Chris Jones has recently been appointed as North Europe regional director for Pillar Data. He joined Pillar in the first wave of hiring in Europe in October 2005, coming across from EMC.
What attracted you to Pillar?
"I guess the same that made the investors put money into the company at the start. The storage market is ready for a wave of change. There's been a level of inertia in the industry.
"There's been a lot of growth in terms of dollars spent, terabytes acquired, but there's not been a great rate of innovation, of change in the industry, and I think the industry is primed and ready for that. End-user customers are looking to embrace a different type of storage, a different way of presenting and maintaining storage."
"I thought that Pillar had a uniquely refreshing approach to responding to the changes being driven by end-users. I felt that the proposition the company had put together in terms of the product architecture, the go-to-market philosophy, and the way it wanted to work with customers and engage with customers was in keeping with what end-users were crying out for."
"I've been hired as regional director for the UK and Northern Europe. The majority of the investment in Europe has gone into the UK. Our strategy was to gain critical mass in the UK, France and Germany. We were able to hire a high-calibre team in the UK, with people coming from our competitors, and we were able to establish a team of sales, pre-sales, delivery people and customer service staff in the UK.
"We ramped up customer engagements, gained our first customers, reference customers, and we've done that more quickly in the UK than anywhere else."
How is the European infrastructure set-up going to take place?
"In my new role, my responsibility is to replicate that success in some of the other countries across the time-zone. Many of the accounts we engage, and prospective customers also, in the UK expect us to engage them on an international basis. My priority is to build an international business for Pillar in this time-zone."
"Our strategy is pretty clear. It's to gain critical mass in the UK, France and Germany. We'll look at the next wave of countries to include Scandinavia and The Netherlands, Italy and Spain. Also potentially Switzerland. We're already in dialogue with a potential partner there."
Mentioning about offices in the countries outside of France and Germany and a channel, Jones added: "We've also signed up our first distributor in South Africa. Someone we had engaged with in the UK relocated down there and felt pretty animated about what we were trying to do and wanted to be first to market in South Africa."
Are the customer drivers in European countries identical?
"Yes, I think generally they are. In the three core western European economies we feel the drivers are very similar. The same competitors are established and some customers have the same frustrations with the established vendors. Some of those frustrations play well with how Pillar is trying to drive some change in the market."
What kind of frustrations are customers experiencing?
"I think there is a level of complexity in terms of the way products are architected, the way they're commercially architected with a lack of transparency to customers. People talk about TCO (total cost of ownership); vendors talk about TCO; what we're trying to build is a TCO model that has a level of transparency about it that customers expect but that has not been delivered."
"By that I mean a very simple model for the cost of acquisition of the product, a very simple services proposition around the product, and, equally, perhaps more importantly, when the customer buys the product they never buy everything they need in one go, what they are looking for and what Pillar provides is a level of transparency around future investment, so they know what it's going to cost from the outset."
So for customers dealing with established vendors the hoped-for TCO hasn't been achieved, and they have spent more than they thought they would need to? "Precisely."
Jones discussed ILM (information lifecycle management): "The ideology of ILM is clearly one we would support and we deliver it. The TCO of our approach to ILM is fundamentally different to that of our competitors."
Customers have signed up to ILM promises, as it were, from Pillar's competitors and seen the exact opposite of what they thought would happen.
Recently, HP asked how the middle tracks of a disk could store data more cheaply than the inner and outer tracks, questioning Pillar's approach.
Pillar's Russ Kennedy, senior director for marketing and strategy, said: "I think Mr. Manners doesn't completely understand Pillar's value proposition around supporting ILM. We spend a lot of time with our customers and we clearly see that their need for ILM is prevalent; they understand the value proposition of placing information on the right storage tier and the right storage location for the right price. What's failed to be delivered however, is a very cost-effective way and a very simplified way to do that."
"That's what Pillar's approach is about. What Mr. Manners described there was an element or component of our technology for how we deliver multiple tiers of storage on a single platform. But that's not the entire description of our ILM approach, which is all about reducing cost, simplifying complex infrastructures, which have multiple different tiers associated with them, and delivering that same value with a single platform. a single unified platform and architecture."
Customers of other vendors may be able to have different storage tiers or silos, but with Pillar those separate silos get collapsed into one virtual silo on one infrastructure?
"Absolutely, and into one consolidated infrastructure which delivers the same promise of ILM, that is high performance for tier one applications, mid-level performance for tier two applications, and archival level performance for those tier three type of applications, but all from the same platform, a simple unified platform which is much simpler, much easier to manage, much lower cost, much lower complexity - all the promise of ILM delivered through Pillar's approach."