The cutting edge of enterprise storage: Q&A with Infinidat CEO, Phil Bullinger

From reducing complexity to raising the bar on performance, automation and security, Infinidat has ambitious plans for enterprise storage. We spoke to CEO, Phil Bullinger, to find out more.

infidat1
Getty

Q&A: Phil Bullinger, CEO, Infinidat

Founded in 2011, Infinidat has become one of the world’s leaders in enterprise storage innovation. Earlier this year, the company appointed Phil Bullinger as its new CEO. With over 30 years of experience in the enterprise storage space, most recently as Senior Vice President and General Manager of Western Digital’s Data Center Business Unit, Bullinger has a unique perspective on the market, and thoughts on where enterprise storage is heading.

Q: Throughout 2021, Infinidat has seen strong recent market growth, new partnerships, and enhanced leadership - what are your strategic plans within this environment?

PB: Infinidat was founded ten years ago with the strategy of delivering high-performance enterprise data at the lowest possible TCO, at multi-petabyte scale: we’ve executed very well on that. We’re ten years old, we’re growing significantly and, frankly, the momentum is increasing. We have a product, InfiniBox, that delivers better than all-flash performance at petabyte scale, but at a cost much lower than the competition. Our customers consistently tell us that InfiniBox radically lowers the complexity of their storage operations.

We’re proud of our customer satisfaction: we see it as the North Star that drives the company. What’s exciting is that we’ve gone from a single product company to one that this year, introduced two new product segments to our portfolio. One is the InfiniBox SSA, an all-solid state array version of InfiniBox, which raises the level of performance, particularly in the area of latency. We’ve also introduced new capabilities with our InfiniGuard data protection solution. With the rise of cyber attacks, it’s really come into its own.

Q: Automation and AI are key buzzwords in the data storage industry. What are your thoughts, and how can CIOs take advantage?

PB: The whole notion of simplifying IT operations is a promise that IT vendors have made to CIOs but, unfortunately, many vendors have simply failed to deliver. What has changed now is that we’re seeing the deployment of artificial intelligence for IT operations, or AIOps. The goal is to centralise operations and improve cost management, and as storage workloads are better managed, it can drive an enterprise’s pace of innovation.

Our core architecture is built on our neural cache. It’s where most of our patents lie and it’s what sets our product apart. It is a great example of AIOps technology: the cache has a lot of built-in intelligence that optimises application environments for performance over time, and really delivers this zero-touch, set-it-and-forget-it experience.

On top of that we have AI-in-the-box and AI-outside-the-box in our InfiniVerse product, which forms a dynamic perspective on the customer’s entire Infinidat environment with predictive analytics, early issue detection and proactive support. It enables customers to manage their infrastructure, very simply, with limited overhead, and it is key to delivering that storage-as-a-service experience.

Q: Data protection and cyber recovery are now fundamental issues for every business – how will Infinidat focus on delivering peace of mind to CIOs?

PB: IDC recently estimated that the cost of ransomware attacks on businesses this year will be $20 billion, and if you look at all the secondary and tertiary impacts of that cybercrime, it’s measured in trillions of dollars. These are very sobering figures. Ransomware can shut down billion-dollar global businesses overnight. We’ve never really faced anything like that in the industry from a business continuity point of view.

I believe strongly that we have the best solution in the marketplace for  cyberdefense at the storage system level; we have the fastest cyber-recovery capabilities in the world. Our InfiniGuard solution features immutable snapshots, where the system ensures that data in the snapshot can never be changed. It allows our customers to recover, almost instantaneously, to a historical point in time where they have confidence that their data was not corrupted.

We combine that with a ‘virtual cleanroom’; a protected, isolated area of the backup appliance that limits data networking access. In practice, it’s like writing data to tape and sending it to a vault. The backup software has no awareness this cleanroom exists, so any malicious attack doesn’t even know that information is there. Because of this combination of immutable snapshots and the virtual cleanroom, we can prevent malicious software from creating irreparable damage. Customers of our InfiniGuard solution can sleep very well at night.

