DataDirect Networks – Manipulating Data, Increasing Productivity!

The need for data storage and data processing is growing exponentially. Since the pandemic has shifted the maximum working and functioning of enterprises to online mode, it not only has increased the need for more data storage, rapid processing of the same data for better planning and implementation, most important of all being to maintain the integrity and safety of the data. Enterprises have to incur heavy expenses to do the same but still find it difficult to produce the desired results and unlock the maximum potential of their data.

This calls for specialists and pioneers of data storage and management, who not only secure the data in pristine condition but also run the various management programs and tools available, so the enterprise not only benefits from the same but also can put the results into better use, projecting them into the trajectory of success and holistic growth.

DataDirect Networks (DDN) is a revolutionary company working in the field of data storage, AI, analytics, and high-performance computing (HPC) environments, to enable enterprises to unleash the maximum value and inference from their data and deploy the same at extremely paced rates.

DDN is one of a kind company, dominating their domain and leading the competition in the market, through their innovative, cutting-edge, and breakthrough services, that not only enhance the working of enterprises but also enhance their performance, ultimately helping their clients achieve a solid growth scale and an impeccable functioning in terms of data handling and management.

In conversation with the President and CO-founder of DataDirect Networks, Paul Bloch. Let’s hear more about the company, its services, and the President’s professional journey.

1. Tell us about the company and the initial hurdles along the way.

Founded in 1998, DataDirect Networks (DDN) is the largest privately held information storage company. DDN provides large storage systems for unstructured data and big data, like Enterprise at Scale, AI, analytics, and high-performance computing (HPC) environments, and is deployed at more than 10,000 customers across enterprise, government, and academia sectors. 

30% of the aerospace and automobile industry, 40% of leading investment banks, 50% of the world’s largest oil and gas facilities, and 70% of the Top 100 fastest supercomputers in the world are powered by DDN’s high-performance data storage products. 

DataDirect Networks achieved record-breaking annual revenue of $400 million and its highest-ever profitability in 2020. In September 2020, DDN was rated #1 ahead of IBM, Dell EMC, Netapp, and HPE in a User Survey for Storage. Additionally, DDN was rated #1 overall, #1 in technical delivery, #1 in operational execution, and #1 in future purchase intentions. 

Choosing to build the company with minimal venture capital funding proved to be challenging in the early years, but turned out to help tremendously in the long run.

2. Tell us the factors that pushed DDN to the heights of success and how it has stayed as one of the most successful companies in the domain.

DDN initially built high-speed disk storage systems, selling their first systems to NASA. With the explosion of “Big Data” Alex Bouzari and I realized that a wider “transformative” event was happening in IT and that HPC-class storage would be needed for high-end analytics and data processing, with lightning-fast IO, and the ability to scale to much higher capacities. Rather than follow a larger market served by mainstream system and storage vendors, Alex and I decided to focus exclusively on fast access and high-capacity storage, particularly for unstructured data. By 2008, DataDirect Networks had exceeded $100 million in annual revenue and was providing storage systems for 48 of the top 100 fastest supercomputers in the world.

There are several reasons behind DDN’s success, including continued innovation and steadfast investment in R&D. Even today, we are investing over 15% in our R&D alone, as compared to many other big-name companies that are investing single digits or less. We are also constantly listening and understanding the requirements of our customers to develop products that meet those demands. Additionally, we aren’t afraid to develop long-ranging technology that may not be mass adopted until five-to-six years down the line.

We are also very focused on developing technology, such as Intelligent Infrastructure At-Scale, and take pride in being both the leader and expert in specific markets. Some of our customers have very small deployments while others have massive deployments, and it takes a coordinated team effort from engineering to support to be able to deploy the type of systems that we can deploy today.

Lastly, our approach to how we interact with our customers is key – we truly care about our customers, their success, and how we can improve, not just the bottom line but across the board. Because of this, we have many customers that have remained our customers for a very long time.

3. Tell us about the services DDN offers, new additions, and your plans to take these services ahead with the changing times and trends. 

