Bill Roth, Ulitzer Editor-at-Large

Bill Roth

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First off, good job Fred Wilson on the catchy phrase.  You can read his initial post on the subject here.  When you read the post I think you’ll see that he’s talking about traditional, top down, push, advertising-led, big trade show, blast ‘em where they work and live, and direct sell them into submission “marketing.”  He’s not talking about blogs like this one - though really this is marketing too.

I think that simple sentence: “marketing is what you do when your product sucks” pretty much explains why Nexenta is setting records for growth.  You’ve probably seen recent press on that success.  Here is one by Chris Mellor of the Register.

We lead with product.  And NexentaStor is revolutionary.

First point about NexentaStor: even guys with sledgehammers cannot cause our file system, ZFS, to loose data.  And data storage is first and foremost about storing data.  Duh.  Unlike interesting companies and technologies built on Windows or Linux - and try as they might you cannot really hide your roots in today’s increasingly transparent world - we are based on ZFS and Illumos (fka Solaris).  In other words, we start with the world’s best proven file system plus a rock solid OS.

Quick digression - investors -> why are you still funding companies writing their own file system or using obscure niche file systems or other open source file systems that have been proven to loose data?  We’ve all been through this dozens and dozens of times.  It costs $150 million and 7+ years to stabilize a file system such that it is resilient enough to keep your data safe.  So when you hear the fateful words “we’re either writing our own file system or using ext3″, smile and disengage unless you are patient and ready to write big, gigantic checks; and beware - there are VDI acceleration appliances that are, at their core, file systems and the same rules apply.  If you are in the data path, I recommend 128bit checksumming on every transaction to make sure you have not corrupted the data - if that kills your code or your kernel or your hardware then you’ve encountered a barrier to entry.  Don’t pass go without airtight data integrity.

Second point: NexentaStor adds a huge amount on top of the world’s best file system.  Beginning with high availability.  But also including quite a bit under the covers such as tuning and stabilization.  Perhaps most importantly for a company that leads with product (not marketing) - we’ve added ease of use.  And we continue to absorb now tons of end user feedback on how to improve ease of use further.  We already integrate tightly with VMware and Citrix and blow the doors off legacy storage when supporting those environments (see below for how we handle random I/O).  Plus we’ve added world-class support and you’ll hear more about additional support offerings coming in the next few weeks.  And we’ve added a panoply of great partners.  The point is our total product from best practices, through partners, through support, through our code, and virtualization integration, and all the way down to the design of ZFS itself works together as a revolutionary solution.

I don’t use the term “revolutionary” lightly.  Think about how you deal with random I/O today.  As you likely know, virtualization randomizes your I/O whereas applications have been historically tuned to deliver nice, disk-head friendly synchronous I/O.  And legacy storage arrays suck when it comes to serving random I/O.  Their performance drops by 10x or greater.  The response of legacy vendors - add more disks OR put all the data on SSDs.  So either you give up disks and somehow figure out how to get the right blocks onto SSDs where they must live forever (choice B) or you double-down and add 1000s of  extra disks to get your I/O up, thereby super-heating your data center and breaking your budget.  NexentaStor uses SSDs plus disk together in a hybrid storage pool; you can use SSDs without betting completely and entirely on SSDs.  As a result NexentaStor based systems have been clocked at 500,000 to  600,000 IOPS and even greater on a single storage enclosure costing $20,000-$30,000.  That level of performance for legacy storage costs over $1 million.  That’s revolutionary.

I’m reading a book called the “The Thank You Economy.” It is pretty much a polemic, in the best sense of the word.  I highly recommend it.  One of the basic points is that marketing is undergoing a fundamental transformation and that the integrity of products and companies and the word of mouth that creates now count for more than Superbowl ads and Bud Girls.   I sense this in our rapid growth as well.

The growth of our primary competitors is dependent on their ability to exploit their customers.  As has been discussed elsewhere, they lock their customers into a long-term embrace and use this lock-in to extract industry leading margins for their products.

Compare this to our OpenStorage approach.  In our case you can migrate away from NexentaStor in an hour or two.  You can choose what hardware to buy now, and in the future, by accessing the massive and competitive market for enterprise class storage hardware; we strongly recommend you look at our certified partners for these solutions.  And you know, today, what you will pay for storage in five years.  We have published our pricing on the web.  We do not discount.  And Moore’s Law remains a good guide for budgeting hardware price / performance changes for future years.

We’re far, far from perfect.  But we are pretty transparent.  And as I read the Thank You Economy I think he’s saying that the world’s largest marketers are struggling with how to become more authentic in order to better leverage social media.  In short, our value proposition and open approach to business is much more aligned with macro trends transforming marketing and sales across industries.  That’s got to be helping us set records for growth as well.

Which means - this blog matters if it gets one more reader to tell two colleagues to consider an open approach to storage the next time they sit down to wrestle with the exponential growth in the amount of data they are storing.  As long as those two colleagues tell two friends (or tweet to two friends…) and so forth, we’ll continue to set growth records.

Thanks for reading, commenting, tweeting and discussing.  Together we are leading storage towards a more open, better performing, more virtualization friendly, and much more cost-effective future.

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Bill Roth is a Silicon Valley veteran with over 20 years in the industry. He has played numerous product marketing, product management and engineering roles at companies like BEA, Sun, Morgan Stanley, and EBay Enterprise. He was recently named one of the World's 30 Most Influential Cloud Bloggers.