Sanjeev Aggarwal's Blog

May 5, 2015

SMB Group talks to Atlantis Computing about HyperScale Appliance

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Here’s an edited transcript of my interview with Bob Davis, VP of Marketing for Atlantis Computing about their recently announced HyperScale Appliance.

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Sanjeev: Hi, this is Sanjeev Aggarwal from SMB group and in today’s SMB spotlight I’m talking to Bob Davis, who is Atlantis Computing’s Vice President of Marketing. Hi Bob, thanks for joining me in this discussion. To start it would be good to know what types of storage solutions Altantis provides.

Bob: Okay, well first of all thank you for the opportunity to be on the call today, Sanjeev. We are excited to be launching an all-flash hyper-converged appliance, which we call Atlantis HyperScale, that provides not only compute, networking and storage, but all together in one box for up to 90% less cost than competing alternatives.

Sanjeev: And why should mid-size companies care about this solution?

Bob: I think the focus here is that this is the first commercially viable choice that SMBs have had to really adopt such a powerful component for their compute needs or their data center needs. It takes all of that functionality that I just described and makes it affordable, really addressing the needs for performance, which all-flash addresses, but it’s very expensive. It also provides simplicity, which our hyper-converged architecture promises but which has been priced out of the market for most, if not all SMBs.

Sanjeev: How do you define a hyper-converged appliance? And what services does this appliance provide?

Bob: Well, obviously the appliance manifests itself as a hardware box, as a hardware server. On it we provide an all-flash architecture, with the ability to deploy on any of your favorite hardware. For example, Super Micro, Cisco, HP or Lenovo servers, which contain, as I mentioned, compute capabilities, state of the art X86 compute capabilities and networking capabilities. So it plugs right into your infrastructure, and obviously your storage, and the storage comes in 12 and 24 TB configurations. Upon that architecture, it can run really any workload, any application. So far, customers have used it for things like desktop virtualization, database acceleration, collaboration, storage, and applications like email and other virtualized server applications that are found typically in SMB and commercial environments.

Sanjeev: Thanks. Cost is an important consideration for the mid-sized company, so how does the price point of the Atlantis solution compare to the competitors that have similar solutions?

Bob: You’re absolutely right, Sanjeev, I think cost and simplicity or time-to-value are two of the primary drivers that were included in the evolution and the development of this product line. From a cost point of view, our product starts at a price of $80,000 for an all-flash 12 TB appliance. Compare that with other all-flash appliances and you can spend up to $800,000. So a factor of 10 more expensive, even against lower performance hybrid type converged boxes you’re looking at a price savings of greater than 50%. So again, really making it commercially viable for the first time.

Sanjeev: How easy is it to deploy this appliance, and does one need to be a storage expert to deploy it?

Bob: Yeah, that points to the second of our previous comments and that is the simplicity aspect. That was really important to us, so we developed it with the idea that the customer would have very little in terms of an IT staff, that the IT Staff would be generalists or perhaps even an external IT staff. We wanted it to be able to be very straightforward. It takes less than 20 minutes to install at a customer site. Answer a few questions and boom the volumes serve up, the virtual server comes alive, and it’s available on the network for high performance. It’s very straightforward and the time-to-value is like lightning. So it’s really an awesome product for that market.

Sanjeev: And does this appliance integrate some of the previous storage systems that SMBs and mid-market companies have?

Bob: Yes, it conforms to every standard on the planet, it comes complete with networking, so it’s a plug and play component from that point of view, and serves up the storage to the network so it’s visible through the network management application that might be present at the site through common APIs.

Sanjeev: Okay, can you give some examples of initial targets for the vertical solutions and also some examples of mid-market beta customers that have tested the solution?

Bob: Sure, I think that you know, we have historically at Atlantis computing, seen a lot of pickup in the healthcare and financial services area for Software-Defined Storage as a category as a whole, Atlantis HyperScale has seen some similar kind of attraction, so mid-sized banks, regional banks, healthcare organizations, pharmacy, these are all verticals that have been very, very prominent. Another is schools. We’ve had tremendous success, historically and with Atlantis Hypsercale in the area of schools. A lot of the things that are in common in these environments, are desktops that move around whether its doctors, or students for example, or tellers, where I have a desktop virtualization application which by the way are very inefficient relative to storage and require a lot of performance which makes a hyper-converged architecture in this case, Atlantis HyperScale, perfect for those environments. And that is indeed the environment where our beta customers have come from, in addition to that, some retail and manufacturing facilities. And our customers have been both North America as well as EMIA, in terms of their geography, so we see a very global presence with Atlantis HyperScale.

