Commvault touts ‘Data Brain’ for unified data management and storage with expanded Hedvig use cases

At their GO 2019 event, Commvault laid out further details about their vision for their Hedvig software-defined storage acquisition, as well as its roadmap going forward.

CEO Sanjay Mirchandani onstage Tuesday

DENVER – In September, Commvault announced the acquisition of software-defined storage startup Hedvig. At their GO 2019 event here, they fleshed out their strategy around the Hedvig technology for their customers, indicating how they believe the expanded use cases can drive new synergies and new business.

In his opening keynote to the main GO event on Tuesday, Commvault CEO Sanjay Mirchandani drew an analogy to the ‘data  brain,’ in which the  synergies between Commvault and the Hedvig technology represent the overlap between the left and right brain hemispheres.

Mirchandani said that with data is now at the heart of everything they do, and next generation applications are fundamentally different than in the past in aspects like their stateless nature and being designed to run in containers.

“We believe that we have to go with solutions that are re-engineered differently, that things require new ways of to be solved,” he said. “DevOps and business users are now at the table together. We have to think differently.”

The left brain of storage management added by Hedvig provides multi-protocol capability, automatic provisioning, storage API automation, elastic scale and location transparency. On the other hand, Mirchandani indicated that the right brain of data management contributes indexing, intelligent automation, a data protection engine, security and self service, and ubiquitous control.

“The roadmap provides a ‘better together’ solution combining converged storage and data management with unbelievable scale on both sides that is very cost effective,” said Don Foster, Vice President of Storage Solutions at Commvault, whose job is to be the point man around this integration. “Our vision is unifying this in a way that provides a level of simplicity and control that you haven’t seen before. We are trying to show there’s a better way of managing this data that doesn’t involve creating multiple siloes.”

Avinash Lakshman, Hedvig’s founder and CEO, who is now Chief Storage Strategist at Commvault and oversees the strategy around the Hedvig technology, originally founded Hedvig to democratize the storage infrastructure capabilities provided by the big hyperscalers, with simplicity, and at a fraction of the cost.

“What we being to the market is complete protocol consolidation on one platform, that allows operational efficiency to be solved at scale,” Lakshman told the audience in his keynote appearance. That multi-protocol support lets them unify block, file, and object interfaces in a single platform, allowing data in all types of storage to be allocated efficiently by workload-optimized servers.

Lakshman cited an example onstage, which is not a public reference, where an aerospace customer that did not want their data in the public cloud wanted to build an internal cloud with IaaS for internal consumption. The environment was a complex one, with all kinds of storage and hypervisors, and Kubernetes. Lakshman said that this customer now uses Hedvig for a multiple PB data set which is set to grow to hundreds of PB over the next 2-3 years.

“The big epiphany I had from my experience at Amazon and Facebook was the way they solved the data tsunami problem on an x86 platform,” he stated. “We truly believe the Hedvig platform solves data fragmentation across environments. We have a comprehensive toolset to solve the problems.”

“Over time, this will be much richer,” Mirchandani added, noting that the 4.0 version of Hedvig will soon be coming out.

“What Hedvig will do for us is provide a whole new set of capabilities as a destination for backups,” Mirchandani noted. “Hedvig is a great use case for intelligent repositories of data at the edge. Over time, this will all come together to give active and passive data protection at the same time.”

The key here is ‘over time.’

“We aren’t tightly integrated today,” Foster said. “That takes time. We want to make sure the experience is clean and solid across both product lines.”

Pending the upcoming Hedvig 4.0 release, Commvault did announce some enhancements to Hedvig at GO, including Container Storage Interface (CSI) support, support for erasure coding, and comprehensive support for multi-tenant data centres, which will be important in the MSP market.

Mirchandani indicated that the reception at GO to the strategy around Hedvig from customers had been positive.

“People on floor found with Hedvig that the time was right, that our core capabilities with data management snapped right into that,” he said.

The reception from the strategic vendor partners of Commvault and Hedvig is somewhat more complex. A customer being able to buy a software-defined storage platform platform from same vendor that offers them the backup is attractive. It also opens up the possibility of competition with the storage vendors who have been strong Commvault partners, although major partners at the event like HPE, NetApp and Cisco did not publicly express any concern.

“It will be a swimlane conversation with every partner,” Foster said. “We know this. It comes down with each one to how we decide to go to market together.”

Independent partnerships with Hedvig are likely another matter, even though Hedvig, like the newly-announced Metallic, is branded as ‘a Commvault venture,’ which implies some degree of autonomy.

“We have customers who use other backup as customers,” Mirchandani told a press conference, indicating that he wouldn’t close the door to Hedvig working with Commvault competitors in the data protection space.

It takes two to tango, however. In July 2018, Hedvig and Commvault competitor Veeam announced an important strategic partnership.

“Veeam rescinded their support for this, after the Hedvig acquisition,” Foster indicated.

“I think it’s safe to say that this kind of relationship would be looked at on a case by case basis,” said Ediz Ertekin, Hedvig’s former Senior Vice President of Sales, who is now VP, Global Solutions, Emerging Technologies at Commvault.

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