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Tintri Channel Partners Lament All-Flash Storage Vendor's Fate

Tintri became famous for its VMware-aware all-flash storage array, but never managed to find a solid financial footing, a situation channel partners blamed in part on the company's management.

Tintri, one of a group of all-flash storage array providers, and the one best known for its VMware-aware storage capabilities, might be at the end of its 10-year run.

While Tintri has not yet officially closed its doors, the company's channel partners are expecting the Mountain View, Calif.-based storage vendor to declare bankruptcy and eventually sell its intellectual property. The company has in the last few weeks, via a series of regulatory filings, unveiled its increasingly precarious position.

[Related: CRN Exclusive: Tintri Co-Founder Harty Talks IPO Delay, Post-IPO Plans, And Why Tintri Is Not Really A Storage Company]

Tintri in late June said that it had approved a reduction of about 200 employees, giving it a final head count of 40 to 50. Among those let go were Tom Cashman, the company's executive vice president of worldwide sales and alliances.

OEM hardware builder Flextronics Telecom Systems, which makes the hardware on which Tintri's all-flash storage arrays are built, in mid-June told Tintri it planned to terminate its contract with Tintri because of failure to pay its bills, and that it was no longer ordering materials and shipping products related to the production. Tintri said that, as of April 30, the company had $9.3 million in purchase agreements with Flextronics.

Tintri as of late last month warned that it has very limited cash resources and "does not expect to have sufficient liquidity to continue its operations beyond June 30, 2018." Even so, a call to the company Thursday was answered by someone on its support team.

Tintri in late June of 2017 went public with an IPO that brought the company just over $60 million -- far below its original expectations of nearly $110 million. A month later, the company reported a loss of $25.3 million on revenue of $34.9 million for its second fiscal 2018 quarter, which ended July 31. That was the firm's first quarterly fiscal report after its IPO. Tintri also announced its first layoff shortly after the financial report.

In March, the company reported fourth fiscal quarter 2018 revenue of $28.9 million, down 29 percent year-over-year, along with a GAAP-based net loss of $1.19 per share.

Tintri in March also named Tom Barton as its CEO. He also served on the company's board of directors, and as its interim chief financial officer. However, Barton in mid-June resigned, and has not been replaced.

Tintri executives did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

It is a shame to see what is happening at Tintri, said Aaron Cardenas, CEO and founder of P1 Technologies, a Hermosa Beach, Calif.-based solution provider and longtime Tintri channel partner.

"Clients are saying what a bummer it is," Cardenas told CRN. "Customers love it. They like the ease of Tintri's administration. They don't need to touch it. And it's VMware-aware. It manages data on the virtual machine level, not by LUNs. Basically you see virtual machines, manage virtual machines, move virtual machines."

Tintri's technology is top-notch, said Alec Taylor, partner and consultant at Ivoxy Consulting, a Kirkland, Wash.-based solution provider and longtime Tintri channel partner.

"The platform did what people said it would do," Taylor told CRN. "It was one of the most reliable technologies I saw in my 25 years in IT. I never felt I had to apologize for bringing Tintri to market."

Unfortunately, channel partners said, Tintri's management was not able to run the company in a way that encouraged success.

While Tintri had great technology, it was poorly run, Cardenas said. He cited as the most glaring example Tintri's first financial report as a public company, during which it reported a loss. "How do you go public and then miss your first earnings call?" he said.

Another Tintri channel partner told CRN on condition of anonymity that Tintri's founder, Kieran Harty, ran the company way too long, which was Tintri's first mistake.

"Tintri didn't have the right leadership in place for far too long," the solution provider said. "Also, Tintri should have gone public sooner. It had a narrow window of opportunity, but it lost its cool factor, that wow factor. Today, businesses look around and ask, how many new storage companies do we need?"

One has to wonder what the market saw in Tintri, the solution provider said. "Institutional investors should have changed things years ago," the solution provider said.

Tintri would make a good acquisition because of its unique VMware-aware flash storage technology and its base of over 1,500 customers, P1 Technologies' Cardenas said.

"Somebody out there would want it," he said. "I'm not sure it would make a lot of sense for a larger company to acquire it. But maybe a smaller company, or an investment firm, which is what happened to Violin Systems."

Violin Systems, a San Jose, Calif.-based developer of all-flash storage, was formed as Violin Memory. It had its IPO in 2013, but eventually went into bankruptcy before being acquired in 2017 by private investment fund Quantum Partners and relaunched.

Tintri customers may see a lapse in support, Cardenas said. However, Tintri's support business should in the very least get acquired because of the revenue stream, he added.

"In the meantime, we're hoping for the best but expecting the worst," he said. "We're stocking up on parts."

Taylor said his heart goes out to the people at Tintri who are trying to keep the business going. Tintri employees say they will continue supporting customers.

"There may be some triage as they focus on the more important stuff," he said. "But they have reached out to us. We worked with some really outstanding people at the company who loved what they did. But they're in a tough position."

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