Sanjeev: How does Atlantis go to market with the solution, does it sell directly or through channel partners?

Bob: Great question Sanjeev, because that’s very central to our strategy. We are going to market exclusively through Value-Added-Resellers, solution providers and so forth. We have an Atlantis Channel Program where we are beginning this through to our gold partners, but we will be expanding it to those that service the SMB market, that deal in storage virtualization markets. But again key point, a hundred percent through the channel is the fulfillment strategy of Atlantis Hyerscale

Sanjeev: And can you help mid-market companies connect with these partners?

Bob: Yes, you are able to go to our website at Atlantiscomputing.com, the HyperScale sections on the website are clear and from that you’ll be able to find a partner and get a quote. You’ll obviously get more information and really learn anything you’d like about Atlantis HyperScale and in this particular point, especially about where to buy it.

Sanjeev: Okay, thank you. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today. I look forward to seeing the progress this innovative and competitive solution makes in the market.

Bob: Thank you very much Sanjeev, we will be sure to keep you and your listeners and readers apprised of our progress.

March 19, 2012

Dell Extends its End-to-End Storage Story for SMBs

Filed under: Blogs - Sanjeev Aggarwal, ISV, Small Business, SMB, Storage — Tags: , , , — sanjeevaggarwal @ 11:35 am

Storage is a key requirement for today’s small-to-medium business (SMB) and mid-market enterprises. As the amount of data multiplies, and the need to protect critical data grows, SMBs now require many of the same data storage capabilities as larger enterprises.

With these requirements in mind, Dell recently announced the acquisition of AppAssure–the company’s first acquisition since launching its new Software Group. AppAssure will be part of Dell’s enterprise storage and software line-up, and underscores Dell intent to extend its footprint in the storage solutions market. The acquisition helps Dell take another big step in its enterprise solutions strategy and deliver a Fluid Data architecture that automatically and intelligently optimizes and protects data everywhere.

AppAssure’s software solution, billed as next generation data protection, provides continuous backup protection across physical, virtual, and cloud-based storage environments and includes the following capabilities:

  • Snapshot and replication
  • Data de-duplication and compression
  • Backup and restore
  • Archiving

Market demand for this type of solution is reflected in AppAssure’s success to date. Since its launch in 2006, AppAssure has expanded to 230 employees and more than 6,000 customers worldwide, with 194% revenue growth year-over-year for 2011.

PERSPECTIVE

The top four technology challenges for the SMB and mid-market companies are (Figure 1):

  • Containing technology related costs
  • Implementing new solutions and upgrades
  • Keeping my systems up and running
  • Integrating different applications

Figure 1 SMB and Mid-market Top Technology Challenges


Source: SMB Group 2011 Small and Medium Business Routes to Market Study, November 2011

As the complexity of storage requirements rises, these challenges have become more pronounced in the storage space as SMBs have tried to piece together disparate solutions from multiple vendors to ensure data protection and business continuity/disaster recovery.

With AppAssure, Dell can provide SMBs with storage capabilities not only for their physical servers but across to virtual and cloud computing environments–which are increasingly the environment of choice for SMBs. Regardless of the data environment, AppAssure Backup and Replication provides backup/restore, archiving, and disaster recovery, simplifying administration with near instant, reliable data recovery. AppAssure also protects application software in both virtual and physical environments.

AppAssure is part of Dell’s broader “fluid data” architecture (Figure 2), which is designed to put the right data in the right place at the right time, at the right cost. It provides a unified storage architecture to manage data more cost-effectively and efficiently–thereby addressing the key technology challenges that SMBs face. At a high level, the Dell Fluid Data architecture can help SMBs manage the growing data avalanche in a more intelligent and streamlined way. In addition to the capabilities enabled by AppAssure, Dell’s storage architecture and solutions (Figure 2) address a broad range of storage management needs including:

  • Ability of handle file, block and object-level data to support a variety of applications, from Microsoft Exchange to virtualization solutions to databases to social media applications.
  • Automated support for multi-tier storage (primary, backup and archive data) to control rapidly escalating storage costs and compliance requirements.
  • Automated data protection and replication, eliminating the need for daily manual intervention.
  • Support for business continuity and disaster recovery.

