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Nimble: growth now, profits later

Nimble Storage continued its pattern of revenue growth that outpaces the industry by a wide margin while running up more losses last quarter.

In its third quarter as a public company, Nimble reported revenue of $59 million for 77 percent year-over-year growth. It lost $9.7 million, more than the $8.1 million it dropped a year ago but less than the $10 million-plus losses of the two most recent quarters.

Nimble exceeded its forecast for revenue and lost less than it expected last quarter. Still, CEO Suresh Vasudevan said it will take another five quarters for Nimble to turn a profit.

Nimble’s total revenue remains minute compared to the likes of EMC, NetApp, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Hitachi Data Systems (HDS). But 77 percent revenue growth is impressive in an industry where the biggest vendors are either declining or increasing a few percentage points over last year.

All-flash array vendor Violin Memory, which went public around the same time as Nimble, this week reported revenue of $21.7 million last quarter. That was down 23 percent year-over-year, and Violin lost $17.8 million.

Vasudevan said Nimble added 568 customers in the quarter and had a double-digit increase in average selling price.

He expects to continue to grow by driving repeat business in Nimble’s traditional SMB and small enterprise customer base while moving more into the Global 1,000 thanks to 2014 product additions. This year, Nimble has added a CS7000 enterprise array, all-flash expansion shelf and Fibre Channel connectivity. Nimble had been iSCSI only until adding FC support last week.

“Our architectural approach is broader and superior to that of major incumbents as well as emerging companies in our industry,” Vasudeven said. “Complementing the strength of our technology, we have demonstrated a strong track record for execution, which continued during the third quarter.”

Vasudeven said Nimble competes more with all-flash arrays and hyper-converged systems, although its competition remains largely the same group of vendors.

“The only change I would call out is that EMC and NetApp together have continued to become the more dominant part of the mix,” he said. “It used to be Dell quite some time back, but EMC and NetApp have continued to increase [in number of competitive deals] and HP is also increasing at the expense of Dell.”

He said Nimble runs into hyper-converged vendor Nutanix and occasionally VMware VSAN, especially in deals involving the SmartStack reference architecture Nimble sells with partner Cisco. Vasudeven said while hyper-convergence is valuable in certain use cases “it tends to have a penalty. You are scaling compute and networking and storage together irrespective of what problem you are solving in an application, and that causes you to over provision the amount of hardware. We find typically that we are much more cost competitive when we are competing against the likes of Nutanix.”

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