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All-flash could be on Nimble's roadmap

Now that Nimble Storage is growing revenue from its Fibre Channel support, it’s time for Nimble executives to think about what they will add next.

An all-flash array would be one logical addition. Nimble has supported flash in a hybrid set up since the start, and last year added an all-flash disk shelf that plugs into a Nimble controller to give customers extra performance.

Nimble has maintained that its hybrid arrays perform at or close to the levels of all-flash but at a lower cost. But on Nimble’s earnings report call Tuesday, CEO Suresh Vasudevan admitted that customers sometimes pick small all-flash arrays when they have one application that needs a performance bump. Vasudevan said Nimble’s architecture can support all flash, but stopped short of committing to an all-flash array.

“The underlying [Nimble] Adaptive Flash platform allows us to not just deploy the mix of flash and disk in a storage system but over time it can also be deployed in an all-flash configuration,” Vasudevan said when asked if Nimble needs an all-flash platform. “That is something our platform certainly allows us to do. I won’t be much more specific than that on how we are thinking about timelines.”

NAS is another missing piece for Nimble, which supported iSCSI block storage from the start and added Fibre Channel last year.

Vasudevan said customers have requested file protocols on Nimble arrays, but that is not on the short-term roadmap. He said customers do store files on Nimble systems now, and others use Nimble as the back end storage for traditional file servers. “We see the ability to add protocol support for file apps over time as a growth opportunity,” he said, adding it was “not something that’s a near-term driver in a big way for us.”

FC support helped Nimble increase its revenue year-over-year last quarter while the revenue of the large storage vendors decreased. Nimble reported $73.1 million for the quarter, ahead of its previous forecast of $68 million to $70 million. Nimble’s revenue grew 53 percent over the same quarter last year and four percent over the fourth quarter of 2014.

Nimble said 14 percent of its bookings last quarter included FC, and 70 percent of FC customers were new to Nimble.

FC also helped bring Nimble into more large transactions, as deals of more than $250,000 quadrupled from last year.

Nimble cut its losses in the quarter to $7.9 million from $10 million last year, but is unlikely to break even until the fourth quarter of 2016.