Figure 2 Dell Unifying Storage Architecture


Source: Dell


Rapid data growth driven by new applications such as rich-media, social media, 64-bit architectures and compliance solutions requiring availability of data for very long time-periods is causing increases in storage system costs, storage infrastructure complexity, and power and cooling costs. Dell’s end-to-end storage management solutions help SMBs get some of these storage costs under control, for instance:

  • Data reduction technologies such as data de-duplication and compression allow SMBs to control data growth rates by eliminating redundant data. This enables more efficient use of existing storage assets and helps users defer capital expenditures for new storage systems as they reduce disk capacity requirements. They also help decrease bandwidth requirements for data transfer.
  • Tiered storage architectures allow users to control storage hardware costs based on business value and frequency of access. Higher performance, higher cost storage resources can be dedicated to mission critical initiatives, and lower performance and cost solutions can be allocated for back up and archiving.
  • Storage virtualization helps address storage costs by improving resource utilization, data mobility, information availability and related IT resources required to manage storage environments.
  • Business continuity and disaster recovery solutions reduce the impact of unexpected outages. By helping to keep the business up and running, they protect against potential revenue loss and brand damage due to outages.

QUICK TAKE

Dell’s acquisition of AppAssure and its continued focus on end-to-end storage management solutions provides several benefits to SMBs in addition to cost savings:

  • Ability to manage a mixed environment of physical, virtual, and cloud-based storage in a unified storage management solution.
  • Reduced IT resources needed for data storage management.
  • Ease of doing business with a single vendor for an integrated storage management solution.
  • Significant storage capacity savings afforded by storage consolidations and sophisticated deduplication/compression technologies.
  • Support for the most widely adopted virtual solutions – Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware, vSphere and Citrix XenServer.

And, with SMB market adoption of virtualization and cloud solutions rising, Dell’s timing couldn’t be better. The interest among SMBs to acquire/upgrade IT infrastructure management and virtualization solutions is very high (Figure 3), driven by the need to address IT environment complexity and increasing costs.

Figure 3 Solutions Purchased/Upgraded and Future Plans


Source: SMB Group 2011 Small and Medium Business Routes to Market Study, November 2011

That said, SMBs need better guidance in this area. Dell can significantly strengthen its story–and sales–by making it easier for the SMBs to easily understand the scope of it storage systems and end-to-end storage management offerings and pinpoint the “best-fit” solution(s) for their needs through the following:

  • Compararative information and visuals on Dell’s web site-replacing pages of detailed information and specs that illustrate Dell solutions and provide guidance on when and why different systems are relevant
  • Web-based tools for needs assesssment and recommendations.
  • Proof points in the form of customer references, return-on-investement and total-cost-of-ownership calculations that illustrate the financial and efficiency benefits of Dell’s integrated approach.

By providing education to SMBs and clarifying its storage story, Dell can make the most out of its push to extend beyond the hardware business to provide business computing solutions that are innovative, yet practical–and geared to both SMBs as well as large enterprises.

February 23, 2009

Cloud Computing and Managed Services Opportunity – Is it the Large Enterprises or SMB/Mid-Market Enterprises?

The convergence of web delivered IT services – Cloud Computing, Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Hosted Applications, Software-as-a-Service, Virtualization – will continue to redefine and add value to the SMB/mid-market IT services landscape, especially in the current economic climate.

Our outlook calls for rapid increase in adoption of various Cloud Computing and Managed Services components over the next 2-3 years as businesses look to cut costs and reduce capital expenses. This adoption will still be on a piece-meal – with Online Storage/Archival and related services, Hosted applications, Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery and SaaS delivered Business Applications being the most sought-after capabilities (SMB/Mid-Market Key IT Initiatives in the Current Market Environment blog). We see early adoption of these services starting in 2008-2009 and gaining more momentum into the mainstream market by 2011-2013 when the global economy emerges from the current financial conundrum.

It is interesting to see some of the SaaS companies like Salesforce.com focus on small number of enterprise accounts which account for half of their revenues through their direct sales force (they don’t have much of a channel presence). Even in the recent earnings call for NetSuite (again majority of the focus is on direct sales with some VAR efforts), all the financial analysts had questions only on the large account focus. In the U.S.(total 6.5 million businesses with commercial locations), there are less than 0.1% large enterprises(more than 1000 employees) and 0.4% midmarket-enterprises(500-999 employees); the remaining 99.5% are SMB companies. As the low hanging opportunities in large enterprises are already converted into customers, the growth of these SaaS companies is slowing. Why the continued focus on large enterprise, direct sales focus?

