Why did a deep analytics sales exec switch to software-defined storage?
Confession: I’ve never been a “storage guy” but I joined Hedvig just the same. In fact, prior to joining the company my expertise and experience were in analytics, integration, and SaaS. So why would I take a bit of a left turn and go to a storage company? Well, lots of reasons. Chief among them is that Hedvig is not an ordinary storage company.
Let me explain.
Hedvig is a distributed systems company, led by a pioneer in that field. That distributed system is just being applied to storing and managing data at scale. It’s not a traditional storage solution.
In fact, I believe in Hedvig as the underpinning of self-service infrastructure (think cloud), its ability to span traditional infrastructure (think backup), its identification of multi-cloud as a driving force, and its corresponding vision for a Universal Data Plane. Because of this, and once I dug in and did the research, I came to the same conclusion as our CEO, Avinash Lakshman: there hasn’t been any fundamental innovation in storage in the last decade.
THE DATA SAYS SOFTWARE-DEFINED STORAGE IS THE RIGHT MARKET
As a former engineer, I don’t just make decisions based on opinion or gut feel. I ground my decisions in data. As part of my “homework” of ramping up on the storage industry, I came across some very interesting figures from Strategic Advisory Services International (SASI) in its 2016 Storage Market Review. While there’s little doubt that 2016 was a challenging year for incumbent storage vendors and some newcomers alike, there were definite bright spots that play to Hedvig’s favor.
First, in terms of 2016 storage venture funding rounds, the software segment led the pack, with $368M, or 41%, of total annual funding of $895M, which was nearly double 2015’s 21% share of total funding for software. Conclusion: Software-defined storage is the hot storage segment. Second, the round mix moved significantly to 1st and 2nd rounds, with 19 out of the 41 rounds of funding. Conclusion: The skew toward 1st and 2nd round signaled a strong vote for more disruption and innovation coming from early-stage storage startups.
Another great source is 451 Research’s Voice of the Enterprise report. According to the latest storage survey, 54% of enterprises are interested in software-defined storage with 43% already actively using it. The top reasons cited? Improved storage agility (48%), better scaling (41%), and cost savings (29%).
The reason for healthy funding and enterprise adoption of SDS is clear. Enterprises are voting with their dollars for a software-only approach because of the additional agility and cost-saving benefits — the two bedrocks every CIO cares about in the era of digital business. And if you’re using public cloud storage, then you’re already using software-defined storage. The (big) public cloud providers don’t run their clouds on traditional arrays.
CUSTOMERS SAY HEDVIG IS THE RIGHT SOFTWARE-DEFINED STORAGE APPROACH
I’ve already had the chance to meet with many prospects and detail the advantages of the Hedvig Distributed Storage Platform. Three examples in particular highlight why I think Hedvig is not merely storage.
One prospect, a traditional brick-and-mortar retailer, transitioned to online shopping for the majority of its revenue. For a quick transition, it set up its website on one of the big public cloud providers. Problem was it got very expensive, very fast — to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars per month. Now the company wants to move the website out of the cloud and into its own data center. We’ve encountered this approach before, and we call it going hybrid the other way. Software-defined infrastructures — and storage in particular — are critical components to making sure the retailer realizes lower monthly costs running the site in-house.
The two other prospects, one in healthcare and the other in financial services, brought Hedvig in for help with a Docker environment, reflecting the trend toward containers we’re seeing. Part of what appealed to all three of these prospects is that while of course we support Docker, we’re not just Docker. These three organizations can still use us as a general purpose platform, ranging from bare metal and to virtualized environments as well. They see Hedvig as a strategic element of their digital transformation efforts, allowing them to embrace emerging technology like containers as and when developers need it. They’re building on-prem developer clouds.
THE DEVOPS AND INNOVATION TEAMS PURSUE SOFTWARE-DEFINED STORAGE
What’s also fascinating about these three prospects — and we’re seeing this trend increasing — is that the initiatives are not driven by the storage teams. Rather, they’re run by DevOps or “innovation” teams that are in charge of cloud and digital transformation. What I’ve observed is that when Hedvig is brought in by these groups, the lightbulb goes on more quickly, and they almost immediately see the value of Hedvig’s approach to data.
Suffice to say there’s rarely (never?) a dull moment at Hedvig. We just announcedour Series C funding, securing a total of $21.5M and bringing our amount raised to date to $52M, and welcomed three new investors: EDBI, HPE, and OTF. We’ll be using some of the funds to expand sales and channels more aggressively in Asia and deepen our partnership with HPE to meet organic demand we see from large enterprises. In fact, two of the prospects I mentioned above are HPE shops.
I often describe my background as coming from the deep analytics space, so I’ve always been in and around data. And because I’ve long been interested in all things related to data, storage is an interesting and new challenge for me. It also doesn’t hurt that Hedvig is a clear leader in software-defined storage, and not at all shy about hiring storage “outsiders” like me.
Given the momentum Hedvig built in 2016 and the great start to 2017, I’ve no doubt this year will be a breakout one for Hedvig. We’re always looking for super-talented folks, so If you’re a top-notch salesperson, systems engineer, or channel pro, we’d love to hear from you!