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Bill Roth, Ulitzer Editor-at-Large

Bill Roth

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Last week in Amsterdam was great.  I met dozens of Nexenta partners and end users, and also new Nexentians as well. We took over the Holiday Inn at the Convention Center; the venue was bursting at the seams as we had almost twice as many attendees as expected.

Here is my perspective on the top 10 things from the Nexenta EMEA User Conference:

1. Stretch Cluster Standing Room Only (Already) Standing Ovation

As many readers know, running a metro cluster that allows active/ active failover across controllers and storage with a legacy system is extremely expensive and, often, quite slow. It has been a goal of ours to have a stretch cluster work faster and for much less money.

The results are in and will be published shortly in a white paper. A NexentaStor cluster with our High Availability included, using an AoE backend JBOD, was able to failover across 15km without a problem. Performance was very fast, as was performance once the cluster was re-synced.  The sync times of legacy systems apparently fall off a cliff after a minute or so.  That is not the case with our experience.

Many thanks to our customer and Belgian partner, S3, who conducting the proof of concept and spent their time and expertise to share their experience with the Nexenta user community.

And, of course, thank you to the Nexenta engineers who actually did the work to add this capability to our HA and to then tune and demonstrate it at the user conference.

2. Stretched Pub Full of OpenStorage Enthusiasts

The Wi-Fi at the hotel really was quite bad.  But the bandwidth of the conversations we had face-to-face was undoubtedly enhanced through beer.  We filled the local pub and all the hallways of the hotel.

3. Intel on VDI

I didn’t see Marco’s presentation so, actually, this is less about the presentation and more about the work Intel and others are doing to help users succeed at VDI.  Intel continues to help pave the way for OpenStorage and I expect Sandy Bridge eventually will be seen as a major enabler of OpenStorage.

4. Carrying 5 Bags up 3 Flights of the Steepest Stairs I’ve Ever Climbed. Ever!

Rather than staying at the conference hotel, I rented a small apartment.  It was great. It enabled me to bring my family with me cost effectively.  It was in a nice area with good food, shopping, museums, and canal tours all in the area. The only down side was that ancient street plans and canal houses did not include lifts or gradual stairs for aging Dads.

5. 30,000 IOPS for $30,000?

Someday, we’ll look back on 30k IOPS for $30k as expensive, but last week I overheard many attendees shocked at the price / performance being demonstrated by Boston, Supermicro, and STEC.  And keep in mind that these systems don’t care if the IO is random or sequential and that you can scale them in place; no forklift upgrades required!  The power of hybrid storage pools (and in-line dedupe),VMware integration, and our open business model (to deliver the benefits of Moore’s Law direct to customers) were never more starkly demonstrated.

6. My Business is VDI for Rent Running on NexentaStor x2

A couple of Europe’s leading providers of desktops-as-a-service presented on their experience using NexentaStor. Thank you all for your interesting explanations!

Quick note: If you buy VDI as a service and you lose your primary office, what happens to your business?  Very little. VDI as a service in its various flavors, including as a secondary service, means that business continuity is finally coming to the mass market at a fraction of the cost enterprises once spent.

7. Partnerships

Many legacy vendors talk about being partner-centric—this quarter.  But the question is will they be partner-centric next quarter? Or will they continue to exploit their partners by shopping deals around and by taking the largest deals direct?  In the case of Nexenta—we rely on our partners to deliver total solutions, i.e., hardware plus software bundled together as an appliance for customers.  We have no choice but partnering.  And we leave the entire hardware revenue on the table for customers.  So last week’s user conference featured 88 engineers being trained at great depth on ZFS and NexentaStor over two days.

In short, OpenStorage partners are investing in becoming even better partners. I believe this is in part because we simply cannot abandon them and we’ve shown that we will invest more in those that succeed. Plus, as one of the MDs of Europe’s first or second largest storage partner told us, they look at “contribution margin” and their contribution margin selling NexentaStor is more than 2x that of legacy storage even though they have 100 engineers and more than 10 years of experience with legacy storage.

8. A Conversation with 188 People

Amsterdam is a fairly well known place for fun.  And we gave away free beer Thursday night for a couple of hours on top of that. So, when I arrived Friday morning for my keynote, I expected less than 100% attendance.  Instead, the room was packed with at least 180 people, according to events staff.

I walked through my presentation on trends in 40 minutes in order to have a conversation with more than 180 people. After some polite initial queries, we quickly responded to a few of the questions that must have been on people’s minds.  How are we doing with legal risk? (OIN means I have more patents than most legacy storage companies).  What about scale out clustering? (Stay tuned).  What about local staff? (We hired 4 more that day in Amsterdam). Will Nexenta sell out? (I cannot promise we never will, but we take seriously all stakeholders and we believe the future for all of us is extremely bright. Should there be an IPO market in a few years, it would present a different set of circumstances).

I hope this open approach to the keynote helped set the tone for the entire summit, which, I gather, was characterized by direct conversations.

9. Important Couple of Weeks for Shows in Korea, USA, Netherlands, UK, Germany, France, Israel, and Elsewhere

Our user event in Amsterdam attracted press, partners, and end users from across Europe. And, at the same time, events were happening around the world.  I particularly like the strong reception NexentaStor received in Seoul, where we have multiple, ongoing petabyte engagements.  For an example, see ZD Net’s article here: http://www.zdnet.co.kr/news/news_view.asp?artice_id=20110524180959

We also helped sponsor Citrix Synergy in San Francisco, and next week I join Don Clegg, SVP of Supermicro, in Israel for OpenStorage clinics.

10. “We are from Company X, and We Want to Work with You”

I had the distinct pleasure of having a hard time passing through the hotel because of the number of partners, including technology partners, who had something to share. I was particularly pleased to meet a couple of impressive cloud and systems management start-ups that already had written to our APIs, one of which was from France and working on a proof of concept at a major user. We also heard from Bacula for backup and from the Desktone-based Ballintrae for VDI. The community is booming and partners of all sorts are adding technology, as well as services and sales to provide superior total solutions.

A Bonus #11 – “Be the Uber Block”

Together, we’re changing the (storage) world and, by making enterprise class storage for everyone a reality, we’re making the world a smarter place. We all need to continue the momentum and be the uber blocks that help the entire community continue to learn, scale, and win.

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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.