Well, to begin, if a vendor is serious about selling to the SMB segment, they should first seek to become their market channel, or connect to their channel – a strategy and value proposition they need to create. The SaaS value propositions that convinced the large enterprises do not always work well for the elusive SMB segment, which is a much more difficult and complicated market, but offers tremendous revenue potential. Although, with somewhat different value propositions, pricing and revenue models.

Who are the well positioned channels or links to the channel to enable selling to the SMB and mid-market enterprises? This can be addressed by segmenting this SMB/mid-market market and then looking at the channels that are well positioned to sell to the various segments based on the existing relationships and touch points. A topic for a future blog!

The vendors that have a good lead in the cloud computing segment are Amazon.com, some of the hosted services vendors like Rackspace and Savvis, and managed services vendors like Iron Mountain, IBM, BT and EMC. Virtualization will play a big role in this migration; vendors like Citrix, VMware and Microsoft are developing cloud services and platforms to help virtualize the data centers of some of the cloud solution and services vendors. Who out of these vendors understand how to navigate the complex SMB segment?

Cloud Computing and managed services providers (and their technology partners) need to learn from the business models of SaaS companies and early cloud computing vendors. Then put in place strategies and channels to capitalize on the huge IT services opportunity in the SMB and mid-market enterprises that lack the IT and financial resources of large enterprises, outside of the small number of technologically sophisticated SMBs and software developers (ISVs) that are the early adopters and have the IT resources to leverage the cloud solutions and services. In addition, by taking advantage of the internets’ low-cost marketing and delivery capabilities, companies can profitably mine the “long tail” of the SMB market.

January 30, 2009

SMB/Mid-Market Key IT Initiatives in the Current Market Environment

Filed under: Cloud Computing, Managed Services, Mobility, Security, Storage — Tags: , — sanjeevaggarwal @ 4:23 pm

Recently (December’08), I had the opportunity to participate in a CFO/CIO panel with participants from New England SMB/mid-market businesses, organized by Managed Technology Partners. The topic of the panel discussion was ‘What key IT initiatives that are still being considered and issues to be considered in the decision-making processes’. Looking at the current turbulent economic conditions, SMBs and mid-market enterprises are under tremendous pressures. Most of them have never experienced these types of market conditions before. Given that, most of the panel members and attendees had a very positive attitude.

The discussion centered on not only the key IT initiatives in the current market environment but also some of the key consideration that need to be taken into account in the decision process.

Decision making process needs to take into account some key considerations:

  • Cost containment – the need to preserve cash, decisions need to consider whether an initiative will save money or make money or both
  • Focus on short-term ROI – The projects need to show short term ROI and support the cost containment focus, shift model to monthly operating expenses, without a significant upfront investment
  • Existing investment – Review existing system utilization and put together plans for getting the most out of them. This includes considering options like costs for running/managing/upgrading existing systems, virtualization to improve utilization, alternate solutions provide that could meet the cost savings focus, etc.
  • Right-sizing – wanting to be sure right technology solutions are selected that match the business’ needs including longer-term viability
  • Existing IT resources – Expertise, utilization and availability to adequately support business needs

The key IT initiatives that made it to the top of the list are:

  • The continued need for security (data and access) and business continuity solutions – this is especially important in the current environment as studies have shown that human error or intentional tampering are the leading cause of data loss.
  • Providing remote access for users as the percentage of remote/Teleworkers increases
  • Backup and recovery that is right for “my” business – the “availability” of data is critical
  • Access (or lack of) to expertise and alignment of IT with the business
  • Determining the right support models – that reduces costs and maintains up-time
  • Vendor and VAR viability as part of the decision-making process

There was also conversation around the need for a strategic focus on IT and planning to ensure IT meet the business needs, both short and longer term.  Also, to ensure technology decisions are part of a larger discussion that provides for better prioritization, opportunities for economies of scale, making sure decisions are not make in silos, and the financial impact as it relates to other initiatives and objectives.

We are in a period of unprecedented changes to the business climate that will challenge both vendors and solutions providers in ways never seen experienced in the past. To be successful, vendors and solution providers need to take a focused approach with solutions and messaging that address the above considerations and issue.

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