Nimble has proven to be an appropriate name for this 2008 storage start-up that must already be annoying companies such as EMC and Dell in the mid-range. Despite these recessionary times, Nimble has posted record growth and revenue and now claims to be the fastest growing computer storage company in history.
Last October, when I was introduced to Nimble Storage, the company's technological innovation impressed me enough that I suggested it would be a game changer for the storage mid-market. So, last month, when I met with Nimble Storage CEO Suresh Vasudevan, we talked less about the technology than about how far the company had come and whether it could fulfil what I saw as major potential in the coming months and years.
I will skip regurgitating how its patented Cache Accelerated Sequential Layout (CASL) architecture works (as you can read the previous article). The one exception is to mention that a then-missing element, scale-out connectivity, is now in beta - which means the ability to group multiple arrays without hardware changes is almost here. This is needed to enable expansion with more flexibility for growing mid-sized businesses pushing into the larger enterprise bracket.
Let me instead give you what I think are reasonably jaw-dropping statistics: Q4 2011 growth was 500% over the same quarter in 2010 and 80% more than the previous quarter - which translates to Nimble adding 100 new customers - spread across verticals including medical, retail, government, financial and legal. Vasudevan told me that Service Providers (SPs) were using Nimble for disaster recovery (DR) services, while Citrix XenServer certification had boosted desktop VDI deployments, which particularly benefited from Nimble's variable length IOPs capabilities. A high percentage of these sales were in EMC environments, he said.
So it is no surprise that its most recent round of VC funding was over-subscribed. This helped fund expansion into new offices in Vancouver and Toronto (Canada), London, Amsterdam and Hamburg, with employee numbers rising from 38 to 150 in a year. Expressed another way, the number of US sales teams went from three to 19 in a year - and Vasudevan told me that the three new sales teams in Europe could likewise expand to 19 in 2012.
Nimble Storage sells entirely through channel partners. So sales partly reflect resellers' positive experience with Nimble, finding the solution simple to buy, install and use - and especially because it automates continuous optimisation of the system even as workloads change; for Nimble Storage, one could read "agile storage" for use by an agile company. According to Vasudevan, Nimble meets resellers' ideal criteria: sales velocity to close deals, growth independence, a good margin profile and ease of doing business including the training aspect. Other things that have rapidly changed include moving beyond a VMware VCenter plug-in to certification for VMware.
The company's challenges include getting its name better known, potential for FUD from competitors, continuing to execute as well as it has done so far as its meteoric growth carries on - and the standard question for VC start-ups: "How do we know you will be around in five years?"
If Nimble does not over-stretch itself, I dare say some of the largest storage vendors will be sniffing around for a possible takeover - maybe more so when it moves to IPO in perhaps three years. In the meantime, Nimble's growth statistics are adding credibility to my apparently over-the-top assessment of a few months ago.
So I will simply reiterate what I said then: prove for yourself whether I am painting a fair picture; mid-market companies should give Nimble and its architecture a close look.