Q: Recently several different cloud computing models have evolved for the modern CIO, including public, private and hybrid cloud architectures. In your opinion what are the distinct advantages to be gained through a hybrid solution?

PB: As with most choices in technology, there are both very distinct and more nuanced trade-offs. Public clouds offer a range of infrastructure choices, elastic scalability and resource agility, but it’s fundamentally a shared, multi-tenant resource. Private clouds, in contrast, provide dedicated infrastructure over private networks that can be infinitely tailored to your unique requirements to deliver precise administrative control and sovereignty over resources. Hybrid clouds, of course, are a combination of the two.

For many enterprises, a private cloud is the critical cornerstone of their overall data infrastructure. Companies really need to understand why that’s the case if they want to gain that edge. You can define your SLAs; you can build systems with low latency and high availability. Infrastructure costs are a lot more predictable. In public cloud, you’re never quite sure what that next bill is going to look like, but with private cloud infrastructure you know exactly what your investment is, and you can flexibly tailor that between CapEx and OpEx purchase models. You can customise your resources limitlessly to meet your precise business requirements and, as they evolve, the infrastructure can evolve with them.

Q: How are collaborations and alliances within your space helping CIOs and their teams pivot to the next levels of innovation?

PB: The challenges of the primary storage market for a long time have been around how do you simplify IT processes and manage this relentless growth of data, and do all of this while delivering to scale? We recognise this, and a significant and core part of the Infinidat strategy is to build these close technology and go-to-market collaborations. We firmly believe – and we demonstrate every day – that we can deliver more value through partnerships built on best-in-class solutions than we can doing it all ourselves.

Our partnership with VMware has been particularly important. Working with vSphere, we’ve raised the bar significantly on the scale of vVols (virtual volumes). VMware would say that many of their large-scale vVols implementations are running on Infinidat because of our unmatched scale. We’re also the first petabyte-scale storage system in VMware’s Cloud Solutions Lab, where companies are coming together with VMware to innovate around new and emerging workload challenges.

We’re very excited about our partnership with ServiceNow. Their ITOM Visibility package is a great solution, giving corporations a closer view into their entire technology estate. They can discover their infrastructure and leverage some of these broader AIOps capabilities.

And we’re also integrated with Virtana’s VirtualWisdom package. It’s very comprehensive infrastructure performance management, built for large-scale enterprises and service providers, and is an essential tool that enterprises are using today to understand the performance and capabilities of data infrastructure. The final one I’d mention is AWS Outposts. We really believe in AWS extending their cloud integration model into an on-premises experience, and what we can do at Infinidat is seamlessly integrate an InfiniBox with that Amazon Outposts rack in the datacentre. For a lot of customers, it’s absolutely the best of both worlds.

Q: With the ongoing pandemic recovery remaining slow in most parts of the world, CIOs in the UK are under increasing amounts of pressure to improve cost effectiveness across the infrastructure. How can they take a more progressive approach to solving their problems?

PB: The pandemic has created this interesting mix of economic dynamics. Certainly, there’s been a slowdown in the global economy that’s created a degree of headwind in enterprise investment, but at the same time, this is being offset by this profound acceleration of digital business models. The pandemic brought a lot of uncertainty to our customers’ businesses, and a lot of customers responded with mindsets focused on minimising their risks, extending maintenance contracts on existing infrastructure and, frankly, keeping the lights on.

We see our most successful customers as focused on improving operational efficiency. A lot of organisations are moving aggressively now, to scale their operations, improve their efficiency, transform their business models, protect themselves from increasing levels of cyber-threat and deal with this relentless growth of data.

And the successful companies are the ones that, we think, are investing in private cloud infrastructure with AIOps capabilities, enabling them to manage larger pools of storage, more efficiently with fewer people.

Looking forward, I’m an optimist. I expect continued recovery and growth for the industry, and I have very high expectations for Infinidat as well.

To learn more about Infinidat and the future of enterprise storage, visit https://www.infinidat.com/en/about.

Related:

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

Download CIO's Winter 2021 digital issue: Supercharging IT innovation