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Datrium DVX switches focus to converged markets, enterprise

Datrium has a new CEO, and a new strategy for pushing hyper-convergence into the enterprise.

Tim Page replaced Brian Biles, one of Datrium’s founders, as CEO in June. Biles moved into the chief product officer role, one he said he is better suited for, to allow Page to build out an enterprise sales force.

The startup is also changing its market focus. Its executives previously avoided calling Datrium DVX primary storage systems hyper-converged, despite its disaggregated architecture that included storage and Datrium Compute Nodes and Data Nodes. They pitched the Datrium DVX architecture as “open convergence” instead because customers could also use separate x86 or commodity servers. As a software-defined storage vendor, Datrium played down its infrastructure architecture.

Now Datrium positions itself as hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) on both the primary and secondary storage sides. The use cases and reasons for implementation are the same as hyper-converged — customers can collapse storage and servers into a single system.

“You can think of us as a big-a– HCI,” Biles said. “We’re breaking all the HCI rules.”

Datrium DVX is nontraditional HCI with stateless servers, large caches and shared storage but is managed as a single entity.

You can think of us as a big-a– HCI. We’re breaking all the HCI rules.
Brian Bileschief product officer, Datrium

“We mean HCI in a general way,” Biles said. “We’re VM- or container-centric, we don’t have LUNs. DVX includes compute and storage, it can support third-party servers. But when you look at our architecture, it is different. To build this, we had to break all the rules.”

Datrium’s changed focus is opportunistic. The HCI market is growing at a far faster rate than traditional storage arrays, and that trend is expected to continue. Vendors who have billed themselves as software-defined storage without selling underlying hardware have failed to make it.

Secondary storage is also taking on a converged focus with the rise of newcomers Rubrik and Cohesity. Datrium also wants to compete there with a cloud-native version of DVX for backup and recovery.

However, Datrium will find a highly competitive landscape in enterprise storage and HCI. It will go against giants Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and NetApp on both fronts, and Cisco and Nutanix in HCI. Besides high-flying Cohesity and Rubrik, its backup competition includes Veritas, Dell EMC, Veeam and Commvault.

A new Datrium DVX customer, the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, buys into the vendor’s HCI story. Jim Bartholomew, the 49ers IT director, said the football team collapsed eight storage platforms into one when it installed eight DVX Compute Nodes and eight DVX Data Nodes. It will also replace its servers and perhaps traditional backup with DVX, 49ers VP of corporate partnerships Brent Schoeb said.

“The problem was, we had three storage vendors and always had to go to a different one for support,” Bartholomew said.

Schoeb said the team stores its coaching and scouting video on Datrium DVX, as well as all of the video created for its website and historical archives.

“We were fragmented before,” Schoeb said of the team’s IT setup. “Datrium made it easy to consolidate our legacy storage partners. We rolled it all up into one.”

Datrium DVX units in the 49ers' data center.
The NFL’s San Francisco 49ers make an end run around established storage vendors by taking a shot with startup Datrium.

Roadmap: Multi-cloud support for backup, DR

Datrium parrots the mantra from HCI pioneer Nutanix and others that its goal is to manage data from any application wherever it resides on premises or across clouds.

Datrium is building out its scale-out backup features for secondary storage. Datrium DVX includes read on write snapshots, deduplication, inline erasure coding and a built-in backup catalog called Snapstore.

Another Datrium founder, CTO Sazzala Reddy, said the roadmap calls for integrating cloud support for data protection and disaster recovery. Datrium added support for AWS backup with Cloud DVX last fall, and is working on support for VMware Cloud on AWS and Microsoft Azure.

“We want to go where the data is,” Reddy said. “We want to move to a place where you can move any application to any cloud you want, protect it any way you want, and manage it all in the data center.”

New CEO: Datrium’s ready to pivot

Page helped build out the sales organization as COO at VCE, the EMC-Cisco-VMware joint venture that sold Vblock converged infrastructure systems. He will rebuild the sales structure at DVX, shifting the focus from SMB and midmarket customers to the enterprise.

DVX executives claim they have hundreds of customers and hope to hit 1,000 by the end of 2018, although that goal is likely overambitious. The startup is far from profitable, and will require more than the $110 million in funding it has raised. Industry sources say Datrium already has about $40 million in venture funding lined up for a D round, and is seeking strategic partners before disclosing the round. Datrium has around 200 employees.

“Datrium’s at an interesting point,” Page said of his new company. “They’re getting ready to pivot in a hyper-growth space now into the enterprise. What we didn’t have was an enterprise sales motion — it’s different selling into the Nimble, Tintri, Nutanix midmarket world. It’s hard to port anyone from that motion into the enterprise motion. We’re going to get into that growth phase, and make sure we do it right.”

