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Isilon sells more, loses more

Isilon had mixed financial results last quarter, reporting higher revenue ($24.1 million) than expected while losing more money ($10.1 million) than in any quarter last year. But the most important item on Isilon’s scoreboard these days doesn’t have a hard number affixed to it. That’s confidence among customers and investors.

People clearly lost confidence in Isilon during its 2007 struggles, and they haven’t yet regained it. Isilon CEO Sujal Patel said there were “headwinds” that prevented Isilon from picking up more new customers last quarter. These headwinds came from Isilon’s financial restatement followed by an audit report of questionable sales practices last year. Fortunately for Isilon, it picked up more sales in repeat orders from customers already in the fold last quarter than in any previous quarter.

“Headwinds had some impact, raising uncertainty in customers’ minds,” Patel said. “And some of our competitors may have used it against us as a competitive advantage.”

Patel said these headwinds will “take some time to dissipate,” which means he expects them to continue at least for another quarter.

Winning back confidence among investors will likely take even longer. Although operating expenses declined, Isilon remains a long way from turning a profit. And Isilon executives still refuse to give guidance for this quarter or this year, giving the impression that even they lack confidence in their ability to execute.

“Due to the lack of clarity on the forward business model, current investor sentiment remains subdued,” analyst Tom Curlin of RBC Capital Markets wrote in a note to clients today. “We expect sentiment to remain subdued pending evidence of improving execution in the coming quarters.”

Patel pledged to continue to upgrade Isilon’s clustered storage systems, promising major upgrades this year. Isilon can use any product edge it could get with Hewlett-Packard and EMC jumping into the clustered storage game and NetApp pushing to integrate its OnTap GX clustered file system into its regular OnTap operating system.

Overall, Patel he said he was encouraged by the quarter. “Although it’s still early days, I view this as an important step in our path to profitability.” Investors weren’t quite as enthusiastic, although Isilon’s share price rose $0.08 to $4.85 today.

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"Investors were less encouraged, as Isilon’s shares traded lower this morning" Feel free to revise this comment. Based on PPS and volume, I think invest were encouraged by what they were told yesterday
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I did revise the comment, at end of trading Thursday.
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