By Ajay Singh – VP Products
A successful company is shaped by many attributes – a great product, great support, a healthy market, and great people and culture. The foundation of these core characteristics are the unstated principles and values that influence not just day-to-day interactions, but also the aspirations and direction of the organization.
Today’s announcement of the Timeless Storage business model represents a promise to our customers, a commitment that rests on three core principles: honest and credible claims, transparency, and partnership.
Honest and Credible Claims
From our founding in 2008, Nimble has established a hard-earned reputation for delivering on its product and support claims, specifically that we make credible promises and we deliver on them. In fact, new customers are typically pleasantly surprised because we over-deliver.
This starts with a cultural aversion to making marketing claims that misrepresent the truth. Perhaps the most common examples in the industry are shell games involving performance, capacity and features, such as claiming checklists of features that are barely usable in practice due to painful compromises. Or quoting capacity numbers with RAID6, but performance numbers that would require RAID10. Or claiming high performance and high deduplication / compression rates, when in fact best practices for that product say you can’t get both at the same time.
Our company beliefs run deeper than marketing claims. We have a strong aversion to even creating features that are likely to disappoint, because they are inefficient or incomplete in some way. In this context let’s say efficiency is a combination of performance, cost, simplicity and reliability: if a feature doesn’t deliver a good balance of the above to a meaningful number of customers, we won’t build it. For example, it would have been an easy option to offer high-RPM HDDs (hard disk drives) in our Adaptive Flash arrays, but we chose not to because they added no value in our architecture.
Finally, there is a dimension of credibility that has nothing to do with products. Companies in a competitive market sometimes feel pressured to make inflated or misleading claims about various things – company growth, maturity or reliability for example. Here again Nimble has a consistently strong track record for sticking to honest claims.
Every vendor can claim their products are “designed for five nines reliability”, but the real test is the uptime actually experienced by the entire installed base. At Nimble, we have more than 7,500 customers, and 93% of their arrays are visible to InfoSight. A long time ago when our entire installed base was only at 99.997% uptime, that’s exactly what we claimed in our marketing materials, rather than rounding to “five nines”. Today, our measured availability is better than 99.999%, and has been consistently improving for over three years now, reaching 99.9997% in recent months. Having operated as a public company for over two years where all metrics are visible, we also have the credibility of formally audited numbers to back us up.
A newcomer to the enterprise storage business might be surprised to see some arcane business practices, reminiscent of the mainframe days of the 1970s, that have somehow survived into the 21st century. For instance:
- Complex pricing schemes with myriad “a-la-carte” software licenses that you only find out you need to buy when you try to use advertised capabilities.
- Unexpected pricing surprises for support in the later years of the product life.
- A closed “black box” as it pertains to understanding system health and headroom, forcing you to buy expensive software or professional services just to unlock what’s going on in your own array.
Nimble has always done things differently. It’s partly the product architecture. and partly the visibility provided by InfoSight, but above all it’s the business culture. That’s why we have always offered:
- All-inclusive pricing – no feature licenses.
- No support pricing increases ever, unless you expand the system (our earliest customers are already enjoying this benefit having passed five years since purchase date).
- Option for a Storage on Demand model where you only pay for the capacity used, which is unparalleled in its transparency and flexibility.
- Full visibility and insight into your systems through InfoSight – intelligent headroom indicators, trending reports, sizing information and available upgrade paths providing fully transparent visibility into everything needed by an IT team. And all of this is available through a SaaS portal without installing any additional software, or engaging professional services.
- Fully transparent options to refresh your array controllers – either on a fixed three-year schedule as part of your support contract, or at a timeline you choose – but with a pre-fixed price.
We are true partners in our customers’ success, as evidenced by our overwhelmingly positive customer satisfaction rates and a NPS (Net Promoter Score) of 85 – particularly noteworthy given our installed base of over 7,500 customers which is almost an order of magnitude larger than our other “next generation” peers. Customer satisfaction, referenceablity and repeat purchase patterns owe a great deal to the fact that we provide top-notch “legendary” support all the way. To be fair, most IT infrastructure companies try to do this to varying degrees – because a happy, referenceable installed base is the lifeblood of a healthy company. However actually achieving this is not simply a matter of desire. There are three barriers that get in the way:
- Products that have become complex and hard to manage and troubleshoot due to decades of layered-on capabilities like thin provisioning, dedupe, and optimizations for flash.
- Business models that rely on support revenue annuities and margins to prop up decaying product revenues and margins.
- Support techniques that are so reactive and reliant on brute force troubleshooting that they create strong incentives to delegate as much as possible to lower cost and less trained tiers of the organization, making it much more difficult and time consuming for customers to reach skilled (Level 3) resources.
Here again Nimble has three advantages:
- As a new generation architecture Nimble has a dramatic edge in simplicity and supportability, and supportability is a strong factor anytime we consider a new feature.
- As a company with robust growth Nimble is minimally reliant on support revenues.
- The depth of visibility and the automation provided by InfoSight mean we can afford to have only Level-3 support resources, and have them go above and beyond to ensure customer success. For instance, 92% of support cases are automatically and pre-emptively generated by InfoSight. And dedicated teams analyze reams of data every month, automating more health-checks and support cases, further improving the efficiency of this engine. We now have a six-year lead in developing this capability (yes, it actually started one year before we shipped our first product).
Hopefully the description above has given you some insight into the underpinnings of the Timeless Storage promise we make to our customers. You’ll find additional details on the Timeless Storage page of our website.