Biles said he is following the same model as in his previous company, Data Domain. The backup deduplication pioneer took off after bringing Frank Slootman in as CEO during its early days of shipping products in 2003. Data Domain became a public company in 2007, and EMC acquired it for $2.1 billion two years later.

“I knew a lot less then than I know now, but I know there are many better CEOs than me,” Biles said. “Customer opportunities are much bigger than they used to be, and the sales cycle is much bigger than our team was equipped for. We needed to do a spinal transplant. There’s a bunch of things to deal with as you get to hundreds of employees and a lot of demanding customers. My training is on the product side.”

Execs: Content management in the cloud not as easy as it looks

TORONTO — Companies like Oracle, SAP and Microsoft are pushing content management in the cloud, and they’re joined by OpenText, which announced the containerization of its systems for use on public clouds, such as Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and AWS.

“Friends don’t let friends buy data centers.” That was OpenText CEO and CTO Mark Barrenechea’s recurring joke during his OpenText Enterprise World 2018 keynote, during which the company unveiled its cloud- and DevOps-friendly OT2 platform.

Barrenechea later clarified to reporters that while some customers are standardizing on AWS and Azure, most OpenText cloud customers are on OpenText’s private cloud. Opening OpenText apps and microservices, such as its Magellan AI tools, to the public clouds will also open up new markets for content management in the cloud, Barrenechea said.

But several speakers from the stage — including celebrity nonfiction writer and Toronto native Malcolm Gladwell — cautioned that while the cloud might bring convenience and freedom from data center upkeep, it also brings challenges.

The two most frequently mentioned were data security and process automation, as well as a related issue: automating bad or unnecessarily complicated processes that should have been fixed before their digital transformations.

Data security getting more complicated

If you have 854,000 people with top-secret clearances, I would venture to say that it’s no longer top-secret.
Malcolm Gladwellauthor

The internet of things and mobile devices comprise a major security vulnerability that, if left unsecure, can multiply risk and create entry points for hackers to penetrate networks. Opening up content management in the cloud — and the necessary multiplication of data transactions that comes with it — can spread that risk outside the firewall.

Persistent connectivity is the challenge for Zoll Medical’s personal defibrillators, said Jennifer Bell, enterprise CMS architect at the company. Zoll Medical’s IoT devices not only connect the patient to the device, but also port the data to caregivers and insurance providers in a regulatory-compliant way, which mandates data security the whole time.

“Security is huge, with HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] and everything,” she said.

IT leaders are just beginning to grasp the scale of risks.

At the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), even “smart microscopes” with which researchers take multi-gigabyte, close-up images have to check in with their manufacturer’s servers every night, said Matt Eisenberg, acting chief of NIAID’s business processes and information branch.

“Every evening, when the scientists are done with those devices, it has to phone home and recalibrate. And this is blowing the infrastructure guys away, because they’re not used to allowing this kind of bidirectional communication from something that really doesn’t look or feel like a computer or a laptop,” Eisenberg said.

Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell giving conference keynote
Author Malcolm Gladwell delivering keynote at OpenText Enterprise World 2018

Meanwhile, Gladwell warned that data security threats are coming from every direction, inside and outside of organizations, and from new perpetrators.

Also coming under the spotlight was security of content management in the cloud when Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden were able to steal sensitive military documents and hand them over to WikiLeaks, Gladwell said.

Government data security experts are having a hard time preventing another such breach, he continued, because security threats are rapidly changing. The feds, however, haven’t; they’re stuck with Cold War-era systems and processes that focused on a particular enemy and their operatives.

“It’s no longer that you have a short list of people high up that you have to worry about. Now, you have to worry about everyone,” Gladwell said. “If you have 854,000 people with top-secret clearances, I would venture to say that it’s no longer top-secret.”

Cloud: BPM boon or problem?

Content management in the cloud by way of SaaS apps can also bring process automation, AI and analytics tools to content formerly marooned in on-premises data silos. It can also extend a workforce beyond office walls, giving remote, traveling or field-based workers access to the same content their commuting co-workers get.

That’s if it’s done right.

Kyle Hufford, digital asset management director at Monster Energy, based in Corona, Calif., serves rich media content to an international marketing team that must comply with many national, state and local regulations, as well as standardized internal processes, approval trees and branding rules.

His job, he said, is opening access to Monster Energy’s sometimes-edgy content worldwide, while ensuring end users stay compliant.

The work starts with detailed examination of how a process is done before moving it into the cloud.

“People think there [are] complexities around approvals and how to get things done,” Hufford said. “In reality, they can take a 15-step process and make it a two- or three-step process and save everybody time.”

