I talk to me about HPE

(This blog post was also published on LinkedIn)

Let’s get the disclaimers out of the way. HPE paid for my travel, lodging and food to attend HPE Discover 2016 earlier this month. That’s it (besides me having been an employee there in the past), they aren’t paying me for my opinions, writings, rants or videos.

I see a lot of good things going on at HPE. They say they deliver solutions to help customers IT organizations’ become more agile and they appear to be eating their dog food. For example, after they tried to compete in the public cloud business, they decided to focus instead on producing their excellent Helion private cloud management software.  They also adopted flash technology in their flagship 3PAR storage product line in a very effective, straightforward way, as opposed to creating confusing and diverging product lines the way EMC and Netapp did.  It appears they are even starting to figure out how to leverage the technology and team from their disastrous Autonomy acquisition to develop enterprise software for Big Data and IoT. In short, they seem to have figured out the markets that are important to them, the products they can sell today and the investments they need to make to compete in the future.

The pendulum of focus appears to have swung to the technology and product side of the business and away from marketing side. This was necessary, but HPE also needs to figure out how to communicate effectively about their technology and products, which is not easy for a company suffering from branding/naming confusion. Names are a tough challenge for many large IT vendors and HPE often struggles by inflicting good technology with unfortunate names – including flagship tech like “Composable Infrastructure”. The word composable does not mean anything to anybody and dictionary definitions shed no light whatsoever on what HPE is trying to communicate. This does not lead to a sense of mystery and capability as much as a sense of baloney. Ambiguity will not help HPE make it to where they want to go and they need all the clarity they can get.

HPE is not back to where they used to be because there really isn’t a “back there” anymore – the world has moved on and HPE is much better situated to pursue enterprise technology opportunities than HP ever was.

Qumulo Emerges and Nudges the Awareness of Data Awareness

 

swimmer surface tension

Last week was good for the storage universe, as Qumulo announced their data-aware NAS systems called Qumulo Core.  Qumulo stole a page from DataGravity’s playbook by positioning Qumulo Core as data-aware storage, but the two products don’t seem competitive – Data Gravity sells its systems mostly to small and medium sized customers, while Qumulo appears to be targeting very large customers.  Here are a few links to what others are saying about Qumulo Core:

StorageBod (is mostly interested in lower cost competition to Isilon)

Stephen Foskett (likes what he sees in their QSFS file system)

Scott Sinclair from ESG  (wonders how companies will adopt this new technology)

Will it make it and what will it look like if it does?

turtle hatchingThere seems to be plenty of speculation about what Qumulo and data-aware storage will become. Some seem to think that data-aware is just the latest buzz word from the storage industry while others think it could have profound impact on the ways data and storage are managed. Unfortunately for Qumulo, there seems to be no clear recognition of the big problem that Qumulo Core supposedly solves. It does interesting things like tracking IO activity levels for individual files, but the question is why should this matter?

The answer is that Qumulo will matter if customers can save a lot of money by installing Qumulo’s storage – regardless of the value their data-awareness technology. The stickiness of their products however, will depend on the value of data-awareness. If people start managing their storage differently and more efficiently with Qumulo, it will force changes to the rest of the industry.

It’s easy to say you have cheaper hardware than the competition, but changing storage platforms typically involves migrating data. If customer data has to be migrated from an existing platform to the new one, there is a lot of planning and administrative work that needs to happen, which raises the cost of the new solution considerably. Greenfield opportunities are the best for Qumulo because customers can pocket the storage savings without regard for data migration costs. But greenfield opportunities are a tiny subset of the enterprise storage market and Qumulo will not succeed if it relegated to that niche. saving turtles

Who will help them?

Most startups need help selling their products. This is particularly true for lower-cost storage products where the cost of direct sales can be prohibitive – mandating a channel sales model. I expect Qumulo will attempt to recruit Netapp resellers who need products to compete with Isilon. In that scenario, Qumulo could become a pseudo-friend to Netapp by becoming the enemy of their enemy (Isilon/EMC).  However, that friendship would not be all that close, considering Qumulo can’t afford to turn down business from Netapp accounts. Not only that, it’s not clear how many Netapp resellers also sell Isilon already and don’t need a competitive product.  The Go-To-Market strategy Qumulo has will be very important to them as they find themselves competing for deals through top end storage resellers who are also working with EMC and Netapp.

Storage has never been about building a better mousetrap, it’s about competing in every facet of the business. Qumulo is going into the teeth of the enterprise storage beast just as many others have gone before, some successfully and many others, less so.

QuaddraComix: The storage consumption report

consumption report