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Hope for Physical Infrastructure in the Age of Cloud Computing

June 22, 2015

When it comes to digital storage, less is more; or more specifically, less physical space required, less money needed, and less time for resource allocation, is more. And while many companies have eyes for the cloud, many others—including, ironically, private cloud providers—still rely on hardware. Suffice it to say, the cloud does not herald the beginning of end times for physical infrastructure.

The trick for sustainability, as California-based Nimble Storage has shown with its appropriately named Adaptive Flash platform, is adaptation. Since shipment of its first product in July 2010, Nimble Storage has signed more than 5,500 customers across the globe. Despite launching in the early stages of the cloud’s sky-high ascent, the company has continued to experience growth. 

“If you look at the whole history of Nimble we’ve broken almost every record in terms of revenue growth, customer growth, and the way that the company has been accepted,” Gavin Cohen, Senior Director of Strategy & Market Development, Nimble Storage, told TMC at the recent Cloud Expo in New York City. Part of the reason for the company’s success is its edge over other traditional data center infrastructure.

“Nobody would move from a big established vendor to Nimble because we offer something that was 20 percent better or 10 percent faster. It’s because we offer advantages that are an order of magnitude better around being denser, faster, cheaper, and offering more capacity,” Cohen said, adding that Nimble’s devices are half the size of even the smallest alternatives.

Moreover, the company’s devices capture and analyze more than 30 million data sensor points per array per day that contain status information about each unit, allowing them to monitor devices in near-real time, for rapid response in eliminating problems. This constant monitoring also factors in performance and other information unrelated to the hardware. As part of the service, Nimble identifies issues in other areas automatically, and can save clients weeks of troubleshooting.

When it comes to competing with the cloud, Cohen concedes that there is some lost opportunity, but nothing crippling. His reasoning is that enterprise customers continue to run many of their enterprise apps on-premises, citing examples of customers running Oracle, Exchange and SharePoint among others that rely heavily on data centers. Furthermore, Cohen said that when enterprise applications do go to the cloud they are not going to low-cost public clouds, but into private cloud via service providers.

“The Service Providers need storage and they typically don’t build it themselves,” Cohen said. “We’re an ideal piece of storage for cloud infrastructure. If you break down our 5,500 customers, 500-plus are cloud providers.”

And then there’s the question of agility, or having everything on demand. According to Cohen, cloud does not have a monopoly on elasticity. He uses the example of Storage on Demand, which Nimble launched in November of last year. The service allows clients to deploy Nimble’s devices without leasing or buying them, but rather getting billed monthly based on the number of gigabytes used. This allows clients to only pay for what they need, as they would through the cloud.

“You can have cloud-like properties in your data center, and it is business as usual from that point of view,” Cohen said.

Looking forward, Cohen is confident that a hybrid model will gain greater traction, and that physical infrastructure will have a huge role to play for businesses of all sizes. 

Sure, the forecast may look cloudy, but don’t fret: the world of physical infrastructure is by no means coming to a slow end, and Nimble is proof of that.    

Edited by Peter Bernstein

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