DataDirect Networks focuses on providing Intelligent Infrastructure, AI, analytics, and multi-cloud storage and data management solutions for a changing world. For 20 years, DDN has designed, developed, deployed, and optimized systems, software, and storage solutions that enable enterprises, service providers, universities, and government agencies to generate more value.

They accelerate time to insight from their data and information, on-premise and in the cloud. Organizations leverage the power of DDN technology and the deep technical expertise of our team to capture, store, process, analyze, collaborate, and distribute data, information, and content at the largest scale in the most efficient, reliable, and cost-effective manner.

Our customers include many of the world’s leading financial services firms and banks, healthcare and life science organizations, manufacturing and energy companies, government and research facilities, and web and cloud service providers. Having backed over 60% of the Top 100 supercomputing systems in the world, our reputation as a leader is reinforced by our increasing focus on AI data storage. We differentiate ourselves from those in the market because not only do we have over two decades of expertise in deploying massive infrastructure, but we also produce innovative technology that continues the boundaries of the market.

The global demand for AI, analytics, and real-time insight has created new paths to innovation in every industry, along with massive management and scaling challenges. DDN continues to innovate and addresses these requirements by delivering Intelligent Infrastructure solutions that will improve operational efficiencies for countless organizations. DDN’s recent launch of the unified storage platform is a realization of our vision and the acquisitions made in previous years, enabling simplified integration of Tintri technology into DataDirect Networks’ portfolio to benefit both enterprise and HPC customers at any scale. Expect to see many more synergy and product cross-pollination across DDN and Tintri portfolios.

DataDirect Networks’ sustained vision and execution have made us the world’s largest privately-held data storage company. We will continue our technological and market leadership through our long-term investments in leading-edge research and development, our relentless focus on solving our customers’ end-to-end data and information management challenges, and the excellence of our employees around the globe, all relentlessly focused on delivering the highest levels of satisfaction to our customers.

To meet these ever-increasing requirements, users are rapidly adopting DDN’s best-of-breed high-performance storage solutions for end-to-end data management from data creation and persistent storage to active archives and the cloud.

4. Tell us about your professional journey and any achievements you would like to share.

I met Alex Bouzari, DDN’s co-founder, at Cal Tech and founded Mega Drive in 1988, which turned into DataDirect Networks in 2000. Mega Drive provided removable storage for government and agencies. Before launching Mega Drive, I worked at a technology transfer company for a couple of years and created a handwriting technology start-up that was quite successful, but the technology was not fully there for the platform at the time.

As co-founders, I and Alex have become leaders of a thriving company, and we are the best at what we do. We decided to focus on storage infrastructure at scale which started with high-performance computing, and now we’re focusing on both AI and AIOps. There’s always been a notion of demanding requirements for our customers.

Today, those requirements are more common-based, but 15 to 20 years ago that wasn’t the case. Although we have run into many obstacles along the way, remaining steadfast in everything that we do is an achievement in itself. Another key achievement is providing direct and indirect jobs to thousands of people. To us, it’s very meaningful because Alex and I were both immigrants and are achieving the American dream. 

5. Your take on the competition in the market.

Our competition is all of the “big boys,” the 3-letter or 4-letter acronym companies. How we cope with competition is with focus, having the best products and with trust from customers. We cope with competition very well because other companies cannot sustain the type of focus that we have. Although our competition is much larger, they have their hands on many things. In comparison, we at DDN are experts in what we do because we focus on one thing, Intelligent Infrastructure At-Scale. We not only do it well, but we are also even better than our competition when it comes to meeting the demands of infrastructure requirements.

Yes, we love competition. It drives us and it makes us better when we are challenged by a company. We are not afraid of any competitor, no matter how big or small. Competition isn’t just about products. It can center on relationships with customers, politics, or influencers – many different factors. Competition helps us learn because the nature of business is that we are going to lose some deals, but in the end, we learn why we won or lost. In terms of products, we are always going to be the best, but the best products don’t always win.

To win a deal, it’s about understanding how to adequately capture what the customer is looking for, delivering that answer, and making sure that all of the elements are addressed – not just the product, but support, size, financials, and the fact that hopefully, DDN can be a better partner to resolve that customer’s issues. We welcome competition, we love when they innovate and see the market being advanced.

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