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Nimble CEO sees no need for all-flash array

Surrounded by large and small storage competitors diving into the all-flash array market, Nimble Storage CEO Suresh Vasudevan said his company is at least three years away from taking such a step.

Vasudevan said Nimble’s CASL file system will support an all-flash array, but market demand is not yet there because of pricing dynamics.

He said Nimble meets the requirements for all flash, with features such as scale-out, data reduction and file locking. But he said Nimble’s hybrid systems have enough performance to compete with all-flash arrays without the cost.

“I will say the architecture itself is broad enough to enable us to go towards the flash-only array,” Vasudevan said Thursday on Nimble’s earnings call.

“The more difficult question to answer is when or whether we think it will become necessary. That question entirely revolves around the endurance of flash coupled with the price of flash. Will the price of flash go down without compromising endurance to a point where the economics start to favor an all flash array? At this junction, not even the semiconductor industry will give you a clear answer that says endurance will stay roughly where we need it to be for enterprise flash arrays and price will go down. So that’s the big unknown. What I am sure of is it is not happening in the next three to five years.”

Nimble’s CS200 and CS400 iSCSI arrays all combine flash and spinning disk. The vendor will also launch a higher end system that includes what Nimble calls Adaptive Flash in June.

Nimble is competing well as is, with revenue of $46.5 million last quarter more than doubling over the previous year as its larger competitors saw their revenue shrink. The vendor exceeded its revenue goal and added 450 new customers in the quarter. The forecast for this quarter is for $49 million to $51 million in revenue.

Nimble also continues to lose money while in growth mode (76 employees added last quarter to bring the total to 668). It lost $10 million last quarter and expects to lose between $11 million and $12 million this quarter. Vasudevan said he doesn’t expect to break even for nearly two years.

Despite the losses, Vasudevan said Nimble is moving into larger companies. He said the vendor had 400 deals of more than $100,000 over the last year, twice as many as the previous year. The addition of Fibre Chanel support planned for later this year should also help Nimble move into the enterprise.

Established storage companies are apparently taking Nimble seriously now. Vasudevan said price competition is “more intense” as large vendors fight harder for deals. “I would say that’s the one change versus the large incumbents,” he said when asked if large vendors are getting more aggressive on pricing.

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