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July 21, 2010

Q&A with David Scott, president & CEO of storage firm 3PAR

Gary Flood chats to David Scott about cloud, the recession and what the big boys think of 3PAR.

By Vinod

Gary Flood chats to David Scott about cloud, the recession and what the big boys think of 3PAR

What is 3PAR and how do you fit into the market?
We are a data storage company whose product is architected to serve the multi-tenant and highly virtualised public and private cloud market, with customers ranging from global service providers to large enterprises to central government organisations – anyone trying to deliver IT as a service. So we have seven out of ten of the major hosting service providers as customers, as well as Savvis, which uses us in 26 data centres worldwide, to Attenda, which deploys us as its core utility storage platform, to Credit Suisse, Barnes and Noble and MySpace. MySpace has about 5 Petabytes of data on our product, for instance.

You say cloud but you’ve been in the market since 2002… so either you’ve changed your product a lot or claim to have been clairvoyant about the direction of the storage market?
Well, it really is the latter, I’m afraid. If you went back and read our original strategic plan from 2001 you’d see how our product, Utility Storage, was even then targeted squarely at what we then called the utility market and now call cloud. In the same way that VMware’s ESX was designed from the get-go as the main server virtualisation building block for what we now call cloud, our system was always meant to be the same for storage.

Well, sure, but then doubtless there are many other companies going after the same space now?
Not at all. One of the effects of the double recession the market’s been through – the tech one of 2002-3 then the economic one of 2007 to 2009 – has been a reluctance of the venture capital community to invest in any kind of high-end enterprise storage start-ups. There were a couple of other companies in the middle of the decade looking to compete in this end of the market but they fell victim to the recessions and to be honest, we’re the last man standing, as it were.

So what do the Big Boys think of what you do?
The HPs, HDSs and IBMs? They are watching us take market share off them. From going to market in 2002 until last year we grew at a compound annual growth rate of 70%, and though admittedly that did slow last year we are still the only storage technology company in the market to record growth revenue in every single quarter we’ve been in operation. The established storage firms high end product lines shrank by about 20% while we grew at 10. They just don’t have the same clustered and modular technology as we do, in things like being able to manage a very wide mix of unpredictable, mixed workloads; they are playing catch-up and though they are trying, they haven’t figured it all out yet. We also see huge prospects for growth as many enterprises take us on to meet an immediate need then rapidly put more and more on our platform as they see they can move from 20 to 90% utilisation rates at much less cost, in terms of both less disk purchasing and reduced power drain.

At the same time – those other players are still much, much bigger than you.
We see a nine billion dollar addressable market for storage area network products and services and we told the Street we see a 16 to 21% growth as our target, but yes, we are a small player at $200m. But my mission this year as CEO is in fact to re-ignite growth and we will be making significant investment in sales and marketing to do help do that.

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So what is your message to the CIO reading this?
That lean times drive thin storage and that now is the time to look to do some serious storage liposuction. You can and must skinny down that storage overhead and make things much more efficient as well get ready for the imminent economic upturn. Cloud, be that public or private, is key to that, we feel.

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