A Few Impressions from Dell’s Banking Day in NYC

Three Somewhat Surprising Trends

Contributed by Evan Powell, Chief Strategy Officer, Nexenta Systems

Back in May,  I was thrilled to discuss Software Defined Storage at Dell’s banking day in their offices in One Penn in NYC. I was one of two guest speakers, the other was Gartner’s Joe Unsworth who did a great job outlining the transition to flash-based storage. After our fairly brief presentations and some Q&A there was an open round table discussion. The attendees were a who’s who of global financial IT leaders including CIOs and VPs of technology and storage of most “too big to fail” banks; we had a couple of already highly referencable customers in the audience as well which was great. A friend at Dell estimated that the collective IT capital purchases of the attendees were approximately $20-$30bn per year. I cannot thank Dell enough for the opportunity and for the partnership.

As an aside – I think all of us in IT owe Dell a debt for their willingness to shift towards enterprise and towards a vision of enterprise IT that, for me, is more compelling, more open, and much more dynamic than many legacy system vendors from which Dell is rapidly taking market share. Maybe I should blog sometime soon about why we are Dell fans – I’d welcome the input of folks that read this blog. For now, suffice it to say that I think Dell is doing a good job leveraging their strengths including supply chain management and global support to both enable and benefit from the ongoing re-platforming of IT. Yes – I am biased since Dell recently started paying their sales teams on NexentaStor – so take those comments with a grain of salt. On the other hand – we targeted Dell as a preferred tier one vendor because they are so well positioned so our money and focus is where our mouth is.

The nature of the Banking Day conversations is that they are closed door and vendor neutral. I did not try to sell Nexenta’s products or even the Dell hardware and services we leverage to deliver software defined storage. Instead I tried to kick off a real conversation.

Here are a few observations. First – some comments and themes I expected and then 2-3 really surprising comments.

As expected, these buyers are more interested in agility than they are in cost savings. And, with one or two exceptions, they assented freely to the notion that legacy storage is done, finished, a thing of the past; it feels like the transition to a software defined data center is just the straw breaking the legacy camel’s back.

Perhaps most surprising to me were a few items:

  1. Increased recognition of the inevitability of cloud-based approaches. I’ll call this acquiescence #1. Many financials have been fighting the easy on-ramp of AWS for years as they struggled to get their thousands of developers to keep their IP on premise and protected. There seems to be a sense that only by building a better, safer, more performant and massively easier to deploy and manage IT platform could they attract developers to stay within the enterprise. I sensed a lot less willingness to fight their own users than in the past and much more confidence in their ability to deliver a better solution that will retain users.
  2. Acquiescence #2 – BYOD is here to stay. Again, maybe I’m just out of touch however RIM and blackberry rose to prominence in part because of the mandates of buyers (and their colleagues in the government). And now the iPad and Android devices and similar are a fact of life that Software Defined Storage and the rest of the IT has got to accommodate.
  3. Nobody believes today’s all flash landscape will be with us in 18 months. Here I may be stealing Joe and Gartner’s thunder slightly. Suffice it to say that he presented a fairly provocative view of likely changes and everyone agreed that today’s apparent leaders are unlikely to win longer term. Hybrid players like Nexenta-based solutions and Nimble did receive more support.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out one final acquiescence which may be why the event was so well attended – I think there is more uncertainty over the fundamental structure of IT than I’ve seen since I first startedpartnering with and selling to these buyers 10-15 years ago. The storage teams feel like they are under threat – and they are. In a way it is similar to what I experienced when building Clarus Systems (now Riverbed) and the voice teams were realizing that voice and video convergence with the IP networks could mean “career convergence” as well. As the software defined data center progresses, you’ll see much more need for a true DevOps mindset and skill set. Service engineering is now the hot commodity and folks that know a particular silo really well are increasingly being flanked by those that build IT platforms that deliver on the agility promised by software defined data centers.

Hopefully these few nuggets are of interest. All in all, it is tremendously exciting to see some of the most credible and financially powerful IT buyers and partners (again – thank you Dell!) assent to the notion that software defined storage has got to happen for IT to remain relevant and to deliver on the promise of a more agile platform. I learned a lot from the conversations.

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Nexenta is the global leader is Software-defined Storage.

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