friends on weekends.

24. Fly, drive or train; which would you take the most if you had the chance?

Ideally a bicycle if that was possible; Else, I would probably choose a car

25. In the movie The Breakfast Club what song was brought back to life in a 2012 Movie Pitch Perfect?

"Don’t You Forget About Me."

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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