With US$1bil in revenue, XtremIO unleashes ‘The Beast’

  • XtremIO has been a ‘bunker buster,’ says senior exec
  • A new land-grab movement among all the storage vendors
With US$1bil in revenue, XtremIO unleashes ‘The Beast’

AS the standout hit of EMC Corp’s storage portfolio, XtremIO is certainly the one to watch in the all-flash array space.
It was recently named a leader in the 2014 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Solid State Arrays (SSAs), with the research firm highlighting EMC’s inclusive software pricing, which means customers do not have to budget, track or purchase extra licences when capacity is upgraded.
However, Gartner also noted that EMC is offering XtremIO at competitive prices to its installed base, but transparency of information – such as list prices, discount levels and independent performance benchmarks – is unavailable.
“Accounts that we’ve never been able to get into are now showing real interest in what we can offer in the all-flash array space,” Jeremy Burton, president of Products and Marketing at EMC, told Digital News Asia (DNA) on the sidelines of EMC World 2015.
“In terms of getting new customers, XtremIO has been a ‘bunker buster’ for us according to our sales team,” he added.
READ ALSO: Unfazed by storage revenue dip, EMC lifts lid on innovations
EMC acquired XtremIO in May 2012 in a deal reportedly worth US$430 million in cash. EMC had originally been an early investor in the company in 2009 via its EMC Ventures arm.
After the acquisition, EMC and XtremIO worked on strengthening the latter’s all-flash array, to improve reliability and performance.
The entire process took over a year and since the product’s general availability release in November 2013, XtremIO has already made its mark, having hit US$1 billion in revenue in just 18 months.
This year at EMC World, EMC unveiled XtremIO version 4.0, a non-disruptive free software upgrade for XtremIO v3.X arrays.
Nicknamed ‘The Beast’ by customers, XtremIO 4.0 leverages the company’s signature scale-out architecture and now supports new larger all-flash array configurations, expands on-demand capabilities, and consolidates workloads at new levels of performance and availability.
The upgrade more than doubles previous density with 40TBs (terabytes) per X-Brick, and by offering configurations of up to eight 40TB X-Bricks, with non-disruptive performance and capacity expansions that automatically rebalances data to maintain consistent and predictable sub-millisecond performance, EMC claims.
The latest version is intended to help customers transform their data centre applications with in-memory copy services, enabling entire workflows to be streamlined and automated from the storage through the hypervisor and into the application.
It is also touted to deliver mission-critical protection, petabyte-scale configurations, and up to 33% more performance.
Major step in a long journey
With US$1bil in revenue, XtremIO unleashes ‘The Beast’Speaking to DNA, XtremIO chief technology officer Robin Ren (pic) described the latest release as “a major step in a long journey” that has brought to company to where it is today.
“The company was founded in 2009 – I joined in 2010 and we didn’t actually have a shipping product when EMC acquired us in 2012.
“We officially had our general availability launch in November 2013, 18 months after the acquisition, with two software upgrades since then … and here we are today with a June shipping date for version 4.0.
“I don’t want to diminish the significance of our earlier versions, but this is the biggest release we’ve had since our initial general availability as it encompasses not just a software upgrade – which includes 52 new features – but a hardware one as well with our X-Brick offering,” he said.
Asked about whether the XtremIO team had any inkling of the success it would enjoy in the market, Ren said that company’s initial ‘directed availability programme’ conducted from March to November 2013 had given them some idea.
“We had some early signs and feedback from customers that said to us, ‘This is going to be a huge market.’
“So we had quite a good idea what the first couple of quarters were going to look like, but nobody could have predicted this huge uptake we’ve had since,” he added.
Ren was also confident that this upward trend will continue well into 2015, as more organisations move towards flash storage options.
“Flash is going to replace conventional spinning hard disks in data centres, and EMC has the complete technology portfolio to leverage on this trend,” he declared.
Data services the key
Asked about what made XtremIO’s offering unique in the market, Ren said the company was “different from day one” in terms of approach, compared with early vendors such as Violin Memory and FusionIO.
