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August 26, 2014

DDN Discusses Enterprise HPC Momentum

Laura Shepard
paul-block-lg

DataDirect Networks (DDN), the leader in large scale Big Data and Cloud storage, recently announced double digit, profitable growth for the first half of the year 2014, fueled by the adoption of its SFA and WOS technologies by increasing numbers of Strategic Enterprise HPC accounts.

In advance of his keynote at the upcoming EnterpriseHPC event happening in Carlsbad, California from September 7-10, Director of HPC Product Marketing for DDN, Laura Shepard sat down with DDN President Paul Bloch to get his take on DDN’s commercial HPC momentum, what’s driving the company’s business and technology focus, what he plans to share with attendees at EnterpriseHPC’14, and why working at DDN is more exhilarating than driving fast cars.

We’ve said that recent company momentum is being driven by rapid adoption of DDN technology among commercial HPC organizations. How has this changed who you’re talking to from a customer perspective?

Five years ago, most of DDN’s customer base was HPC/Academia, Federal and Media organizations. We have been able to transform the company and our product line to not only stay focused on our historical markets but also attract significant buy in from the Financial Services, Medical/Genomics, Manufacturing and Oil and Gas industries.

These new enterprise conversations center on accelerating core applications where existing Storage providers cannot get to the 10X in performance required to scale today. We provide Networking and Storage infrastructure that deliver real ROI and return dollars to the bottom line.

We are seeing a lot of momentum in our Enterprise sales with more than 100 percent year-on-year growth in commercial HPC. However, our customers really deserve the credit because they’ve figured out to do things smarter using DDN. They’re reducing genomics sample processing by 7X; they’re perfecting algorithms by running data 10X faster with DDN; they’re running more jobs in parallel to interpret real time sub surface geophysical structures and, they’re managing the entire product lifecycle on one single platform for massive TCO gain to bring the next hybrid vehicle to market. These companies know a good business tool when they see it, and we’re now seeing the market coming to us.

So, with the sheer scale of data today and these data-intensive customer requirements, how does this change how DDN thinks about designing and developing next-gen products and technologies?

There’s a data driven business revolution going on around the world – right now. It’s not big compute; it’s Big Data. The biggest challenge facing commercial HPC organizations is Big Data. Everyone’s talking about the tools – storage, networking and compute – but the key is getting massive value and insight out of the data to achieve competitive business differentiation. We’re focused on accelerating time to results so we add real value to our customers’ bottom lines.

When you look at high performance workflows in traditional and commercial HPC, the biggest pain point of data access and processing is dealing with mixed I/O, such as you’d see in an analytics workflow or any major HPC application. Most storage devices can’t handle mixed I/O without dropping a huge percentage of their overall performance. This is a requirement that we design for at every level of our architecture, whether it’s memory acceleration, high performance persistent storage, active archive or cloud storage.  We offer the flexibility for users to tune their systems for optimal price per performance and price per capacity to meet their individual environment needs today and in the future.  No other company can match the breadth and innovation of our portfolio of high performance, end-to-end, Big Data solutions for all types of data. Customers with data driven business initiatives count on DDN to accelerate their time to results.

Based on this product development, in the future do you see more of DDN’s business coming from commercial or traditional HPC?

We’re seeing increased adoption of DDN solutions in commercial HPC, but we’re also starting from a smaller base. The core of our business today comes from traditional HPC – that is academic research, government labs, government intelligence and related markets – and, these will always be critically important users to DDN. But, you can bet we are investing heavily to take maximum advantage of the commercial HPC trend that we believe will continue to be a major revenue and growth driver for DDN for years to come. For example, we’ve grown headcount by 20 percent since the beginning of the year, adding strength into our business across our pre-sales, support and engineering organizations; we’re expanding R&D around commercial HPC such as GPFS, SAP, SAS, KX, and ANSYS and many more. Finally, in addition to the development centers in the US, Eastern Europe and Japan, we recently opened a new European Advanced Technology Center outside of Paris that will be dedicated to big data lifecycle management and accelerating time to insight through analytics and application acceleration.

It sounds like it’s a great time to be at DDN. A guy like you has a lot of options, including car racing from what I hear! So what is it about DDN at this time that drew you back out of retirement?

Yes, it’s definitely a great time to be at DDN! While some major storage players are exiting this healthy and growing HPC storage market, we at DDN are doubling down. In the last few months we’ve expanded our management team with new team members including Molly Rector, our CMO and Bob Merkert who’s heading up our federal business. And, as I’ve already mentioned, there’s a significant opportunity in the commercial HPC market which presents additional upside for an innovative HPC company like DDN. DDN is fully dedicated to the HPC market – we are the HPC storage leader and now we’re staking our claim as the HPC commercial storage leader, too.

You’ll be keynoting at EnterpriseHPC’14. What kinds of topics will you be discussing?

Yes, I will be there and I’m looking forward to being a part of the conference. Specifically, I’ll be speaking to how enterprises are maximizing the value of HPC technology by making it their own, and how they’re applying HPC in new and different ways. And, I might even drop in a few racing references to the Grand Prix, too!

Thanks for sitting down with me, Paul. I look forward to hearing your presentation!