DataGravity's Data-Aware Storage Appliance Is Winning Over Customers, Partners

DataGravity's data-aware storage appliance has only been on the market for a few weeks, but it is already getting rave reviews from early adopter customers and solution providers.

At a storage roundtable for several dozen customers Wednesday in Ogunquit, Maine, held by DataGravity solution provider Axis Business Solutions, several early adopters said the product is delivering game-changing results.

"DataGravity's analytics capability allowed us to look into the black hole of data, throw a torch into that hole, and see what data was good, what data was bad and what is truly the intellectual property of the company," said Jim Crear, director of IT and facilities at Corero Network Security, a Hudson, Mass., security company that makes the Corero DDoS Defense System.

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Corero has been using the DataGravity appliance for the past six weeks on 96 TB of storage. Crear said he initially was skeptical when approached by Axis Business Solutions and DataGravity, viewing the appliance as just another SAN.

"It is not another SAN," he said. "It is a data intelligence storage device. It has made us smarter about our storage. It has made us more aware of what it is we are capturing for the company. You can now separate old data and bad from intellectual property. That is the key for the businesses maintaining intellectual property and not all the garbage data."

Now, Crear said, he is looking at moving off what he called "dumb" legacy SAN products to DataGravity appliances. "We are getting rid of all that legacy dumb storage," he said.

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DataGravity, Nashua, N.H., is the next big storage bet from the founders of EqualLogic, which was acquired by Dell for $1.4 billion six years ago. DataGravity has garnered attention from blue-chip investors including Andreessen Horowitz, which was the lead on a $30 million investment last year. The company's new DataGravity Discover Series appliance also was voted "Best in Show" at VMware's VMworld event last month.
The roundtable session with Axis Business Solutions customers marked one of DataGravity's first formal roundtable sessions with a group of customers to discuss how data-aware storage is reshaping the landscape.

The sweet spot for the DataGravity appliance is midmarket customers with 30 TB of data that are seeing explosive storage growth of 30 TB a year, said DataGravity co-founder and President John Joseph.

The company's offering, which is priced starting in the $50,000 to $100,000 range depending on the storage configuration, is aimed at providing data analytics that some enterprise software makers deliver to customers at five to 10 times the cost of the DataGravity appliance.

"We want to be very disruptive," said Joseph. "This is a single seamless experience of storage, data protection, information governance and search and discovery."

Corero Network Security's Crear said the DataGravity appliance has allowed the company to garner valuable security insight, discovering, for example, that some confidential data was being made available to some employees. In that case, Crear said the company made some "serious security changes."

Another big surprise, Crear said, was learning just how much data had not been accessed in six years. "It made it easy to identify old dead data," he said. That kind of knowledge helped reduce backup time nearly in half from 20 hours to 13 hours. That has allowed Corero to shut down some older legacy storage systems."

Next: Customers Say DataGravity Appliance Is Opening Their Eyes

Corero Network Security's Crear was not the only customer giving the thumbs-up to the DataGravity appliance. One IT director for a law firm said the device allowed him to discover that Social Security and credit card information was readily available in certain files. "That was an eye-opener," said the IT director. "We've had conversations with our finance director on that."

The IT director said the DataGravity appliance has allowed the firm to mine 5 TB of raw unstructured data with what amounts to an almost instant Google search capability. He said the appliance has, in effect, become a de facto document management system.

Another IT director, who manages a school district's IT, said he is using the DataGravity appliance to not only shine the light on students streaming huge amounts of music, but also to provide positive. One example: a student with perfect attendance over several years was singled out for the achievement.

Peter Estes, CEO of Portsmouth, N.H.-based Axis Business Solutions, sees the DataGravity appliance as a "game-changer" for Axis, which is driving big sales gains by betting on disruptive technology. "This differentiates us from the companies we have traditionally competed with in our region," he said.

Estes said he sees DataGravity in particular as a "huge sales opportunity" for Axis Business Solutions in a market segment that the solution provider has not participated in up until now. "This has got us into the business intelligence market," he said. "It's a new practice for us."

Estes expects disruptive technology from DataGravity to drive as much as a 50 percent increase in sales over the next year. That would move 13-year-old Axis Business Solutions from $30 million to $45 million in annual sales. "It's huge," Estes said of the storage-aware market opportunity. "This is all net new business for us. This has us adding a lot more value to clients with a lot of pull-through business in addition to the DataGravity business intelligence solution."

DataGravity has seen tremendous demand from both customers and partners since its Discovery Series product was launched several weeks ago, said Joseph. The customer traffic at the DataGravity booth at VMworld last month was six to 10 people deep, he said. What's more, solution provider applications to sell the product have skyrocketed since the show, he said.

DataGravity is benefiting from the trust that Joseph and his co-founder partner Paula Long built up over many years at EqualLogic, said Joseph. "Customers and partners trust us," he said. "We had a very trusting relationship with them at EqualLogic. This is a different ball game. We have a proven track record. We don't have to prove to people we are going to deliver a proven, mature, robust product. They trust us to do that. Customer and partner interest is orders of magnitude better than it was the last time."

Joseph said DataGravity, like EqualLogic, has adopted a 100 percent indirect sales channel model that is critical to the company's success. "The channel is the lifeblood of our company," said Joseph. "The channel successfully sells to the midmarket every day. The midmarket trusts the channel. I trust the channel. It is the bridge to our success."