” The capabilities of our AIOps technology work not only with the on-premise storage, but also with data center/cloud AIOps packages.”
Hi Eric, welcome to the iTechnology Interview Series. Please tell us a bit about your journey in the industry and how you arrived at Infinidat?
I’ve been in the storage industry since 1986. I have worked at a number of different companies, including four of the largest storage companies in the world, as well as eight startups. I love storage. It’s so cool. Right before I ended up at Infinidat, I was the CMO and VP of Global Channels for IBM Storage. And before that, I was the Senior VP of Product Management and Product Marketing at EMC. I have actually known the CEO of Infinidat, Phil Bullinger, since the mid-1990s. We had worked on a couple projects together. When I was an SVP at EMC, he was an EVP and GM. I didn’t work for him, but I worked with him. Last year Phil pinged me and said, ‘Are you interested?’ And I said, ‘For sure.” And that’s how I ended up as the CMO of Infinidat.
Cybersecurity continues to be a hot topic because of the exponential increase in cyberattacks. Cyber criminals are attacking various parts of an enterprise’s IT infrastructure. As an expert in enterprise-class storage, what can you share with our readers about safeguarding against cyberattacks? How can CIOs and CISOs secure and protect their data infrastructure, starting with storage?
Often, CIOs and CSOs forget that storage is a critical component of an enterprise corporate overall strategy. Sure, they protect the edge. They protect the apps. They protect the networks. But they don’t realize that, with up to 287 days of when an attack could be fully discovered and remediated, the attack is either successfully thwarted or they end up paying the ransom or they lose their data through malware. They usually do not realize that storage is a huge point of vulnerability. One of the key things I point out to CIOs, CSOs, as well as the VPs of Infrastructure and VPs of Storage, is that, if you don’t include storage in your comprehensive cybersecurity strategy, you are leaving a huge hole. The question is not “if” you will be attacked; it’s “when” you’ll be attacked and how often. Leaving storage out is a critical gap and a comprehensive cyber storage security strategy includes not only edge, not only apps, not only the network, but also includes the data, and all data in an enterprise sits on storage. You need to make sure that data and the associated storage estate is fully protected by your cybersecurity strategy.
What are the types of core capabilities that enterprises need to combat ransomware, malware and internal threats?
The capabilities that enterprises need to combat malware, ransomware and internal threats are on multiple fronts. You need to protect the edge, and you need to protect the application servers and the software that resides on them. You need to protect your networks. But, it is essential that you protect your enterprise storage as well. The other thing you need to do is you need to treat malware, ransomware, and internal threats as if they were a disaster, just like they do a hurricane, a flood, or a fire in the building. Ransomware and malware are just as dangerous to an enterprise’s capabilities and with all the recent cyberattacks, and those are only the ones we hear about, a potential cyberattack is much more likely than a natural disaster. You need to develop a cyberattack plan; how do you respond? Even if you’re protecting the edge, the network and everything else, they will get through. It happens to everybody. Lastly, you need to make sure that you practice just as you practice your disaster recovery and business continuity readiness. What do they do? You need to practice your cybersecurity action plan with cyber storage as a cornerstone. Those are the essential things enterprises need to do to combat malware, ransomware, and internal threats.
In a broad sense, how has enterprise storage evolved in the last couple of years? What applications and initiatives are driving this evolution? How does Infinidat fit into this evolution?
Enterprise storage has changed dramatically in the last couple years.
First is the real CIO emphasis on capital and operational expense savings, operational manpower, and making storage easier and easier to use. This was exacerbated, not only by COVID and the recent economic travails, but also by the recession of 2008.
After the recession of 2008 ended and IT started hiring again.
IT did not replace all the storage admins that it had let go during the recession. In fact, if you look at the total number of storage admins, it’s probably down compared to 2008, yet storage is growing exponentially every year. In short, the typical enterprise storage administrator is managing much more storage than they ever have had to manage in the past. Because of these changes, enterprise storage needs to be easier to use, easier to manage, and take less of the IT resource budget. In fact, having things like autonomous automation and smart storage, as well as integration with AIOps technology, both inside of a storage solution, but also outside of the storage solution by integration with third party data center and Cloud AIOps offerings, such as VMware, Service Now and other AIOps products that span a data center, is critical.
The second thing is that 100% availability guaranteed must be factored into their enterprise storage infrastructure. Companies need to be up and going at all times, even pre-COVID. Now with COVID and other issues where more and more people work from home, you’ve just opened up that, if you have a failure, it will be even worse for productivity. Therefore, you must have 100% availability. Concurrent with that has been the large rise of cyberattacks, which continue to grow exponentially. Several governments, such as the U.S. government, have enacted new laws regarding cyberattacks.
What Infinidat has done to fit in with these massive shifts in IT is to optimize our enterprise storage platforms and solutions to deliver the best in capital and operational expenditure savings, thus reducing ROI and TCO. At the same time, we make sure that our solutions are greener.
