Panasas reorients growth strategy around new product and channel strategies

Panasas has substantially evolved their portfolio in the last few years to become much more of a software company, and is working on skilling up their channel further to sell the new solutions.

Jeff Whitaker, VP of Marketing and Product Management at Panasas

Panasas, which has been active in the storage space for almost 20 years, has been actively remaking their product portfolio, moving from hardware and adding new software solutions. Last year they also revamped their channel strategy to better fit with the new product approach, and say that is also going well.

Panasas has been around in the storage industry for many years, since 2004, and still tends to be associated with making high-end scale-out hardware, even though that hasn’t been the case for years.

“Back then we were seen as makers of scale-out storage hardware focused mainly on High Performance Computing [HPC], whereas now we describe ourselves as a data engine for innovation focused mainly on HPC,” said Jeff Whitaker, VP of Marketing and Product Management at Panasas. “Before 2018, we made a parallel file system where we built everything – all the hardware and software – in very customized systems. In 2018, because our data utilization rates weren’t keeping up, we made a decision to take the software and move it out of the hardware to commercial off the shelf hardware, particularly SuperMicro. Our software was thus validated in a SuperMicro environment in the solutions that met our best targets, which were compatible with high performing appliances around HPC, machine learning and AI.”

Throughout all of this, Panasas retained a very sticky connection with a loyal customer base, who in many cases have purchased multiple generations of the product.

“Our traditional customer base is the HPC world, and some of them we have had for 14-17 years,” Whitaker said, “We have a simple to use platform that doesn’t rely on deep expertise by an admin to make it work. That’s not the case with our competitors, of whom Lustre is the most significant. The knowledge required of an admin with competitor products is quite considerable. We are very much ‘plug it in and forget about it.’”

This time last year, Panasas announced two new hardware platforms, both based on SuperMicro hardware. The original platform is the Ultra, which is tuned as a workhorse platform. The new ones are the Ultra XL platform, which has only hardware drives and NVME, and no SSDs, and a new all-NVMe platform.

“Last November, we also announced two new software products for data mobility,” Whitaker stated. “HPC has been one of the slowest areas in moving to the cloud. Part of this is that many HPC customers like labs and government like to keep their data, but there are issues with data movement which these new solutions address.”

As Panasas evolved its product strategy, they have evolved their Go-to-Market strategy as well.

“Before 2022, we sold a lot through the channel, but it was mainly fulfilment,” Whitaker said. “Our sales teams are small, so the channel is important to us. We have had some specialized partners who know their customers well. We have a  handful of partners who we work very closely with, but on the fulfillment side, we have about 130 partners, and we use distribution in some of the cases for these partners.”

In May 2022, Panasas made channel changes to better empower the more specialized partners.

“Last year, we made changes to our channel strategy to move more broadly beyond fulfillment, empowering partners to make more sales happen themselves,” Whitaker indicated. “Some partners will continue to  be focused on fulfillment, but we are also coming at it with new solutions that will make it easier for partners to sell.”

Panasas is satisfied with the progress which has resulted since these changes a year ago. They include 50% year-over-year growth in total partners, and an increase in Panasas’ total revenue to over 50% partner-driven with nearly 20% of that revenue being net new logos.

“Our closest partners are typically specialized, with consultative knowledge around HPC, and also include large ones like WWT which have an HPC practice,” Whitaker said. “Penguin Solutions is both a service provider and a partner at the same time. TVAR Solutions, on the other hand, is a specialized HPC partner. We also have integrators, with whom we are just one of the components in a much larger deal. They bring us in because we are sticky with our customers and they ask for us.”

Looking ahead, Whitaker indicated that the strategy will be to strengthen partner enablement further.

“We are making sure we have joint collateral with partners, doing reference designs with them, possibly involving another vendor. We are advancing training, so partner solution architectures can understand how we operate in those environments. We are also doing more joint events [like their ISC High Performance 2023 in Hamburg, Germany, from May 22—25. We bring in a couple regionally-based partners, and are doing a couple reference designs, one of which in Hamburg is with a partner.

Whitaker also noted that Canada is an area of recent focus for Panasas.

“We have a number of customers there and now we have a dedicated sales person and are getting partners spun up there,” he said. “In the past, we worked with U.S.-based partners who worked in Canada.”