Tintri by DDN update gives arrays brainpower to migrate VMs

By acquiring Tintri, DataDirect Networks seeks to expand beyond high-performance computing. Tintri Global Center 4.0 is the first joint release since the August merger.

Tintri by DDN storage customers this week got a glimpse of future product development after the flash vendor's rescue from bankruptcy.

The rollout of Tintri Global Center (TGC) 4 on Monday is the first major product release since DataDirect Networks (DDN) paid $60 million for Tintri in a court-monitored bidding process in August. TGC is the storage management tool for Tintri arrays.

Tintri is operating as a separate engineering division of DDN and is now known as Tintri by DDN. The vendor said the update enables its flash arrays to manage the live migration of virtual machines (VMs) instead of relying on the VMware ESXi kernel to manage those migrations. TGC 4 permits users to migrate storage-level snapshots and management policies across a pool of Tintri arrays.

Tomer Hagay, a Tintri senior director of product management, said migrations between the arrays are faster. A user can trigger a migration.

"We've always had the plumbing to do this, but now we have added the orchestration," Hagay said.

At least one customer took comfort that Tintri by DDN could launch product upgrades at all before the end of 2018 considering that Tintri almost didn't make it through the year. Besides the new TGC version, Tintri made a minor operating system upgrade earlier in December.

Infrastructure-as-a-service provider Whoa Networks switched from NetApp to Tintri about two years ago, but CTO Brock Mowry started hunting for new storage after learning Tintri might not survive.

"That was a terrifying 48 hours," Mowry said of the two days of proceedings in a U.S. District bankruptcy court. "We were in a position where we needed some additional storage, so we started looking immediately at other arrays, trying to prepare for what the next step might be."

Mowry said his team looked at most of the large vendors, and "none came close to the tool set and capabilities" of the Tintri storage. Whoa Networks was invited to VMworld in August, and met with DDN personnel on the day of the acquisition when it launched the Tintri by DDN brand.

"I am thoroughly pleased to see what they bring to the table," Mowry said.

Maybe some symbiosis

Tintri started out in 2011 selling VMstore hybrid arrays that contained disk and flash. The array's VM-level management made it a favorite for VMware shops. The flash handled writes and most IOPS. Tintri hybrid arrays allowed Tintri to deliver quality of service to each VM, giving a boost to analytics, replication and storage provisioning. Storage intelligence moves data to whichever tier of storage an application requires, allowing data to move seamlessly between flash and fixed disk.

Tintri added VMstore all-flash arrays in 2016, a move that may have undercut the value of its real-time storage analytics. Instead of hybrid models, Tintri elevated all-flash as the VMstore flagship, competing in what had already become a crowded market for flash storage arrays.

Tintri accumulated a staggering $376 million in losses by the time it went public in 2017. A lackluster initial public offering netted $60 million, well off its projection of $109 million. From there, it was a quarter-by-quarter struggle for Tintri to regain market share and investors' confidence. For its last fiscal year, Tintri's expenses outran sales by nearly $100 million.

Nasdaq delisted Tintri in June when its stock fell below $1 a share for 30 consecutive trading days. On June 30 -- the anniversary date of its IPO -- Tintri ceased operations.

Weeks later, DDN won a battle for Tintri against a Texas hedge fund.

Tintri by DDN executives said the hard times are behind them, with a reestablished channel in place and nearly 100 new employees hired. As part of the acquisition, DDN was required to hire a set number of Tintri engineers to maintain the product lifecycle.

"DDN started hiring some Tintri employees before the deal was finalized, which was a smart move" to advance joint engineering, Hagay said.

The acquisition gives DDN a way to gain more presence in midrange enterprises, adding to its high-performance computing storage business, said Kurt Kuckein, a senior director of marketing at DDN. Getting a major release out the door before the end of the year shows customers that development will continue on the Tintri product, Kuckein said.

During a recent media event at DDN's Santa Clara, Calif., office, senior vice president of products, James Coomer, said container support is on the Tintri roadmap.

"Tintri focused on VMs, servicing each VM based on its unique needs," Coomer said. "We're looking at taking that same technology and using it to service containers and databases in a similar way."

Coomer said the Tintri 2019 roadmap includes expanding its analytics. "We see a long-term path to autonomous storage systems," he said. "There are a few steps we have to go through to get there. In 2019, the steps will involve providing advice to customers. So instead of having to look for logs or alerts, they will receive well-curated advice."

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