Compellent Sees Green; Day 1 of Compellent’s C-Drive Annual User Conference

Today and tomorrow I am putting on both my reporter and analyst hats. Living in Omaha, NE, I am only a hop, skip and jump away from Minneapolis, MN, so I took the opportunity to drive up here to attend Compellent‘s annual C-Drive user conference that runs from May 6 – May 8 and do some live, on-site blogging about my experiences while I am here.

Already a few notable items to report from last night’s customer reception and this morning’s opening presentation.

At the customer reception at Brit’s Pub in downtown Minneapolis, I ran into Scott Horst, Compellent’s Director of Marketing, and had a chance to chat with him for a bit. He said that about 100 users were registered for the event which represents nearly 10% of their current customer base since Compellent forecasts hitting the 1000 customer mark yet this year.

Also at the customer reception I had the opportunity to meet Sonia St. Charles, the CEO of the Davenport Group, a Minneapolis based VAR. What was noteworthy about this meeting was that she was one of the first VARs if not the first VAR I have met that has embraced Web 2.0 technologies and has redesigned Davenport Group’s entire website with a focus on social networking.

She says her 19-year-old son was part of the motivation to push her company to adopt a Web 2.0 format. She finds that the next generation of storage administrators (35 and under) are not accustomed to being called on by sales reps or willing to wait. Instead they are spending a few hours searching the Internet and getting up to speed on technologies so they can make more informed buying decisons. She sees this as key to her company’s future in helping her educate and inform current and potential Davenport Group clients.

This morning (May 7) Compellent kicked off the day with a presentation by its CEO Phil Soran and “Green” was a major part of the theme. The first “Green” was the color that Wall Street types like (as in greenbacks). Some highlights that he shared from Compellent’s past year included:

  • 16% of revenue now comes from international sources even as its income has grown fourfold (last year only 6% came for international sources)
  • Did its IPO in October 2007 raising $93.1 million
  • 107% year-over-year growth
  • 53% of its revenue is coming from repeat orders from existing customers even as its number of new customers has doubled

The more popular notion of “green” also appeared in two of the key trends that Soran sees for storage in the remainder of 2008 which include:

  • Virtual data center
  • Green, green, green (literally)
  • IT and business are more closely aligning

I guess up to this point I have been somewhat skeptical about the whole green initiative and still some skepticism remains. Based on Soran’s follow-on comments, companies are going green not because they are having any sudden pangs of guilt about wasting too much power or having a carbon footprint that is too large. Rather, power costs are going through the roof and/or there is a real shortage of power.

Soran mentioned one Compellent customer, the US Capitol Police, that had to virtualize their infrastructrure and go “green” because they couldn’t get any more power. They used that as an incentive to virtualize their data center thereby making it more green and now actually have power to spare by more efficiently using their resources.

A question and answer period with the audience then followed and here were some of the responses that Soran and other members of the Compellent executive management team had to the audience’s questions.

Q&A

When will TB drives be available? In final qualifications right now and Compellent expects them to be released in the next 6 weeks.

Time line on availability of SAS drives? Been testing SAS for 2 years. The drives are fine but waiting until scalability is there. Currently there are limitations in how many drives can be in a loop. It is a technology Compellent will support but not in the immediate near-term (next 6 months). 

Solid State? Some customers have solid state in their boxes and Compellent supports solid state drives on a case-by-case basis.  There are different kinds of solid state: some are slower than others; others you can only write to a certain number of times. Soran expects them to be adopted first in enterprises with $100 million applications but sees them as problematic to deploy now since customers are still unwilling to ante up for them.

(Side note – I sat in on a customer panel after Soran spoke and there might be some disconnect between Compellent and its customer base on this message. Both of the users on-stage were their highlighted speakers of the C-Drive conference – their pictures are plastered everywhere including Compellent’s web site – and both of these presenters indicated they would pursue SSDs if Compellent made them available.)

Encrypted drives? First initiative is to encrypt data stored to removable drives and later to encrypt other drives if demand arose. This is not a 6 week time frame but near future. 

How much of user base has upgraded to 4.0? ~250 customers; performance benefits have been good with those users upgrading from earliers releases to 4.0 reporting substantial performance benefits.

Dedupe? Nothing immediate. Thin provisioning and boot from SAN (one volume for all of your server boots) are technologies that Compellent is using now to address current customer concerns but are trying to figure out most logical fit for this technology. They see archive as the most likely fit for dedupe.

Editor Notes: Edits were made to this blog entry on 5/9/08 at 7:00 am CST to make for better reading and correct some grammatical mistakes.

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