Commvault Channel Chief Nimergood On Teaming With Cisco To 'Disrupt' Data Management In The Cloud Era

Strengthening The Cisco Relationship

Data protection and backup power Commvault launched the first vendor-specific offering of its new HyperScale software in a partnership with Cisco, and Commvault's channel chief, Ralph Nimergood, says the partnership will disrupt the data management market.

Teaming with Cisco on ScaleProtect for Cisco UCS puts Commvault on a path to be not only the "gold standard" for data protection and backup, Nimergood said, but the "complete orchestration layer for data indexing and data management for enterprises" in the hybrid cloud era.

While Commvault HyperScale software is certified for use on hardware from all major manufacturers, the Cisco relationship comes with deeper levels of performance tuning, testing and branding.

ScaleProtect is available to the channel through Cisco's partner program, and Nimergood said solution providers that partner with both Cisco and Commvault will reap the benefits of both programs' incentive structures.

Nimergood, vice president of worldwide channels and alliances at the Tinton Falls, N.J.-based company, said he expects margins for partners to be "robust," and the companies have devised a selling option that allows partners to easily drop the solution into existing Commvault customers when they refresh hardware using Cisco UCS servers.

What follows is an edited excerpt of CRN's conversation with Nimergood.

HyperScale can be used with any manufacturer's hardware. What makes the Cisco relationship special?

What's unique with the Cisco relationship is there's a deeper level of integration and testing beyond reference architecture and interoperability. We're doing validation and performance tuning and testing, as well as integration with a lot of the management fabric over at Cisco. That adds a level of depth to reference architecture. The second thing we're doing is branding it uniquely with the ScaleProtect for Cisco UCS brand to allow it to have a unique identifier in the industry. We think that identifier will become analogous to the gold standard of hyper-scale or scale-out data protection in the market. The third piece is around the go-to-market itself. ScaleProtect for Cisco UCS can be procured uniquely through Cisco and its ecosystem of partners through its SolutionPlus corporate price list. To complement that, there's been rigorous go-to-market planning and execution on both sides with our reseller community, as well as with our end-user customers.

How has ScaleProtect been received by partners initially?

They see the data protection workload as being important to their customers, to their data center and hybrid cloud customers, and a real growth enabler for them. Cisco has been extremely supportive of this as an initiative and as a business partner. The early reads from our partners, if you look at some of the larger partners in the U.S., the WWTs and the ePluses, large Cisco shops, they really are champing at the bit to go to market with this integrated approach.

What does Cisco bring to the table for Commvault that other players, like Dell EMC, HPE or Lenovo, don't?

The HyperScale solution is really designed, in its software form, to be more of an enterprise play and Cisco has tremendous breadth and depth in the enterprise marketplace. It's a natural extension of our already robust go-to-market around FlashProtect and some of the other stacks in the Cisco portfolio. On a technology level, they're bringing their high-density 3260 UCS platform as an ideal target solution device that's really designed for highly scalable, high-density, scale-out data management and data repository applications. Uniquely, that is a great solution offering. And they're bringing the power to bear of their collaboration pull in the channel community where we have a tremendous amount of overlap. If you were to do a Venn diagram, we have very strong overlap with their enterprise partners in UCS and our Commvault partners, so it's 'snap in and go' for the benefit of our customers. We don't have to enable, educate and activate a completely new channel community as we might have to do in certain relationships.

So, solution providers selling the ScaleProtect solution will most likely be partners of both Cisco and Commvault?

We don't expect us to activate only that part. We have pent-up enthusiasm and pent-up 'I know where I can take this immediately' kind of support from some of their largest UCS partners and some of our largest partners. We expect the solution to scale beyond that into our Premier partner space and theirs. It's not meant to be a niche offering. It's meant to be available to all the downstream ecosystem of partners. There is a segmentation of partners who have evolved quickly to embrace the cloud and cloud economics on-prem, to be transformational and innovative in their approach, and there's a nice stable of overlap of those kinds of partners that will come to bear to turn ScaleProtect for Cisco UCS into that gold standard for scale-out data protection.

What does this do for Commvault's position in the market?

We'd like to think it only enhances what we're trying to do, which is to continue to innovate for the benefit of our customers. We think this relationship specifically is a further validation – we just hit our seventh year in a row with Gartner as the farthest to the right and top of their Magic Quadrant – having validation in terms being endorsed by an industry luminary like Cisco only confirms the capability and strength of Commvault as a company, but it's a recognition of the unique value proposition we can bring to bear for customers, particularly in enterprises who are looking to wrestle down data protection needs in a next-generation model.

What do you need from partners to make ScaleProtect be successful?

