TFD9 Review: Infinio

There’s so much good stuff to talk about with Infinio, I’m almost at a loss for where to begin.

Infinio Accelerator

I’ll start with the product Infinio have launched: their NAS accelerator for virtual machines.

It’s so obviously a good thing I’m amazed it doesn’t already exist.

I mean, think about it. It’s basically just a cache of NAS reads. Why doesn’t this already exist inside VMware?

But Infinio have gone several better than that. It’s not just a cache. It’s a transparent proxy-cache that you can just drop in to your existing VMware cluster without rebooting!

You can download it over the Internet. It’s going to be priced such that you can pay for it with a credit card.

You can turn it on and off with the click of a button.

It’s a distributed, clustered, cache, so it can offload sideways to other nodes as well as vertically within the one node. It moves the read I/O closer to the host that needs it, but also gives you the benefits of a centralised storage device with custom features.

If the price is right, I just can’t see how you wouldn’t want one if you:

  1. Use VMware. And who doesn’t?
  2. Use NFS. And you should, because block storage is dumb.
  3. Are mostly doing reads.
  4. Want your storage performance to be better.

Infinio the Company

The reason I’m so jazzed about the product is less to do with the shiny bauble of product and more to do with the company itself, the people running it, and how they’ve decided to run it.

The CEO, Arun Agarwal, came to Tech Field Day to present. Now Infinio are a relatively small startup, so it’s not that surprising that the CEO should be out there doing the sales and marketing thing, that’s their job. But Arun was able to engage with a technical audience really well.

Go watch the video and you’ll see why. I want to break it down for you a bit and explain why I’m so positive about this company’s prospects.

We Do This

Arun jumped straight into what their product is, and the problem it solved. He didn’t spend 5 minutes explaining the problem to people. We already know what it is. “What is the problem?” was a short one-liner: storage performance in virtual environments. That’s it. Done.

I really can’t stress how important this is enough. The companies that stumbled were the ones that spent ages describing the problem. This doesn’t work because it’s not interesting to your audience. You’re basically just talking to yourself about how interesting you found it to solve the problem. You’ve failed to understand your audience and their motivation, and you’re not respecting their time.

The only people who might be interested in the interestingness of the problem are: a) people at a technical conference about solving interesting problems of this nature, and b) potential new hires for engineering. Everyone else doesn’t care.

Why Are You Special?

The next thing Arun did (and rewatching this I’m just further convinced how great they are. Wow he did a great job here.) was to say “this is why we’re different and special”. He acknowledged that there were others out there, but to get you to buy Infinio’s product, you need to know what’s different about it. In marketing speak, this is called Points of Difference. Points of Parity are things that are the same. Generally points of parity are what you need to get into the game. Toothpaste needs to clean your teeth. A toothpaste that cleans your teeth isn’t special.

Arun then talked about what Infinio is not. That’s so great, because so few companies do this. They’ve explicitly said “we will not do these things”. Infinio isn’t chasing a fad. Infinio isn’t a hardware company (and Arun points out that this is another point of difference: so SSDs!).

Ok, you say to yourself, I’m intrigued (see what he did there?), so what are you?

Brand Coherence

And now Arun tells us the brand values for the company: Low cost, Easy, Storage Acceleration. And then he backs it up with what they’re doing about it. They’re spending money, and providing focus, to the easy-to-try, easy-to-use side of things, not just the “better mousetrap” aspect of the acceleration engine. This is solid evidence of a coherent brand and marketing strategy.

No reboots for installation. No interruptions to existing I/O flows! The software just slides right in. Easy. See the alignment with the brand values?

No hardware == no visits to the datacentre to install. See how the commitment to ‘easy’ means the decisions the company makes all align? Having hardware would mean it wasn’t easy, so the company doesn’t do hardware, and that’s one of the points of difference Arun highlighted earlier.

And now Arun goes left-field on a tech audience (but makes the MBA in the room so, so happy) and talks about sales and channels of distribution. And shows how it aligns to another brand value: low-cost. If you spend a lot on sales and marketing, it makes it harder to have a low-cost solution, because you’ve got to pay for it somehow. This is just classic business strategy stuff that makes me hope to see Infinio used as a case-study in biz school someday.

As Arun says, this is not something you wake up and decide to do one day. This has been baked into the company from the beginning, and they’ve invested a lot of money to make it happen. That means they’ve decided not to do a bunch of other things, because they could only spend that money once.

Tech Demo

I’m not going to go over the tech itself in any detail, because I think you’ll get more out of watching the video of Peter Smith demonstrating how it works. I recommend you jump onto the Beta program via Infinio’s website if you want to play with it.

As an aside, Carrie told me that this was Peter’s first real public demo presentation. How good is he?! I’ve suffered through presentations from people who’ve done loads and should know better, but Peter did a great job.

Infinio will be going live with a public beta at VMworld 2013, and the product should be Generally Available in calendar Q4 2013 (so, sometime around October this year).

I’ll be watching to see if my hunch about their future success proves correct.

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