Over the last two weeks I’ve had the opportunity to meet with CEOs from two startup companies in the storage industry. Both are relatively new to their positions, however each company has very different challenges ahead.
Violin Memory is one of the original all-flash storage vendors which went through a rather rocky IPO last year; Tintri is a startup focusing on hypervisor-aware storage that uses both spinning disk and flash technologies.
Kevin DeNuccio – Violin Memory
Violin appointed Kevin DeNuccio president and CEO of the company on 3 February this year. His background includes Unisys and EMC as well as six years at Cisco. DeNuccio was also on the board at SanDisk which provides him with some insight into how the flash storage industry works. DeNuccio’s tenure in charge so far at Violin has been almost two months and it is his view that it will take 6 months to turn the company around. Things have changed already with a number of new appointments including Eric Herzog as Chief Marketing Officer, Steve Dalton to Engineering and Ebrahim Abbasi in charge of Operations.
Internally, efforts have been taken to reduce costs, collapsing the 3-4 existing engineering teams into one and putting the PCIe business up for sale. DeNuccio indicated that this part of the business will either be sold off or closed down by the end of the quarter. Headcount has also been reduced from 500 to around 350 people to both cut costs and make the company more manageable, having removed a layer of middle management.
Although Violin’s hardware is good, there are gaps in their feature offerings and this is a big focus for the coming 12 months, with a significant focus on software. We can expect to see a new strategy on software announced within the next 2-4 months.
Tintri – Ken Klein
Ken Klein was appointed Chairman and CEO of Tintri last October, with previous CEO Kieran Harty stepping aside and assuming the role of CTO. Tintri is in a very different position to Violin and the appointment of Klein is all about strengthening the company ahead of a future IPO in 2015. This process has included raising an additional $75 million, tripling market spend and doubling the sales force, of which 60% have been appointed in the last 2 months. Work has been done to build the management team with a new CFO, CMO and a dedicated HR function.
At the same time Klein is investing heavily in R&D with a range of new features including role-based access, multi-tenancy, multi-hypervisor support and perhaps the option of a hyper-converged product. Rather than cutting staff, the headcount has been increasing with a target to have over 300 employees by the end of the year.
The Architect’s View
Both Violin and Tintri are in very different positions.
Violin are looking to steady the ship and so the focus is on operational efficiency while building their product portfolio to more suit the requirements of the market. There’s no doubt that Violin failed to realise that the market had matured and features were becoming as important as the performance of the hardware. We can expect to see a rebalancing of things in the next 12 months, with losses stemmed and a new strategy announced.
Tintri are on the up, pushing towards IPO while making an effort to understand how the market is evolving with a focus on cloud and multi-hypervisor. I’m sure they will be looking for a successful over-subscribed IPO in 2015 and reflecting on the good and bad experiences of their peers.
It will be interesting to look back in 6 months time and see how things have progressed.
- Violin Memory Names Kevin DeNuccio Chief Executive Officer (Violin Memory website, 3 February 2014)
- Violin Memory Names Eric Herzog Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice President of Business Development (Violin Memory website, 4 March 2014)
- Violin Memory Promotes Steve Dalton to Senior Vice President of Engineering (Violin Memory website, 19 March 2014)
- Tintri Names Ken Klein as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer to Accelerate the Company’s Growth (Tintri website, 15 October 2013)
- Tintri Appoints Former VMware Executive Yael Zheng as Chief Marketing Officer (Tintri website, 13 March 2014)
- Tintri Raises $75 Million to Bring Application-Aware Storage to Every Data Center and Cloud (Tintri website, 13 February 2014)
(Note – post amended to remove reference to Joe Tucci).
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