What’s happening at Quantum Corporation?
I picked up the latest development news about Quantum Corporation. Last month, in December 2018, they secured a USD210 million financial lifeline to support their deflating business and their debts. And if you follow their development, they are with their 3rd CEO in the past 12 months, which is quite extraordinary. What is happening at Quantum Corp?
Stornext – The Swiss Army knife of Data Management
I have known Quantum since 2000, very focused on the DLT tape library business. At that time, prior to the coming of LTO, DLT and its successor, SuperDLT dominated the tape market together with IBM. In 2006, they acquired ADIC, another tape vendor and became one of the largest tape library vendors in the world. From the ADIC acquisition, Quantum also got their rights on Stornext, a high performance scale out file system. I was deeply impressed with Stornext, and I once called it the Swiss Army knife of Data Management. The versatility of Stornext addressed many of the required functions within the data management lifecycle and workflows, and thus it has made its name in the Media and Entertainment space.
Jack of all trades, master of none
However, Quantum has never reached great heights in my opinion. They are everything to everybody, like a Jack of all trades, master of none. They are backup with their tape libraries and DXi series, archive and tiering with the Lattus, hybrid storage with QXS, and file system and scale-out with Stornext. If they have good business run rates and a healthy pipeline, having a broad product line is fine and dandy. But Quantum has been having CEO changes like turning a turnstile, and amid “a few” accounting missteps and a 2018 CEO who only lasted 5 months, they better steady their rocking boat quickly.
Focus on USP (Unique Selling Proposition)
The 2019 storage market and landscape and beyond is not that of the mid-2000s. There isn’t a single system that would meet the needs of everyone, but every single system must be marketed with a unique strength. For instance, NetApp used to throw a filer and ONTAP at every thing; EMC has their Symmetrix for mainframe and maximum HA for the enterprise; EMC also has their CX storage for the rest of the market. Bring forward to recent times, Pure Storage has been pushing hard on their FlashArray but kept FlashBlade unique technology proposition strong for the unstructured content market. After years of touting commercial HPC, Panasas has hit paydirt in the last couple of years with an very attractive HPC market. Even NetApp gave up their ego about ONTAP and decided to be more holistic with their Data Fabric initiative, again creating that unique technology story line.
I just haven’t seen Quantum developing that unique technology story line since I have known them.
In Quantum, Stornext, with its high performance capability and its well establish name in the Media and Entertainment market, is the only potential messiah that could lead Quantum out of the doldrums. A spin-off, like what EMC did with VMware years ago (continued by Dell Technologies – although recent developments about Dell manoeuvre may change that), would give Stornext the promise it deserves; the freedom to be even better.
This could also position Quantum with a leaner portfolio to focus on data protection and archive. Drop the QXS hybrid storage because I don’t think it is very competitive in an already extremely overcrowded market. Put a data searching and context referencing front to its Lattus and tape library product line. Something like Lucidworks might fit well into works.
DXi? The deduplication target appliance market has been overtaken by many of the newer upstarts like Rubrik, Cohesity and even StorageCraft. More traditional backup software vendors are coming back with their own appliances, with newer and better capabilities. Commvault Hyperscale and Veritas Netbackup Appliances are already in a position to cut off the path to the pure play scale-up, dedupe appliance market previously dominated by Data Domain and Exagrid. Maybe Quantum should drop DXi as well?
I conclude …
What I have opined and shared may not be the sweet honey tea everyone is expecting but I believe it is necessary for the greater good of Quantum Corp. When I called Stornext the Swiss Army knife 6+ years ago, it was really an early data fabric and data lifecycle technology that could link upstream application data in the storage infrastructure from front to the back, from primary storage to the tape. Quantum should consider putting Stornext as the star data mover to develop their unique technology story line.
In difficult times, it is best to remove the shackles of your star player and empower him or her to shine. Then refocus on your team’s foundation on what has brought you glory, and that’s Quantum strength in data protection and preservation. The next 2 years will be crucial. I wish Quantum all the best.