Brian Grainger moves from Spectra Logic to StorMagic as CRO with plans to grow presence in hyperconverged market

Grainger talks with ChannelBuzz about his plans to build StorMagic’s brand, its channel and its business and become a major player in the HCI space.

Brian Grainger, StorMagic’s new CRO

Brian Grainger, who had been at Spectra Logic for the last 18 years, the last ten as Chief Sales Officer, has moved to StorMagic, where he becomes the worldwide Chief Revenue Officer, and a member of the Board of Directors. It is a move from one part of the storage industry to quite a different part. Grainger brings him a wealth of global experience, and quite a different perspective, which he will utilize in a plan to turn Bristol U.K.-based StorMagic from a company with excellent technology who few people know, into the next hyperconverged juggernaut.

The CRO position is a new one at StorMagic and was expressly created for Grainger. John Glendenning was StorMagic’s Head of Sales previously and he remains in that role.

“From a sales perspective, it’s a lateral move, because I was top of the pyramid at Spectra as Chief Sales Officer, and I’m Chief Revenue Officer here, which is the same role,” Grainger told ChannelBuzz. “The one addition that gives a little more visibility and influence on strategy is the seat on the Board of Directors. It was, however, something new where I could leverage my experience. StorMagic was the right company at the right place at the right time when I was looking to find a new challenge.”

Both Spectra and StorMagic are ‘storage’ companies – but they are quite different in their focus. Spectra makes tape storage products and object storage gateways and is essentially a hardware company, which is strong in the enterprise and reaches down into some parts of the midmarket. StorMagic is a hyperconverged infrastructure [HCI] provider, which is exclusively software-defined, and which partners with server hardware vendors to extend their route to market. They are also positioned lower in the market. Their SvSAN virtualized shared storage is designed to work with any 2-node x86 server set up, and while they initially sold mainly to smaller customers, they now are increasingly doing larger deals in the ROBO [remote office/branch office] market with distributed enterprises and are explicitly focusing on the edge.

Another key difference is that while Spectra’s core market is not a high growth one – with the tape component challenged and being increasingly limited to larger deployments – the HCI space is a red hot one where financial analysts can yawn at anything less than triple digit growth.

“The HCI market has been exploding over the past few years,” Grainger noted. “There are a couple of 800 lb gorillas in the HCI space, but StorMagic is in a fantastic position to grow astronomically in the next couple years just with the current product set – not to mention ones in the pipeline. StorMagic reminds me of Spectra a little while ago. At Spectra, our number one competitor was 200x our size, and we could stand shoulder-to-shoulder against the gorilla. It’s much the same here. StorMagic is smaller than Spectra, but I enjoy building – not from the ground up, but from a smaller company to a larger one. They have a good product with a fantastic following.”

Grainger also thinks StorMagic is well-positioned to compete – both against Nutanix and the Dell EMC-VMware complex at one end of the market, and the multiple other smaller companies like themselves who have established niches in the HCI space and now seek to aggressively grow their presence.

“Our go-to-market strategy is that we truly make the complex simple and affordable,” Grainger said. “Some of the software-only solutions we compete against are more complex, more expensive, and harder to roll out. In contrast, StorMagic is a very simple product to implement. From a cost standpoint, we have the best value proposition in the industry. We are 30-50 per cent less expensive per site or per cluster than the big guys, and we differentiate from the smaller ones in product quality, while still being price-competitive against all of them. We are not a startup. We have been doing this for quite a while. We have customers with dozens, hundreds and thousands of sites.”

Grainger said that StorMagic’s principal problem is that most customers for HCI have no idea who they are.

“The challenge is that we are not a household name,” he said. “The task is to take the company out to the masses. That began before I arrived a month ago. Last year, StorMagic brought on Bruce Kornfeld as Chief Marketing Officer to help build a global brand. The challenge is to take the brand to a global level. In terms of the product and pricing, it stands on its own.”

StorMagic, as a software-only company, has had a Switzerland approach to partnering with server hardware vendors, and Grainger said that a key component of the strategy going forward will be to expand that ecosystem.

“StorMagic being software-only and hardware-agnostic removes a lot of the challenges that a hardware or proprietary company has,” he said. “There are no obstacles to building wildly successful relationships with ecosystem partners. We already have important strategic partnerships with Cisco and Lenovo. I built strategic partnerships at Spectra, and there are a few other server companies out there I have experience with that could be a good partnership for us. I want to expand those relationships.”

Grainger said that another major objective will be to improve the efficiency of StorMagic’s channel. Historically, the company sold mainly direct for years after their initial effort to sell through partners after they started up in 2006 was not successful, but in the last few years they have reversed that and now consider themselves to be a 100 per cent channel company. Grainger said the company needs to do more, however, to make partners more efficient.

“The channel is still a work in progress,” he said. “We will be going through a channel revamp over the next few weeks and months. We are 100 per cent channel focused, and will be putting a renewed emphasis on doubling down there. I’m not a big believer in signing every partner under the sun. We will be methodical, but we will put our money where our mouth is.”