After three and a half years at Nexenta, I joined another storage software company, an early stage start up. It was all very exciting and seemed like an amazing opportunity for me to share my software-defined storage skills and knowledge to help customers be successful and grow the company. Unfortunately, after four months I parted ways due to several factors.
At first, I was really impressed with the work the engineering team had done to build a software-defined storage (SDS) product with such intentionality. However, there were several factors that I began to question:
- It’s still hard to convince customers to change from old habits to SDS.
Software Defined Storage isn’t the new buzz word it once was. Companies can find it a difficult paradigm to accept when it’s compared to appliance-based storage. Humans don’t like change, even if it’s a good kind of change. So it takes a lot of effort by a sales team to help bridge that gap of doubt. Customers want to see demo’s, proof of concepts (POCs), technical deep dives, customer references, the list goes on and on. And it’s all reasonable. When faced with something different and new, many customers want to be thorough to ensure that you’re making the right choice. Nexenta is the leader is SDS, with a 6000+ customers deployments that run their products. Any new customer can have the confidence that they aren’t the only person on the planet running SDS- and that they were in fact choosing the right solution as many enterprises are making the switch.
- SDS is perfect for large quantity of storage.
Specializing in all-SSD storage arrays that were software defined was initially an interesting concept, as I thought by leveraging SATA based SSDs you could help adopt an all-ssd platform at a reasonable cost. Unfortunately, NAND flash market and SATA SSDs are not significantly cheaper than SAS SSDs (in some cases they’re more expensive). All SSD prices are only getting higher. On the other hand, spinning drives couldn’t be any cheaper. Software-defined storage makes the most sense in high capacity use cases such as archive, backup, and file servers. These are all use cases that don’t require the fastest performance but do require good enough performance. The fact that Nexenta can drive down the overall cost of storage is a major bonus. This is Nexenta’s bread and butter.
- Hardware Certifications.
HCL list allow customers to take and combine parts together to form a franken-build. This gives flexibility to keep costs low and/or maximize performance, but it leads to the unfortunate side effect of unstable systems. Certain SAS cards don’t work well, network card drivers aren’t stable, the list goes on and on. Nexenta uses a reference architecture where builds are validated through the major server vendors and customers have the guidance they need on what hardware works best. This is the ideal way to do it. Enterprises want consistency and predictability. An archaic method is to provide the flexibility of the systems without fully understanding the implications of stability and predictability.
- Protocal flexibility is key.
Since day 1, Nexenta has been a multi-protocol solution. NFS, SMB/CIFS, iSCSI, FC, Object… it’s all covered. For tier 1 use cases (which Nexenta does dabble in), block is available. For file services, SMB/CIFS/NFS is available. Protocol flexibility is a key component to a software defined storage platform. Outdated methods try to just go the file route. While the protocol is fast, trying to get customers to adopt an all-SSD, software defined storage platform that’s just file is a lot to stomach. Situations can arise where customers have FC storage networks and don’t want to just throw them away. Or potentially a customer could be using iSCSI with a specific file system that they liked. Nexenta is able to provide connectivity in whatever way a customer wants and that helps to ease people into this SDS paradigm
So after a few months of being away from Nexenta I asked if I could have the opportunity to rejoin and thankfully there was space for me. I’m excited about rejoining a team and a product that I know well. I’m grateful for all the people I met in this journey but Nexenta is home and I’m glad to be back.
-Eric Cho, Sales Engineer