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Kaminario CEO: We have customers with 100% flash data centers

Kaminario CEO Dani Golan says he hasn't competed against an all-hard disk drive array in more than a year and finds Pure Storage his top competitor.

All-flash array startups command rapt attention from investors these days. Kaminario Inc. last week secured $53 million in financing, and founder and CEO Dani Golan claimed the funding round was oversubscribed, with demand at $100 million.

The flash storage vendor, which is headquartered in Newton, Mass., and also has offices in Israel, California and New York, has now raised $128 million since starting out in 2008.

We caught up with Golan and asked him to shed some light on customer trends he is seeing, the competitive landscape and a glimpse of future flash technologies. Interview excerpts follow.

What sort of customers are you going after?

Dani Golan: We are very focused on the midrange enterprise customers. The midrange, the way that we define it, is customers with a [revenue] run rate of $100 million to $5 billion -- so, the 50,000 companies that are below Global 1000.

Do your customers tend to be in any specific industries?

Golan: No, we are very balanced vertically. Here and there, we have one industry that stands out, but it's not dramatic. I would say that if you looked a couple of years back, customers were thinking flash was a specific application for a specific reason. We are being judged and decided upon [today] as general-purpose storage. Our customers are putting all their operations on Kaminario, which includes databases, virtual environments, all of the above. We have customers that essentially took out all hard drives from their data centers. They're 100% flash in their data centers using Kaminario.

What tends to be the capacity range you're selling into these companies?

Golan: Today our range is 50 to 100 [TB]. That would be the loose average, and I want to stress that this is the average in the initial deployment. Now the vast majority of our customers grow quite rapidly, and so we're tracking this obviously quite closely. We see them growing 2 to 2.5 times the initial deployment in the four quarters after the initial deployment.

Which competitors do you see the most?

Golan: We see Pure Storage the most. And when we go against legacy, I would say mainly HP, NetApp and the midrange of EMC, VNXes, whether it's hybrid or all-flash.

When you replace legacy, are you replacing disk systems or hybrid systems?

Golan: I don't think that I've seen a 100% hard drive based system in the last five quarters. We see only hybrid, a bit of flash or a lot of flash, but it's hybrid or the same legacy storage with all-flash, whether it's [HP's] 3PAR with all-flash, NetApp or VNX all-flash. But, in reality, it's putting lipstick on a pig. I think a customer sees through this here much more rapidly than a year or 18 months ago.

When customers make their assessments, do you usually give them a loaner to test the performance? Or, are they making the decision based on specs?

Golan: It's mixed. We encourage our customers to try us partly because it's very easy to try Kaminario. It takes less than a week. It takes half a day to implement Kaminario fully, and you're off to the races. We're fully automated through installation and management. The performance is consistent and high, so it's very easy to throw your data there and start testing very, very quickly and get to an understanding of the vast difference between legacy storage all-flash products and us. It has been a very successful strategy for us.

How many customers do you have?

Golan: We are in the hundreds of systems spread across the globe. We've been ramping very, very rapidly. We quadrupled our sales since the launch of our last [K2] version 5 in mid-June.

Is the number closer to 200 or 800?

Golan: Let's say in the hundreds. The truth is somewhere in the middle.

That's the number of systems. Do some customers have multiple systems?

Golan: Oh yeah, of course. There are customers with numerous.

Where have sales been strongest?

Golan: We are strongest in North America, and we're growing and penetrating Europe, but it's still a younger operation for us there. The States is the strongest geo for us.

What features tend to matter most to companies using or considering flash?

Golan: I think that, honestly, cost efficiency is really important -- cost efficiency divided into three. One is [capital expenditure] Capex, one is [operational expenditure] Opex, and the third one is data reduction. This ties to Capex, but sometimes it's very hard to measure.

We have inline dedupe and compression, but we took it a step further. We will guarantee the effective capacity. Everyone is putting out these numbers, but they only suggest it. We are the only vendor that will guarantee the effective capacity, and that gives the customer predictability that they will get what we promise.

Secondly, we're allowing selective deduplication. As you know, databases will not dedupe well. But, when you're doing always-on dedupe, like Pure, they took a lot of the resources out of the system without any benefit, which wastes resources.

I've been hearing a lot about tiering among different types of flash. Is that something that's in Kaminario's future?

Golan: Yes. We have the ability to adapt TLC [triple-level cell] and the future technologies that will have a different price point and different reliability point and use them. The box is absolutely TLC-ready.

Would you say TLC is the next frontier in helping to lower the cost of flash?

Golan: Oh yes, absolutely. We think it will take some time. The technology is still not there. We don't believe that TLC has the right combination of cost, endurance and density right now. We fully expect it get there in the future. But, when it's there, we will be ready.

Does your product have auto-tiering capabilities?

Golan: Right now, it's in the future. We are very focused on providing the most cost-efficient all-flash in the market at $2 a gig. It really competes with hybrids. That's the most important point.

Next Steps

Kaminario adds MLC flash options

Kaminario all-flash storage systems pick up HA, data protection

Dig Deeper on Solid-state storage

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