We've been doing an awful lot of pre-briefings and education with a large swath of our partner community around the world around the inherent benefits of taking a scale-out approach and what that means to pay-as-you-grow, the benefits of nonstop failover capabilities and all that means. All we need them to do is make sure they're introducing this type of approach into the pre-existing and growing pipeline that they already have for data protection. Our biggest challenge in the last 30 days or so was beating away questions about when the order-ability for this would be turned on, which is a pretty good sign. People are looking for early adoption. Our pipeline for this is actually quite robust prior to actually releasing the product.

What will margins be like for partners selling ScaleProtect? Will partners get benefits from both the Commvault program and Cisco's program when selling the solution?

There's no takeaways for our partners to procure ScaleProtect for Cisco UCS through Cisco, so they'll be recognized within our Partner Advantage partner program. All the standard programs will exist. The margin profile looks pretty robust. It allows, in terms of the total economics of the deal, between hardware and software, it allows you to blend in more of the software capability, which inherently has a better margin profile for most of these guys than the dynamics of traditional storage hardware. The margin, we expect to be accretive. How much, we'll have to monitor. I don't want to be verbose in terms of predicting that. The feedback has been that if it plays as we're drawing it up, partners will feel very comfortable and very motivated to be leading with this solution.

Do you have any plans to take a similar approach with other hardware vendors? If so, what shape will that take?

We are students of the market, and our objective is to make sure we're providing customers what they want in the form factors they want from the partners they trust in a consumption model that makes sense to them. That's why we took it upon ourselves to make sure the predominant players in the market were covered upon release from a reference architecture perspective. In terms of building into go-to-market and unique resale relationships, we always are entertaining and exploring those kinds of dynamics. We're not doing that at the exclusion of what we're doing here with Cisco. We're focused on making sure Cisco, who is our first market-mover partner, is being lent the full support of Commvault worldwide and we together are going to disrupt the industry in this space. Our partners and our customers are going to be huge beneficiaries of that.

You've got a long-running relationship with Cisco to begin with.

We're looking forward to it being a much longer-running relationship. We've had a pretty good relationship with Cisco and that relationship continues to get stronger, especially in go-to-market and technology alignment.

What are the price points for ScaleProtect for customers?

The first thing we've done is we've built ScaleProtect for Cisco UCS in a manner that allows Cisco and Cisco sellers to procure it on a subscription model, and to do that in an easy-to-configure manner. There are four packages involved in the pricing framework, from a stand-alone virtualization solution where that's all you need. You buy a ScaleProtect SKU that is aligned to the back-end terabytes you're buying from a disc capacity perspective. We're making it ridiculously easy. If you need broader enterprise data protection, which includes a lot more functionality and orchestration and streaming backup, cloud connectivity, etc., it's the same kind of pricing algorithm and model. We have an active copy management capability that layers on top of that. Finally there's a snap-in SKU for Cisco going into our install base where they're refreshing infrastructure in an environment where Commvault is already installed. There's a very low-cost snap-in SKU that allows them to participate in the HyperScale solution, but leverages all the customers' previous investments in data protection. We built the pricing models to make sure we're competitive on the street level and we're not arbitraging the market.

What do you see in the market that's working in favor of UCS? Where does it have an advantage over competitors?

What they have from our perspective and what's good for us and our customers is they have low-cost entry-points for 1U, 2U servers with on-board storage that allows you to scale out, buy as you grow with a very low-end investment to get into a hyper-scale solution. They also have very high-density storage for larger shops when you start getting into petabyte-plus environments. They have the density factors that make the economics from an infrastructure perspective look really nice for the customer. When you combine those thoughts, they have mixed environments like FlashStack as a scale-up architecture for primary production applications with a bridge to scale-out to secondary storage pools and what they need for dev-test. It's an end-to-end solution with all the pieces they need from an infrastructure perspective to make that go.

What types of point solutions will ScaleProtect replace?

Certainly the virtualization SKU that I talked about would be sold as a stand-alone solution directly against Veeam. I think the rest of it is really designed for companies that are looking at software-defined and scale-out data protection approaches, and there are a number of those players in the industry right now. This has all the inherent benefits you would see in a next-generation model coupled with the most comprehensive and broad-based supportability customers need in an enterprise environment. It's virtually any cloud, any hypervisor, any application suite. It's not just Windows, not just Unix, not just Oracle. We've been able to architect our 20 years of data orchestration, data indexing, data management into a next-generation model while protecting all those investments our customers depend on, and all enterprise customers need. This is a solution that can be an insertion point into an enterprise. It's a solution that will scale absolutely to multi-petabyte scale for an entire enterprise of any size.

What's next for the backup and management space given the speed with which data is expanding?

We're right in the center of that transformation. We're going to make sure we can address it for customers at any scale. We used to have a concept in the old days of the borderless network, or the borderless data center. Now we're talking poly-cloud. We're talking cloud-like economics on-prem. Ultimately, what's next for Commvault is to be the complete orchestration layer for data indexing and data management for enterprises independent of where that data lives. Our development is pointed to address just that.