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Six months later: Three takeaways from working at Hedvig

by Chris Kranz on August 16, 2016

Given this is my first start-up experience as well as my first foray into vendor land, I thought I’d share an update on how things are going here at Hedvig. When I first started I had a lot of excitement about the potential. The product promised a lot and Avinash’s background is an inspiration for anyone, but especially for a new approach to storage.

Now it’s six months later. So how do I feel?

Simply put: Still excited.

In fact, I’m even more excited because I have a much better understanding of who we are, what we do, and what the future might look like! Here are my top three takeaways.

The Hedvig culture: Experience and ideation

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My first big takeaway from Hedvig so far is about the culture. The “startup culture” is the most common reason people cite for enjoying a startup. For a glimpse of Hedvig’s office culture, read this fun blog from my colleague, Olivia.

My take on the culture? It’s where job experience intersects with the customer experience. Startups are a lot of hard work. And although I have a specific job title, it’s largely irrelevant as everyone chips in on everything. It’s also really awesome because it gives a unique experience for our customers, which I think gets lost in larger organisations. I can (and do) own customer relationships, from presales right the way through to happy repeat customer. I have a real sense of purpose and absolutely can effect change. I have regular dialogue with both engineering and support, so not only do I know exactly what the issues are in the field, but also I get to relay customer experiences and comments directly to engineering.

Clearly there are challenges with scaling this experience as we grow to hundreds and eventually thousands of employees and customers, but it’s great being part of this early. As excited as our customers are about our product and the future, they want to know the experience they get today is the same they’ll get in two to three years' time. We’re working hard to make that a reality and it’s great being part of it.

Another point on our culture is that no idea is a bad idea. Sure it might be a misinformed idea (and I’ve made a few of them!), but never a bad idea. Avinash doesn’t come from a traditional storage background, which is key to our technical differentiators. He has a very unique approach to technology that we take for granted in the infrastructure world. Taking a completely different perspective and looking at customer challenges from all sides helps form our technology into something really exciting. But most importantly, it encourages all employees to think. And think differently.

The Hedvig technology: Four use cases and two killer features

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My second six-month takeaway is the value of refining our key use-cases. When I first started, having a product that could do almost anything was great, but that’s a really hard thing to sell. So we’ve refined our efforts and focused on six key use cases where our solution is a no-brainer. I’ve spoken at length about these in videos, in blogs, and even in webinars, but let me just highlight the four areas I find customers most excited:

  • Virtualisation. Of course you’d expect nothing less from me! But I am really excited about this, and I think we have a truly unique proposition here (below for why).
  • Backup-to-disk. This is an unexpected use case for me. We’re designed as a tier-1 storage system and it seems a waste to use all the cool stuff we have just for backups. But it does make a lot of sense. We have a scale-out platform without practical limits (for most) and the software delivery allows for a lifetime of hardware upgrades and continual software updates, resulting in incremental-forever backups without forklift upgrades.
  • VDI. Again, not a use case I was expecting because there are plenty of laser-focused VDI technologies out there. But we can adapt very well to both non-persistent and persistent desktops. Moreover, we don't promote using isolated storage clusters for VDI away from server virtualisation or other use cases, so the consolidation and management benefits are really compelling.
  • Docker. I’m not going to go into all the pros and cons of Docker and containerisation itself, but I want to highlight one key benefit that is unique: our multi-site architecture. Docker encapsulates and separates applications from both the hardware and the hypervisor, and while it still relies on Docker, this is deployed purely in software that can run in almost any cloud (another software defined win!). This means containerised applications that run on Hedvig storage can be dynamically moved and failed-over among on-premises data centres and public cloud environments that may very well be running completely different technologies. Our partnership with Docker will only grow stronger over the coming years with the way we compliment them in this respect, and it's very exciting to be part of!

So while, yes, as a storage vendor we do all the normal “table stakes” things like dedupe, flash acceleration, snapshots, etc. the two killer features that I think make us unique are:

  1. Truly software-defined. Being software-defined is a bit of a buzzword these days and I’ve talked before about what our definition is and why I think our positioning is important. I really think it enables our customers to get more agility out of their infrastructure as well as lowering both acquisition as well as long term management and support costs.
  2. Multi-site architecture. Being natively multi-site is the most important feature we have. It’s often overlooked when comparing us with other storage solutions as it’s really never been on the table from a tier-1 storage storage provider. Whether our customers start with one, two, five, or 10+ data centres, being able to have a stretched multi-site cluster which is active in all locations is really powerful. I believe that most people have confined their infrastructure around two data centres as an artificial limitation imposed by storage replication. Two is actually a really bad number for an active/active cluster as you run into the split-brain paradox. We’re enabling our customers to go to three or more data centres, which includes hybrid cloud (same application, active/active between on-prem and public cloud) and even multi-cloud (across n number of public clouds).

The Hedvig roadmap: Disruption and automation

Chris_Kranz_lightbulb.pngMy last takeaway, now that I have more insight from our own thought leaders, is that the future is very bright, not just for us but the industry at large. We have technologies that make us unique in the market today, but clearly as others see the benefits they will start to catch up. Being a trailblazer is exciting, though. I enjoy being at a company leading the market in an entirely new direction, and hope that I can continue to contribute!

After all, we are in a great place to slot into the way that IT is developing at the moment, with technologies like Docker and full infrastructure automation. I can’t reveal any roadmap stuff publicly, of course, but don’t be surprised to see more automation. I believe storage should become an irrelevant commodity to the people consuming it, but to do so we need to create a highly intelligent storage platform which is fully policy-based, programmable, self-healing, and self-expanding (IMHO anyway!).

I really look forward to my next six months. I’m confident the energy and excitement around our technology will be just as prevalent as it is today, and that we’ll see great success in the market. I look forward to sharing new innovations with more customers, and then sharing customer success stories with you all.

In the meantime, check out my whiteboard videos where I elaborate on many more of my technology takeaways.

Watch Videos

Chris Kranz

Chris Kranz

Chris is a VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) and senior systems engineer at Hedvig. Chris has in-depth experience in cloud, virtualization, storage and data center technologies gained from his work across numerous practices including web development, systems administration, and consulting. His advisory expertise helps customers better adopt and adapt to the technologies that best fit for their business requirements.
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