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Compellent Users Get Virtualization; Day 2 of Compellent’s Annual C-Drive User Conference

I just returned home after attending Compellent’s C-Drive user conference and had some final thoughts and experiences to share after completing my stay at the conference.

 

One thing that struck me was that Compellent (NYSE: CML) users really understand what a game-changing technology that virtualization is. I sat through 2 or 3 presentations during the two days of the conference (May 7 – 8) and also met with a fair number of users (~10) between sessions, over meals and at the evening events and all of them were pretty stoked about the capabilities that virtualization in general and Compellent specifically delivers.

 

Compellent’s Data Progression (automated tiered storage) was the virtualization feature that its users spoke most highly about. One user I spoke with over drinks who was from Palm Beach said that he has been using the Data Progression feature for a couple of years. He actually described the experience as “fun” in watching the Compellent Storage Center migrate infrequently accessed blocks of data to lower cost tiers of disk.

 

Compellent’s Dynamic Capacity (thin provisioning) feature was given a lot of attention at the user conference but none of the users I spoke to seemed to be using it – or at least it never came up in conversations that I had with them. It might just be that they assumed I knew they were using it since the Dynamic Capacity feature is part of Compellent’s Storage Center core software licensing and, hence, didn’t feel obligated to bring it up.

 

Replication was clearly on the mind of almost every user whether they were presenting at the show or merely talking with me privately. It seems a fair number of its users are taking advantage of Compellent’s Storage Center replication functions, Remote Instant Replay (asynchronous replication) and Data Instant Replay (snapshots), in some way even though these software features are add-on licenses to the core software. This trend confirms my suspicions that fast recoveries are becoming more important for companies and the end-users they support.

 

However not all of the news around replication was positive. Most users had no problems using Compellent to replicate data locally or remotely but when it came to providing consistent recoverable snapshots in conjunction with applications, the news was somewhat mixed. During one user panel, Bill Moss, IT Director for Moss Construction Managers in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, described replicating and recovering Exchange data as a “nightmare”. He had to work with Microsoft and come up with a two pages of procedures (some of this content apparently appears on Microsoft’s website) to recover public folders within Exchange. In looking around the audience and gauging their reaction, it appeared that Moss’s struggles with protecting and recovering Exchange is not unique.

 

Also at the conference, I had the opportunity to meet with Bruce Kornfeld, Compellent’s VP of Marketing, and Larry Aszmann, Compellent’s CTO. The main item Bruce and I discussed was how Compellent licenses its software. What distinguishes Compellent from most of its competitors is that it licenses its software by spindle (per disk drive). Its core licensing includes Dynamic Capacity (thin provisioning), LUN security, boot from SAN, some base level reporting features and email home support. This licensing is based on a single controller with one shelf of 16 disk drives. As companies grow their Compellent system, Compellent sells disk drives and licensing in what it terms as “8-packs”. Additional software features that users can optionally license with larger systems include its Data Progression, Data Instant Replay, Remote Instant Replay and Fast Track features.

 

In the brief meeting I had with Compellent’s CTO Larry Aszmann just before I exited the conference, I gleaned  two pieces of new information regarding Compellent’s  manufacturing process and its commitment to its VARs. In regards to manufacturing, Compellent primarily uses off-the-shelf components in the construction of its systems. This removes from Compellent many of the traditional manufacturing concerns that other storage system providers need to manage.

 

Aszmann also said that Compellent sells 100% of its products through the channel and has no plans to go direct. He has seen other storage systems vendors do that which has ultimately undermined the relationship with their VARs. Because Compellent does not sell direct, VARs are much more transparent with Compellent about their business dealings since they are less worried about Compellent cutting them out of deals later on. Aszmann says this level of transparency is helping it as a public traded company because it can remain very accurate (about 90% on target) with each quarter’s sales forecasts.

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Jerome M. Wendt

About Jerome M. Wendt

President & Lead Analyst of DCIG, Inc.

Jerome Wendt is the President and Lead Analyst of DCIG Inc., an independent storage analyst and consulting firm. Mr. Wendt founded the company in September 2006.

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