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Tegile CEO talks IntelliFlash AFA, industry trends

Tegile CEO Rohit Kshetrapal discusses how all-flash arrays are changing the conversation with storage buyers, and how that will continue as new flash technologies emerge.

Tegile Inc. started out selling hybrid flash storage arrays in 2012, but has since moved hard into the all-flash market.

Tegile introduced IntelliFlash all-flash arrays in 2014, and now has four models, with a denser IntelliFlash HD array based on SanDisk technology expected in a month or so. Tegile founder and CEO Rohit Kshetrapal said all-flash was the big driver of the vendor's 350% growth in units shipped in 2015.

SearchSolidStateStorage spoke with Kshetrapal about Tegile's evolution into all-flash, flash's role in enterprise storage and the coming IntelliFlash HD launch.

As all-flash systems become more popular, do you expect your hybrid sales to keep growing, or will they scale back as people go to all-flash?

Kshetrapal: There are two questions, basically, that come up during conversations with a customer: What is the workload, and what is the budget behind it? We're seeing flash become more economical. We're confident that we can put [an IntelliFlash HD] system on the ground at about 50 cents a gigabyte, with a 3:1 data reduction ratio.

Rohit Kshetrapal, CEO at TegileRohit Kshetrapal

More and more, we'll start to see multiple layers of flash. Flash will continue to get faster.  You're seeing [nonvolatile memory express] come in, and we're coming to a new medium that is a persistent memory model -- 3D XPoint. There's always a faster method that increases the speed and costs more. And then, just like the IntelliFlash HD, there is a tremendous increase in density. Today, we're providing half a petabyte in a 3U rack unit. That's almost 10 times what we saw just three years ago. And we feel that will double by March, so the density is increasing dramatically on the flash. And as we see density increasing, we're also seeing a price point reduction while we can use faster flash to accelerate the entire box.

So, you can have a system that has flash and flash, or flash and disk. It depends on your workload and economics.

Are there customers who don't even want to talk to you unless you're all-flash?

Kshetrapal: The conversation starts today with flash only. Everybody understands the benefits of all-flash now are substantial. As the economics have come into place, we always lead with the all-flash array. And then, we look at the budget. They can deploy fast flash-only systems, fast flash and dense flash systems, or fast flash and hard disk systems combined. It's a dial for us. Tell us how much performance you need and how much capacity you need, and on the basis of the dollars you have, we can move that up and down.

With so many all-flash systems on the market today, how do you differentiate?

Kshetrapal: It's about defining a system from the ground up to accommodate this type of architecture. When you define a system from the ground up, that's when it makes a difference. [Hewlett Packard Enterprise] 3PAR and [Dell] Compellent are fairly familiar -- they're tiering architectures, not caching architectures.

NetApp's WAFL [Write Anywhere File Layout] is completely disk-based. Shoving flash into it does not give you the performance levels we're talking about -- not even close. The next-generation players like us have all defined flash from the ground up, and we've taken multiple media into the environment with a flashing architecture, not a tiering architecture.

We're seeing flash become more economical. We're confident that we can put [an IntelliFlash HD] system on the ground at about 50 cents a gigabyte, with a 3:1 data reduction ratio.
Rohit KshetrapalCEO, Tegile

Are you still competing mostly with legacy vendors?

Kshetrapal: We took a breadth approach -- it's about providing all-flash or hybrid, or any protocol the customer wants, block or file. As you do that, you can land or expand a customer well. The only company with the same level of breadth in the protocol area is NetApp with block and file. So, by design, we see NetApp the most because our system is built to define that level of functionality in a next-generation mode versus the way NetApp defined it with WAFL. Of course, we see EMC, and we do see some Dell Compellent, but it's a small percentage.

When we look at the next-generation players, it's really all-flash vendors we see the most of -- Pure Storage, SolidFire [now part of NetApp] and EMC XtremIO.

How much are you -- and other storage vendors -- also competing with the cloud?

Kshetrapal: The storage market is one of the few spots in the industry where the overall [total addressable market] is growing on cloud and on prem. When we break that down, performance goes on prem. The performance layer out on cloud is complex, [service-level agreements] are not there and it's expensive. We're able to provide cloud-based pay-as-you-go pricing that we call agility pricing. It allows customers to monetize our deduplication and compression techs. A customer purchases an array from us, paying a monthly fee on capacity utilization or performance utilization per month. When you purchase an array, you're purchasing it for at least 36 months, if not more, and overpaying at least 50% of the array that you're not using for a while. As you use more, you go from base price to premium price, and customers only pay for what they use for given time. Our reporting tells them capacity utilization and can reduce the pricing.

What can you tell us about your product roadmap?

Kshetrapal: You'll see us fill out our IntelliFlash high-density lines. Now, we can put half a petabyte in a 3U rack. We will move to a petabyte in the March timeframe, with speeds increasing dramatically. We will take density to the next level. We will also roll out our clustered all-flash array. We demoed it at VMworld last year, and will roll it out later this year.

Do you see hyper-converged systems as a threat to storage arrays?

Kshetrapal: The product line you see from Nutanix is a great as an entry-level system, or for [virtual desktop infrastructure] or a branch office. The minute you start going into the midrange or enterprise, they have challenges and we see the reason we separated these pieces in the first place. As you scale, you have either extra disk or extra compute sitting out there. That may be OK on the smaller end, but it becomes a substantial waste in the higher end. We look at where we can come up with a converged architecture with the Ciscos of the world, where we work in separate blocks, but they're tightly integrated. We can boot up UCS from Tegile from those blocks.

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