Data Center

SimpliVity CEO Aims High With Datacentre Hyper-Convergence

Obscured by the rise of social networks, mobility, cloud and Big Data, the datacentre has been quietly going through its own revolution as companies like Nimble Storage, Nutanix, Pure Storage, Fusion-IO and Violin Memory reinvent server-room infrastructure. Add to that list SimpliVity, a company with a fascinating pedigree that is aiming to supersize integrated infrastructure with a stack of capabilities built into an appliance.

I met SimpliVity CEO Doron Kempel recently in London. He is a man who has attracted plenty of attention in his life for quite a remarkable reason. In the early 1990s he led an Israeli special forces group that had a mission to kill Saddam Hussein (“not a part of my life I’m proud of or ashamed of”, he says, although the training accident that caused the mission to be aborted was a “tragedy”). But that was another life, and today he has a radically differentiated mission in business.

Westborough, Massachusetts-based SimpliVity was founded in 2009 when Kempel, after a spell at EMC when he helped the company develop technology for storing rich media, sold his de-duplication software company Diligent Technologies to IBM.

Founded in 2009 and described by Kempel as a “data virtualisation company”, SimpliVity spent the first three-and-a-half years of its existence in developing its technology: that’s about twice the normal gestation period before ‘GA’ or General Availability, the point at which it’s possible to recoup that major investment in time and talent.

Kempel’s record at EMC and Diligent bought him the VC faith, money and time to build out his vision of “Convergence 3.0”. While other companies tout storage and networking with some form of data compression, Kempel’s vision was to go beyond that.

“We’re standing on the shoulders of giants because VCE [the VMware-Cisco-EMC alliance] created this market called convergence,” he says. “We go further and actually virtualise the data.”

The core Omnicube product provides a software stack for enterprises and service providers who look at the world in their own particular ways:

“The service provider thinks about VMs like a chicken farmer thinks about chickens, but the CIO thinks of them like puppies, they have names.”

It’s an approach that has pulled in over $100m in investment and as Kempel notes, a lot of that has come from the “smartest money”, including industry bellwethers like John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins who has said that SimpliVity represents “one of the biggest innovations in enterprise computing since VMware”.

While server sales are declining and storage sales are flat, converged systems are growing rapidly. Kempel’s plan is to trump existing players by going all in with a range of “hyper-convergence” capabilities including not just server, virtualisation, primary storage, caching and de-duplication but also WAN optimisation, the ability to scale globally and manage those resources and public cloud integration. Or to adopt his metaphor:

“Everyone wants to be in the convergence game but while elephants and dolphins are mammals that doesn’t make them the same.”

The result, says Kempel, is a three times reduction in total cost of ownership and the chance to consolidate datacentres and replace current SAN, DR and backup approaches with globally networked boxes.

What’s next? Currently, SimpliVity is focused on VMware but work for KVM is on-going and Hyper-V will follow. The NVRAM card that’s currently required will eventually become an ASIC.

There’s no shortage of competition although Kempel plays down my suggestions that VMware’s VSAN will be hot competition and that the company is increasingly seeking to eat the lunch of partners.

“VSAN is further validation of the space but it doesn’t have data virtualisation” or the ability to de-dupe and virtualise before data hits disk, he argues.

SimpliVity is just getting started. It’s a hugely ambitious project and the initial sales of $10m in the first three selling quarters suggests that the product is not perhaps as straightforward a sell as some others in the market. But Kempel says the company is playing a longer game on a mission to simplify IT and points to customer success stories like Dairylea. Certainly, while some rivals are growing at remarkable rates, the race to reconfigure datacentre economics is only just getting started.


Martin Veitch is Editorial Director at IDG Connect


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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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