When you reduce your power and cooling, which gives you a greener data center, it reduces your OPEX and operational manpower. We make sure from our storage consolidation capabilities that we reduce the number of physical storage arrays in their data center and private cloud configurations to dramatically cut costs and substantially reduce the amount of operational resources. Additionally, with our autonomous automation and intense focus on ease-of-use our storage solutions basically run themselves, as several of our public references have noted in their Gartner Peer Insights review. We also have imbued Infinidat solutions with extensive cybersecurity capabilities – our InfiniSafe cyber storage resilience technology. InfiniSafe is available, at no extra charge, on our primary storage solutions – the InfiniBox and the InfiniBox SSA – and is also included on our secondary storage offering – the InfiniGuard. We also make sure we wrap around all of our solutions with guaranteed SLAs.
Infinidat has won numerous awards and recognition in the IT market recently. What do you attribute this success to?
It’s true that Infinidat really has won numerous awards and recognition in the IT market. We have been a Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader for five years in a row for primary storage. We have also received the best reviews on the Gartner Peer Insights review site. These are reviews not by Gartner employees or by the vendors, but by the actual end-users of the solutions. Our enterprise storage platforms have received some highest rates of any vendor. On the InfiniBox we are rated a 4.9 out 5 possible stars, on the InfiniBox SSA all-flash array, 5 out of 5 possible stars, and, for our InfiniGuard modern data protection and cyber storage resilience platform, 4.8 out of 5.
Whether it be the analyst community or the storage press community, we win award after award after award. In fact, as of the end of October, we have won 21 awards this year, and we’re up for several other awards that will be coming out by the end of the year. This success is all based on unmatched solutions that drive real business value. We don’t just solve storage technical problems; while we do that as well, but we ensure those storage technical problems we solve, such as availability or a cyber storage attack, translate into true business benefits. And that’s being acknowledged by the industry. Our white glove support and service have also enabled us to distinguish ourselves. In a nutshell, we win awards because we focus on providing the best customer experience in the storage industry, and we don’t settle for less.
Infinidat often talks about the need for consolidation. Why is storage consolidation important?
Storage consolidation is a critical capability that Infinidat delivers to the market. Whether it is consolidating additional midrange platforms or consolidating additional high-end enterprise platforms onto fewer InfiniBox platforms or InfiniBox SSA platforms, consolidation delivers:
- Reduction of their CAPEX
- Reduction of their OPEX
- Substantially improve their TCO
- Dramatically improve their return on investment
For example, one Fortune 500 customer told us they got a 6-month return on investment with their Infinidat storage solutions, while another Fortune 500 customer told us a 9-month return on investment. In fact, almost every one of our customers worldwide have told us that their return on investment almost always less than a year. No other storage company can get anywhere close to that type of return on investment. Indeed, it’s very, very important, and that’s where consolidation plays in. It also plays into the capability of freeing up things in your data center: less power, less cooling, less rack space, less floor space, which all results in reduced OPEX and reduced operational time spent on their storage infrastructure. Imagine how much fewer watts, fewer slots, less power, less floor space, and less operational manpower you could have you if you took 24 different storage arrays, like one of our customers − a $20 billion US grocery store chain − did and consolidated those onto four InfiniBox platforms. Talk about freeing up floor space.
How have the economics of storage changed?
The economics of storage has changed dramatically. Storage is growing exponentially. If you don’t confront this surge in storage needs with solutions, such as storage consolidation, if you don’t reduce operational manpower and figure out ways to cut CAPEX and OPEX, storage will be an incredible burden on your IT budget. Infinidat has been laser focused on driving customer reductions in CAPEX and OPEX. This is pointed out in several of the analyst write-ups around Infinidat. Most importantly, the Gartner Peer Insights, which are reviews written by end-users of Infinidat solutions, talk about how we have helped them reduce CAPEX, OPEX, and operational manpower. In short, these substantial economic impacts are huge.
The second economic issue revolves around cyber storage resilience. If you don’t have that, you leave yourself open to malware and ransomware attacks. Trust me, the economic effect of a cyberattack on your enterprise storage will be dramatic. In fact, that attack could basically cripple your business or force you to pay huge ransoms, which can range anywhere from $500,000 to tens of millions of dollars. There was one case in 2021 of a major global Fortune 100 that paid $74 million in ransom. Regardless of whether you company is small, medium, or large, you don’t want to be the person paying that. Look at the capabilities of cutting OPEX and CAPEX, improving TCO and ROI, which we do through our storage consolidation, our autonomous automation, and our incredible ease of use. And if you don’t have cyber resilience, you could be attacked to your organization’s great detriment.
What strategy does Infinidat recommend when it comes to private cloud and public cloud implementations of storage?
