And Every Team Needs a Captain – That’s Datera

The confetti and tchotchkes are all gone following HPE Discover, the company’s signature customer event. After a week of reflection on the fanfare, product and solution announcements, and the findings from customers and partners, we’re even more energized on the path forward to reshape the industry.

HPE focused heavily on its pending Primera storage array – a significant modernization of the two decades old 3PAR architecture – and on bringing new levels of intelligence at every turn; no small feat. At Datera, we say congrats to the entire HPE storage team, since many friends put in lots of long hours!

Yet new arrays were not the only developments on the storage front at Discover. My colleagues and I at Datera, ourselves the leader in software-defined scale-out block storage, brought together the industry leaders in software-defined infrastructure (SDx) to discuss the cloud approach to infrastructure – one that focuses on software-driven smarts that has transitioned from showing potential to demonstrating proof of adoption and value in the form of greater agility and economics. Longtime storage specialist from Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) Mark Peters was on hand to guide a conversation among fellow SDx leaders, including high-performance file leader WekaIO, SDN leader Cumulus, object storage driver Scality, and ethernet supercharger Mellanox, as well as customers and partners that have achieved benefits of making the leap.

While feedback was very positive from all sides – including our friends at HPE – and showed many customers and partners the great progress SDx has made over the past decade, it underscored the reality that revolutionizing an industry is truly a team effort – Team SDx. We at Datera are pleased to spearhead this revolution and field a squad of the best players, many of whom collaborate with HPE in go-to-market and joint development (as do we), in an effort to drive the industry forward and lower the perceived barriers to adoption as the SDx wave crests. 

We know from history that revolutions can be trying and may, in fact, be trying for our host HPE itself. HPE remains a leader in IT infrastructure – no surprise there – but that position puts them in a tough spot, as it tries to serve the past and the future. As Mark Peters from ESG said of the event, “having a foot in both the traditional and the contemporary camps is the bane of vendors like HPE.” Having worked for then HP, now HPE for north of a decade as the CTO for the software-defined storage portfolio across file, block, object, and data protection, I witnessed this conundrum first-hand – deny the revolution or foment it. Traditional infrastructure leaders like HPE, Dell EMC, and Cisco are in an admittedly tough spot. While they are obligated to serve their established customer base with new and improved versions of products bought previously (such as Primera), a greater and greater portion of this base is reevaluating its approach in order to achieve the velocity, optionality, and efficiency offered by Team SDx. And fortunately, HPE is warming to this move.

Just a decade ago, when SDx was not yet mature and customers were in learning (rather than deployment) mode, the conflict could settle. Fast forward to 2019 and products from companies like Datera and our SDx teammates are not only delivering on the promise, but customers are voting with their checkbooks and deploying SDx in production. As Mark Peters said, SDx is “more like a rocket that had a very long and slow-burning fuse, but is now gradually escaping the gravitational pull of old-style IT.”

As both an evaluator of new technologies and advisor to customers on technology adoption for 30 years in this industry (where does the time go?), I have always talked about three distinct phases of adoption for any given customer – ‘the possible,’ ‘the practical,’ and ‘the useful.’ The possible is denoted by the ability to demonstrate the value of a new technology where the technology provider asserts the value over past approaches, stretching the boundaries of the possible. The practical is when the technology can demonstrate the value based on past industry definitions and go beyond. The useful is when the value cannot only be demonstrated but realized and measured against a given customer need. 

Over the past decade, I saw both the possible and the practical, but over the past year, we’ve seen customers move to the useful. 2018 saw enterprises and service providers move to deployment at scale and bring handfuls of additional applications and use cases aboard. This has brought the conundrum to the doorstep of the large infrastructure providers – resist or foment. 

HPE’s Antonio Neri oft uses car analogies and HPE marketing efforts oft utilize imagery from the Formula 1 racing team it sponsors. So, in that spirit, if the larger vendors are refueling the gas tank and increasing fuel efficiency, Team SDx is embracing the next-generation Formula E-wave in full. And just as Tesla and other leaders shifted their message over the past year from efficiency to performance and a new transportation experience entirely, so too is Team SDx showing just how useful this approach can be every day. In short, we are putting the new pedal, accelerator, and regenerative braking system to the floor. If you have had the pleasure of riding in an electric car, you know that it is a helluva ride. Expect more from Team SDx, but know that all of us are delivering today beyond the expectations foreseen during the ‘potential’ era.

See what’s not only ‘possible’ but ‘the useful’ from Morae Global, a leader that moved from old-style IT to Datera and SDx.

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