Nimble Storage are Relentless in their Pursuit of Support Excellence

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 10.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time at the event.  Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.


Before I get cracking, you can find a link to my raw notes on Nimble Storage‘s presentation here. You can also see videos of the presentation here.

I’ve written about Nimble recently. I went to their Predictive Flash Platform launch in San Francisco earlier this year. You can read about that here (disclosure is here). I’ve also talked about InfoSight with some level of enthusiasm. I think this all ties in nicely with my thoughts on their SFD10 presentation.

Before I get into that though, kudos to Tom McKnight (VP Hardware Engineering) for his demo on component resilience (pulling 6 drives, PSU and causing a controller failure). Demos are tough at the best of times, and it’s always nice to see people with the confidence to stand behind their product and run it through its paces in front of a “live studio audience”.



Tier 3 Before You Know It

Rod Bagg (VP Analytics and Customer Support) provided an overview of InfoSight. He spoke a lot about what he called the “app-data gap”, with the causes of problems in the environment being:

  • Storage related;
  • Configuration issues;
  • Non-storage best practices;
  • Interoperability issues; and
  • Host, compute, VM, etc.

But closing the app-data gap with tech (in this case, SSDs) oftentimes is not enough. You need predictive analytics. Every week InfoSight analyses more than a trillion data points. And it’s pretty good in helping you make your infrastructure transparent. According to Rod, it:

  • Proactively informs and guides without alarm fatigue;
  • Predicts future needs and simplifies planning; and
  • Delivers transformed support experience from Level 3 experts.

Nimble say that 9 out of 10 issues are detected before you know about them. “If we know about an issue, it shouldn’t happen to you”. Rod also spoke at some length about the traditional Level 3 Support model vs. Nimble’s approach. He said that you could “pick up the phone, dial 1-877-364-6253, and get Level 3 Support”, with the average hold time being <1 minute. This isn’t your standard vendor support experience, and Nimble were very keen to remind us of that.



Further Reading and Conclusion

I’ve said before that I think InfoSight is a really cool tool. It’s not just about Nimble’s support model, but the value of the data they collect and what they’re doing with that data to solve support issues in a proactive fashion. It also provides insight (!) into what customers are doing out in the real world with their arrays. Ray Lucchesi had a nice write-up on IO distribution here that is well worth a read. Chris M. Evans also did a handy preview post on Nimble that you can find here.

Whenever people have asked me in the past what they should be looking for in a storage array, I’ve been reluctant to recommend vendors based purely on performance specifications or the pretty bezel. When I was working in operations, the key success criterion for me was the vendor’s ability to follow up on issues with reliable, prompt support. Nothing works perfectly, despite what vendors tell you. Having the ability to fix things in a timely fashion, through solid logistics, good staff and a really solid analytics platform, provides vendors like Nimble with an advantage over their competitors. Indeed, a few other vendors, including Pure and Kaminario, have seen the value in this approach and are taking similar approached with their support models. It will be really interesting to see how the platform evolves over time and how Nimble’s relentless pursuit of support excellence scales as the company grows bigger.

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  1. Pingback: Storage Field Day 10 – Wrap-up and Link-o-rama |

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