“At the time, they were all very, very fast, very expensive but all lacked fundamental data services such as data reduction, integration with replication, and backup.
“So that had the end result of them being only able to sell into small niche markets, or they were perceived as being too expensive and were quickly driven out of the market by the new generation of flash vendors, of which XtremIO was one,” he said.
Ren said that while performance was important, data services for customers was much more so, and the company’s product has been designed “with that in mind from day one,” offering non-stop online, all-the-time full service, always-on data reduction, deduplication and encryption.
“The list goes on, and we will be releasing more services in the future. With these added services, people are really realising that they can replace conventional storage with an all-flash array with economies that makes sense.
“Otherwise it’s like selling Ferraris – it’s always a good market, but if you look worldwide, it’s a niche one.
“However, if you can make a good car that’s affordable with all the things that people like, then you have a huge business,” he said.
Ren also said that with flash storage prices going down by 20% each year, it is a drop enjoyed by everyone in the industry.
“EMC gets to enjoy that too, but the key here will be data services in maintaining the cost advantage against the competition.
“Cost will be a big part of the equation, but also how we use data services to meet the needs of customers – that is what we see as a sustainable, competitive advantage,” he said.
Asia’s significance
XtremIO currently counts over 1,000 customers across almost every vertical, including manufacturing, healthcare, education, defence, automotive, pharmaceuticals, finance and telecommunications.
“More than 40% of the Fortune 100 companies are using XtremIO, and some of the largest businesses in the world are running mission-critical applications using our product,” Ren claimed.
He said that Asia Pacific is showing a significant amount of interest, despite the region being in an earlier stage of flash adoption compared with North America and Europe/ Middle East/ Africa (EMEA).
“We’re definitely investing in our presence in the region as well, as we expect a tremendous amount of traction, with Asia expected to have a much higher growth rate than other regions moving forward,” he said.
Ren said that the company is putting teams in all major economies in the region, with three in China, two in Japan, two in South Korea, two in Australia and New Zealand, along with one team in India and another in South-East Asia, based in Singapore.
“We currently cover Asia Pacific pretty well, and plan to add much more go-to-market resources in the coming months.
“EMC’s resources are also being leveraged, with the teams I mentioned just dedicated XtremIO sales teams that all tie in to local EMC sales teams everywhere they go,” he added.
Asked about how much of the company’s revenue goes back into research and development (R&D), Ren said that as a company under EMC, it cannot accurately provide a breakdown as XtremIO leverages much of its parent company’s shared services in areas such as manufacturing and supply chain management.
“The bottom line is, we’re making significant investments in growing all aspects of our business, with R&D forming the biggest chunk.
“But we’re also investing significantly in go-to-market, marketing, solutions-building and global support and professional services.
“In addition we are growing so fast so it’s hard to detail the investment breakdown at the moment. We just did a new hire training session, which saw 80 people attending, and our headcount changes every day,” he said.
One thing’s for sure, Ren said – EMC is putting XtremIO on the priority list for investment and growth, “so we’re lucky to have a parent with deep pockets.”
Future forward
In terms of a roadmap for the company, Ren said that the team has “many exciting things planned” and while he declined to go into detail, said it would revolve around a few key areas.
“Definitely more data services, and looking into higher storage densities, lower prices, and better performance.
“We’re also looking at better integration with EMC and third-party ecosystems, and are putting a lot of R&D effort into innovating,” he added.
In terms of what will be the dominant trend for the industry in the years to come, Ren said he believes that five years from now, the majority of data centre storage will be on flash.
“So it’s really a new land-grab movement among all the vendors right now, and the ones which get it and can react fast enough, and the ones leading innovation, will end up with a big chunk of the market.
“Those which do not react or innovate fast enough will be left out, and XtremIO is fortunate enough to be on the leading edge of this, so we are seeing this trend very clearly and intend to grab the opportunity,” he added.
Gabey Goh reports from EMC World in Las Vegas at the kind invitation of EMC Corp. All editorials are independent.
Related Stories:
All-flash arrays: Being a latecomer plays into XtremIO’s hand
A budget-friendly approach to flash storage
The KSS principle: Keep storage simple(r)
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