In the early days of the cloud, everyone was rushing to the cloud. When you work out the real economics of a fully public cloud strategy, for almost all enterprises it does not make strong economic sense. For example, most enterprise want their applications and workloads to have at least 6 nines of availability. But the default of public cloud providers is 4 nines of availability. Can you get additional nines, yes you can, but the cloud providers will charge additional fees. Same for performance. And the impact of this is not only on storage but across all parameters – servers, network availability etc etc. But, in the case of Infinidat, we offer 100% availability guaranteed. Additionally, for highly transactional applications and workloads where you are constantly moving data back and forth, you can easily end up with tremendous networking fees.
The best strategy is to define your applications, workloads and use cases. Figure out which ones can be in the cloud. If they’re very low performance, such backup and archive, it’s an ideal solution. Disaster recovery when those applications and workloads can have deal with a slow SLA for their recovery times: that works great. But if you need rapid recovery in case of an earthquake, fire, flood or cyberattack, then those applications and workloads are much better served with an on-premises strategy. And those applications and workloads can be a private cloud amongst your own data centers. This strategy will give you a hybrid configuration leverage both private and public cloud working together. You determine what applications and workloads can go on a public cloud based on security concerns, performance concerns and availability concerns and which ones belong on a private cloud. Then you parse those out based on that.
Infinidat touts 100% availability and triple redundancy. Why are those things noteworthy? Isn’t 99.99999 availability and dual redundancy enough for storage?
In today’s world, all companies need to be up and running 365 by 24/7. Having something that’s seven nines of availability or eight nines of availability isn’t good enough. Infinidat’s customers are the largest global enterprises. They want 100% availability, and we back that up with a 100% availability guarantee SLA.
We also have triple redundancy. Many other solutions have dual redundancy. With dual redundancy, you get six nines or seven nines. However, when your system architecture is designed with triple redundancy, you can deliver a platform that provides your customers 100% availability. Truly, everybody is asking for 100% availability these days. Infinidat is uniquely well-positioned to meet this market demand with our patented storage platforms and our guaranteed 100% availability SLA.
What is one thing about Infinidat that is often overlooked, undervalued or ignored, but is of greater value than most people know?
One of the things that IT people don’t realize about Infinidat is our intense focus on the end-user. This drives us to create solutions that focus on cybersecurity, dramatically reducing CAPEX and OPEX, and powerful ease-of-use with our autonomous automation across our software defined storage architecture. The capabilities of our AIOps technology work not only with the on-premise storage, but also with data center/cloud AIOps packages. All of these solutions are a direct result of our customer first mentality.
What is the future of enterprise storage?
The future of enterprise storage is bright. The cloud is here to stay, and the future of enterprise storage is all about creating private clouds and will seamlessly work with public clouds as needed. Private enterprise clouds are amalgamations of storage resources across multiple data centers which behave just like a public cloud but with the private control of the enterprise . That doesn’t mean you don’t work with cloud providers. For example, Infinidat works with over 40 cloud service providers. We provide the underlying infrastructure for their storage-as-a-service, their backup-as-a-service, their infrastructure-as-a-service and their platform-as-a-service. And why do they use us? Because of our incredible performance, our incredible availability, and our ability of giving cloud service provider partners the level of cyber resilience they need for their end user. All these things lead to a future of enterprise storage that will encompass both a public cloud deployment and a private cloud configuration existing together in the future and working together based on application, workload and use case.
Any advice to business leaders who are looking to invest in the cloud security / AIOps for risk detection solutions:
You need to make sure that, as you’re investing in cybersecurity and cloud security strategies as well as AIOps, that you don’t leave storage out. We are approaching exabytes and exabytes and zetabytes and zetabytes of data that are being consumed and created continually by companies. Not the storage on your cell phone, not the storage on your laptop, not the storage on your iPad, but I am talking about corporate entities and government entities. Those exabytes and zetabytes need to have cyber storage security. They need to have AIOps technology integrated into them. Storage is often left out of that equation. If you don’t have the right storage cyber security and integrate that into your overall cybersecurity strategy and if you don’t incorporate AIOps technology into your enterprise storage, you are leaving yourself vulnerable, and you’re not catching everything. You need to reduce this risk.
Thank you, Eric! That was fun and we hope to see you back on itechnologyseries.com soon.
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Eric Herzog is the Chief Marketing Officer at Infinidat. Prior to joining Infinidat, Herzog was CMO and VP of Global Storage Channels at IBM Storage Solutions. His executive leadership experience also includes: CMO and Senior VP of Alliances for all-flash storage provider Violin Memory, and Senior Vice President of Product Management and Product Marketing for EMC’s Enterprise & Mid-range Systems Division.
Infinidat helps enterprises and service providers empower their data-driven competitive advantage at scale. Infinidat’s software defined storage architecture delivers microsecond latency, 100% availability, and scalability with a significantly lower total cost of ownership than competing storage technologies. The company offers an award-winning portfolio of enterprise storage solutions for primary and secondary storage deployments. The corporate headquarters are based in Herzliya, Israel, and U.S. headquarters in Waltham, Massachusetts.