Formation Data Systems Exits Stealth, Plans Storage Industry Disruption

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Solution providers who have known Lewis from his Compaq days said getting customers to part with their existing storage technologies will be tough, but that he is the person with the experience to succeed with such a strategy.

Lewis is correct when he talks about the problems in managing disparate storage platforms and the need for unity, but will find replacing tried-and-true storage platforms a long-term job, said Rich Baldwin, CIO and chief strategist at Nth Generation Computing and a former colleague of Lewis from over 20 years ago when they both worked at Digital Electric Corporation (DEC) before Compaq acquired it.

The kind of management skill and experience needed to manage Hitachi Data Systems, EMC and NetApp in the same data center is already difficult, but it becomes a big stumbling block when one even thinks about replacing them, Baldwin told CRN.

"I can walk into a customer to talk about HP's 3PAR storage, and the customer may say, 'Wow, that's great. But I have four EMC VMAX arrays now and want to replace two. But one is one year old and another is two years old, and I need to get the ROI from them,'" Baldwin said. "They may like the 3PAR but would need two different storage teams. And then when they add Hadoop or data warehousing or some other new platform, they face a new, major learning curve."

However, Baldwin said, Lewis built the DEC StorageWorks business that eventually became the core of Hewlett-Packard's storage business, and at EMC worked closely with the team involved in mergers and acquisitions related to new technologies.

"Lewis has a lot of credibility in the storage industry," he said. "And he has the background and the connections with the kind of people who can make Formation Data Systems work."

Carl Wolfston, principal at Pleasanton, Calif.-based HP solution provider Headlands Associates, also worked with Lewis back at DEC, and told CRN Lewis' background and knowledge gives his new venture a lot of potential.

"He's a great manager and a real geek at heart," Wolfston said. "My only complaint is he has gotten investment from Dell and not from HP."

Wolfston said he is excited to see where Lewis will go with his new technology.

"I love the concept," he said. "But if Formation Data Systems is trying to be a new storage platform, why won't it work with existing equipment? Look at Linux. If it's open, it has to work with everything."

NEXT: Formation Data Systems And The Channel

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