Commencement Address to the Storage Class of 2015

mortor-board.jpegIt’s that time of the year, when our students are being sent off to the next stage of their lives, filled with big ideas and platitudes from a multitude of celebrity speakers. Some great examples include the recent commencement address given by Stephen Colbert, that now-famous High School teacher who told us “you’re not special”, and of course the prophetic talk by Steve Jobs.


Like all good speakers, I want to start by thanking you, storage industry leaders, practitioners, stakeholders, and influencers throughout the industry. And of course I want to thank the customers who, driven by continued 50+% annual data growth, generated by a growing array of digitized transactions, mobile and sensor devices, continue to buy our products and invest in our future.

I especially want to congratulate the accomplishments of the storage industry on a fruitful year. So far 2015 has been one filled with news, innovation, and accomplishment. A full and growing cohort of storage offerings, alternatives, and new entrants are now filling the aisles of data centers around the globe. 

Congratulations to you, the storage class of 2015!

No commencement address would be complete without a touching, personal story. My first job was in Accounting, cost accounting to be exact. And I witnessed the transformational power of digitization. I was tasked with converting a cost accounting department from being ledger pad-based to being spreadsheet-based. That generated a lot of spreadsheet files. More importantly, it allowed for fast consistent creation of product cost models, easier ongoing edits of analyses, and greater accuracy in the accounting of projects – many of which were important, defense related jobs. I learned first-hand how data improves the way business operates, as well as how it changes the lives of the people who work with it – in this case, the gentlemen who had been going through a lot of pencils before my arrival.

Here’s an inspirational quote: It was the industrious Henry Ford who said, “There is joy in work. There is no happiness except in the realization that we have accomplished something.” Let’s look at some of the key accomplishments of our business so far this year. Here are your 2015 storage class valedictorians:


  • Software defined storage – IDC terms this an approach that leverages commodity hardware to create a highly scalable storage platform through intelligent software. It’s expected to grow faster than many other storage segments, driven by the move towards distributed, virtualized systems. These new leaders include software-only offerings, those packaged with x86 hardware to create Hyper-converged products like EVO: Rail, and traditional array-based systems now available as pure software.
  • Flash storage – According to Gartner, solid state or flash storage arrays are coming into their own, competing with general-purpose arrays in every category except scale. Flash memory is changing rapidly, with advances in 3D NAND, Triple Level Cell and Multi-Level Cell technologies. Delivering value from these innovations include a growing host of start-ups, established storage players with products such as FlashRay, and manufacturers now going direct to end-customers.
  • Public Cloud storage – Also called storage-as-a-service, it’s taken off with the growth of cloud computing. Leaders include the familiar Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and IBM Softlayer, with their expanding offerings for archives, block and file, but there are hundreds of other service providers with a broad spectrum of hosted services along with storage. Also worthy of mention are solutions like NetApp Private Storage for Cloud that span traditional on-premise storage with the cloud.
  • Cloud-integrated storage appliances – Cloud gateways can be both physical or virtual, can focus on one or more storage services, and can provide connectivity to one or more target clouds. An example is AltaVault with multi-hypervisor support and available as instances in AWS and Azure.

It will be this generation’s task to deliver on the storage roadmap to a data-hungry world. The question each of us face, is not whether to evolve what we bring to market, but whether we will lead the evolution. I believe the world’s prosperity is a direct result of how well the data infrastructure products of today and tomorrow deliver on the ability to support a continued, blistering velocity of data use and growth.


Leaving here, you, the storage class of 2015, carry with you the respect of IT. You represent an industry with the power of innovation on your side. And you are here at a time in history where you will bring to bear the most positive impact towards the betterment of mankind.