What Should DDN do With Tintri?

After being delisted from NASDAQ and filing for Chapter 11, Tintri may have found a savior. Data Direct Networks (DDN) entered into a non-binding letter of intent agreement with Tintri to acquire most of Tintri’s assets. DDN is a well-run company with a long track record of success, and its current product line has almost no overlap with the Tintri product line. If DDN manages the transition well, it could find itself in a position to compete in a broader section of the market than its traditional HPC segment.

What Went Wrong for Tintri

In the crowded midrange storage systems market, Tintri had a unique analytics capability that enabled it to derive excellent performance from hybrid (flash + hard disk) storage systems. The software didn’t necessarily make anything faster it just made sure that the right data was on the proper storage media most of the time. The rest of Tintri’s software is at least on par with its competitors.

What went wrong for Tintri happened long before it went public; it was when the cost delta between all-flash arrays and hybrid arrays became so narrow that an increasing number of customers chose the all-flash option instead of choosing a hybrid system. Since its competitors did not have Tintri’s analytics or its quality of service capabilities, they pushed hard on the idea of all-flash being the better option. Tintri fell into this trap and offered an all-flash array of its own and where possible, it led with the all-flash system, eliminating one of its primary advantages, the optimal use of hard disks in a flash-based storage system.

What DDN Should Do

DDN has excellent high-performance storage systems. It doesn’t need another all-flash array. However, It does require a robust midrange offering, if DDN wants to go after that market. Most midrange data centers also don’t need a high-end all-flash array. If a hybrid system properly manages its hard disk portion, which the Tintri software has shown it can do, midrange data centers can meet all of their performance demands with a hybrid system. Midrange data centers are also far more likely to be concerned with price. The cost savings of a hybrid system versus an all-flash array are still significant and something that DDN should market.

DDN should discontinue the Tintri all-flash array and focus on hybrid. It could make hybrid “cool” again and provide a practical alternative to that market. DDN could also leave the all-flash array in place but not lead with it. Imagine a marketing campaign that stated, “We could sell you an all-flash array, but we don’t want to.”

StorageSwiss Take

Tintri makes good products, and we’ve spoken to many delighted Tintri customers. However, as the move to all-flash picked up the pace, the value of Tintri’s analytics diminished. Returning to a hybrid systems focus gives the product line an advantage that few can offer. A hybrid system that seldom suffers a flash tier miss will deliver similar performance to an all-flash array at a fraction of the cost. The hybrid focus strategy also causes almost no conflict with the current DDN product line making for a relatively seamless acquisition.

Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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3 comments on “What Should DDN do With Tintri?
  1. hh says:

    Sorry, George couldn’t disagree more. Tintri all flash was a godsend for those customers that want to run highly dense VM footprints in a single 2U box or two 2U Tintri boxes with Syncrnohours replication. In those cases, we were able to run around 4000 VMs for a VDI deployment with at least 3000 concurrent users. This was only possible thanks to the Tintri Auto-QOS feature; this allowed us to set global QOS limits per VM. When you have 4000+ VMs on a single box and can solve the noise neighbor issue that’s a big deal. We tried to do the same with VVols (a disaster) and all other LUN based arrays. In those cases, we either needed ridiculously overpowered arrays or a ton of management overhead.

    The problem with Tintri was terrible C-level management and terrible ability to explain their market differentiation. It’s not a coincidence that every single Tintri customer loves there Array and think its the best thing since sliced bread. I have used Pure/Kaminbario/EMC/Netapp.

  2. George Crump says:

    HH – Thanks for reading and for your thoughts. I can see how in your case where you were dealing with thousands of VM for VDI QoS even on all-flash would be a great benefit. I also agree with your comment on their execution and inability to explain their differentiation. That is a problem that plagues most start-ups. They either don’t have a clear differentiator or when they do they don’t do a good job explaining what it is and why it matters. Let’s hope DDN does a better job at it. I think of all the possible outcomes DDN is one of the better ones for Tintri customers.

  3. Mike says:

    I also couldn’t disagree more as well. I thought Tintri was too late to the market to all-flash, they stayed with the hybrid for too long. As a company we decided to go the route of not purchasing spinning disk for VM’s again. Once the EC6030 came out we purchased that and it was also easy to use and great. The T1000 works well as well. Management was an issue, and their technical deep dives when they came on site was just lacking. Always wanted to understand the market differentiation as well.

    I didn’t think of it until I read your article but you are right now, their hybrids did lose a lot of excitement around them once the others came out with all flash. I/O blender effect was reduced for the competition.

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