Data Center & Storage Solutions

Datacentre revolution not IPO on Kempel's agenda

“It’s a revolution, not an evolution,” says Doron Kempel, CEO of SimpliVity, a Westborough, Massachusetts-based business that believes it is re-shaping the datacentre. It was fitting then that Kempel was talking from a room overlooking Long Wharf in Boston, a focal point for revolutionary disruption during the American War of Independence. It was nearly 240 years ago that British troops evacuated from the wharf and a vessel from Philadelphia landed bringing news of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Revolution is in the fabric of the region with Paul Revere’s house and statue a stone’s throw from the wharf.

So is Kempel the modern Revere? Is SimpliVity really out on its own here, riding its own horse and flying a revolutionary datacentre flag, changing the world?

Nutanix, which last year staked its own claims for being the new enterprise datacentre platform, may have something to say about that but Kempel is a smooth operator. Nutanix’s role in hyper-convergence was welcomed - “a very successful company which we have a lot of respect for,” – but also side-lined in the same breath.

“In 2009 we had the first generation of convergence called integrated systems, and then in 2011 Nutanix released its offering, which we think is Convergence 2.0. Our view of Convergence 2.0, which includes Nutanix and VMWare is that it offers the promise of cloud-like economics and x86 commodity resources for VDI and tier -two and -three applications.”

SimpliVity is, he says, Convergence 3.0 and he believes that the company is finally reaping the rewards of its longer-than-usual development path. It took an extra two years to design and build its product after being founded in the same month as Nutanix in 2011.

“We win 80 per cent of all qualified opportunities against all the competitors we face,” says Kempel. “In some cases these are not hyper-converged competitors, for example EMC. We see EMC in more than 90 per cent of the cases and many times it’s just selling storage. We welcome new players because it legitimises this technology.”

Cisco and IPO

But not too many surely? Recently one of its major partners Cisco, revealed it was going to release its own hyper-converge product called HyperFlex and Kempel had a veiled dig without naming names.

“If you are a very large vendor and you just recently launched a hyper convergence offering and you are saying that this is going to be the most economical solution in the market… maybe there is somebody like that, yes? How can that be if the servers are expensive and you need three copies for the data? You’d need three or four systems per datacentre – what would we say to the customer? Mr. Customer, you are considering buying a technology that has been in the market for a few months when we’ve been in the market for three years? Why because you care about cost? But is it really more economical?”

So is Kempel worried about Cisco?

“Of course we’d like to be the only spouse but that’s not realistic,” he says, “but we also have relationships with Dell and Lenovo and we promise we are going to have our software running on any server. However, we will continue to be very respectful and great partners to Cisco but of course Cisco has been more important to us than we have to it, being realistic. What doesn’t change though is the way we go to market. We need to make sure we look after the VARs and they are pleased with us and they choose to push our product. Of course we’d love Cisco to promote SimpliVity but has it ever? Server vendors have never promoted us; we have promoted them and we will continue to do so. Cisco is a great company.”

Well played: criticism, indifference and praise. So what about the IPO? Is that on hold?

“An IPO is a wonderful thing but we view it as a pit-stop,” says Kempel, non-committal, almost dismissive. “It’s not an end, it’s a means and right now the markets are not very friendly, so at the moment we are not focussing on an IPO, we are focussing on value for our customers and partners but of course, an IPO will arrive at some point in time.”

He added he was under no pressure from investors either, saying they are all “very patient”.

“What we need to make sure is that we are not dependent on an IPO. Right now we are just trying to grow volume.”

From there on in, any mention of IPO was pushed under the carpet. Kempel did, however, say that SimpliVity is now six years ago, pointing out that “this is the point at which EMC buys VMWare.” The possible inference here is that Kempel is hoping for a similar result but he dismisses the idea.

Last year Kempel told IDG Connect that his mission is to make SimpliVity the global leader in hyper-convergence. Twelve months on and the company appears to have taken great strides towards that goal. The company is certainly growing - 20-30 per cent quarter on quarter apparently – and now has 750 people globally. But a revolution? Kempel has fired the first shot but we will have to wait another twelve months really to determine whether or not his particular brand of revolution is successful.


Related reading:

SimpliVity throws down gauntlet to infrastructure history
SimpliVity joins the unicorns
SimpliVty aims high with hyperconvergence
Dell leads as giants cosy up to datacentre upstarts


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Marc Ambasna-Jones

Marc Ambasna-Jones is a UK-based freelance writer and media consultant and has been writing about business and technology since 1989.

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