Panelists at OpenText Enterprise World 2018 conference
Panelists at OpenText Enterprise World 2018 conference, from left to right: Marl Barrenechea, OpenText CEO and CTO; Gopal Padinjaruveetil, vice president and chief information security officer at The Auto Club Group; Jennifer Bell, enterprise content management architect and analyst at Zoll Medical; Kyle Hufford, director of digital asset management at Monster Energy; and Matt Eisenberg, acting chief of the U.S. NIAID business process and information management branch.

As mature companies like SAP, Microsoft, OpenText and Oracle make big pushes into the cloud and bring their big customers along to migrate from on-premises systems, process issues like these are bound to happen, said Craig Wentworth, principal analyst for U.K.-based MWD Advisors.

Wentworth advised enterprise IT leaders to take a critical look at the vendor’s model in the evaluation stage before embarking on a project for content management in the cloud.

“I worry that, sometimes … software firms that have been around for a long time [and add] cloud are coming to it from a very different place than those who are born in the cloud,” Wentworth said. “Whilst they will be successful certainly with their existing customers, they’ve got a different slant to it.”

Xerox MPS ambitions increase the focus on channel partners

Xerox is pushing its partners in the SMB space to adopt a more mature model of managed print services.

The small and medium-sized business (SMB) market has become a major focus for Xerox in recent years, leading the vendor to up its commitment to its channel partners, which generally work in this customer segment. Xerox believes that managed print services (MPS) in particular is underpenetrated by partners in the SMB market. To help enable channel firms to capture the MPS opportunity, Xerox this year introduced several enablement initiatives, among them the Xerox MPS Accreditation Program that offers training, sales and assessment tools and marketing support, launched in July.

According to Jim Joyce, vice president of managed print services for Xerox’s U.S. channels unit, the SMB space is “a huge market opportunity” for managed print services companies. Citing previous research, he said 54% of the U.S. working population is in the SMB space, with only about 20% of the market penetrated by “true” MPS.

“We have driven more than $30 billion in MPS revenue in our company over the last 10 years in [the large business] space. So … [looking] at the market in SMB, it is twice the size and [lightly] penetrated,” Joyce said.

Xerox MPS: Maturation required

Many partners, however, have yet to embrace a mature Xerox MPS business model, Joyce said, which involves layering additional services and applications, such as security and analytics, on top of a foundational MPS offering. Partners must also take more of a consultative rather than transactional approach toward customers. A true MPS offering should allow a channel firm to “more deeply embed themselves” in their customers’ businesses, he said.

Additionally, the majority of Xerox partners today think of MPS in terms of a “cost per click” model, which “really misses the mark,” he said. Joyce said that some partners are now shifting to more progressive models such as “cost per user” or “cost per seat” per month where customers are given a flat rate for everything they print. He said the SMB space welcomes this kind of predictable model because it allows them to better control and manage costs.

Benchmark Business Solutions, a Xerox partner headquartered in Lubbock, Texas, was one of the first companies to receive Xerox’s Master Elite MPS status through the accreditation program launched this year.

“We are really proud of our staff for going through the curriculum required and qualifications needed to reach that status within Xerox,” said Jeff Horn, CEO and president of Benchmark.

Benchmark serves the SMB space in western Texas and eastern New Mexico, “targeting mom-and-pop businesses all the way up to medium-sized businesses,” and focuses on vertical markets such as K-12 and universities, banking, legal services and government, Horn said. He noted that the company’s PrintSmart MPS practice developed over the last five to seven years and is growing at about 15% year over year. It was a shift from its previous focus on selling and servicing equipment.

“We have tried several different iterations of managed print over the years,” he said. He cited retraining sales staff as one of the most challenging elements of making the transition.

In October, Benchmark acquired TonerTiger, an MPS and IT solutions provider based in Abilene, Texas, which is poised to boost the MPS business further.

Horn said that customers that Benchmark engages are frequently concerned about security. Security is “one of the main driving factors in almost every sale that we come across,” he said, adding that he is happy with the security features that Xerox has built into their products. “The imbedded security that they have within their devices today protects our clients [and] it protects us in being able to provide the best customer service out there.”

MPS meets NASCAR

TUI Total Solutions, an MPS provider based in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., is also satisfied with the security features of Xerox’s products. TUI, which has partnered with Xerox for about four years, recently won equipment and services deals with the International Speedway Corp. and NASCAR. The deal includes an MPS contract at ISC’s Daytona International Speedway facility.

Zach McDonald, CEO of TUI, noted that Xerox products offer many layers to security. “To be able to offer that in with your solutions … is a big deal,” he said.

In addition to initiatives like the Xerox MPS accreditation program, Joyce said that Xerox is moving many of its direct customers to partners. Xerox is the midst of “transferring tens of thousands of active customers to our partners,” he said. He expects this process will continue over the next 12 to 18 months.