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My Tintri Journey: Erwin Daria

Who am I?

Chances are, you don’t know who I am. Unlike my esteemed colleague Rob Girard, I am neither a techno superhero nor do I have the courage to rock the mohawk. Like him I am a passionate technologist and one that has toiled over a great majority of my career focused on optimizing the infrastructure experience.

Beginning in the late nineties, and over sixteen exciting years, my career allowed me to manage every IT function found in the enterprise. My Tintri journey is both unique as well as shared across a great fabric of Tintri customers and employees.

How I met Tintri

In 2011, as a consultant in the venture capital space, I received an email from a colleague announcing a new technology startup exiting stealth mode. This company proudly proclaimed that it had built a storage solution designed specifically for the challenges in virtualized environments.

I was both intrigued and mystified.

You see, at the time, virtual machine storage configuration was a dark art, and really still is today across the marketplace. The requisite complex Excel spreadsheets meant designing storage looked more like statistical modeling than it did architecture.

Too few VMs on a datastore meant your cost per VM was sky high. Too many VMs on a datastore meant noisy neighbors and performance issues. We were perpetually stuck between waste and unhappy customers.

But this new kid on the block named Tintri was challenging the status quo. One datastore, thousands of VMs, any IO profile; all at 1 millisecond latency…and most boldly of all, setup in less than 30 minutes! My BS alarm was blaring inside my head. There’s no way this could be true. Both logic and experience told me that this was all hype and that I should ignore these fantastical claims.

Curiosity got the better of me. I filled out the “contact me” form. Spam be damned.

A sales rep contacted me and we agreed on a time for a demo. My skepticism grew.

“Smoke and mirrors…” I said to myself. The demo meeting came and within seconds, realized that there was no smoke. There were no mirrors. This was different.

Tintri had invented a new class of storage that operated at the abstraction of the modern datacenter. Not LUNs, not volumes, but virtual machines. The storage dashboard wasn’t full of irrelevant graphs and unintelligible jargon. It showed each virtual machine and a comprehensive view of their relevant statistics.

The performance and analytics were incredible, a completely different experience. Detailed and actionable information within a few mouse clicks and all without the need for storage expertise.

I was convinced. Any VMWare environment large enough to warrant shared storage HAD to include Tintri. Anything else was a disservice to the customer and a recipe for frustration.

The virtualization world needed to watch out.

It Just Got Real

By early 2012 I had transitioned into a role leading the IT infrastructure team for a global pharmaceutical. We were in heavy growth mode which meant all IT services had to exhibit the kind of elasticity that only virtualization could provide. We were going all-in: 100% virtualized. I knew I wanted intelligent infrastructure for these VMs, and to me, that meant Tintri.

Following corporate policy meant drafting a Request for Proposal. The Tintri VMStore T540 was newly released: Highly-available; 13.5 terabytes; Single datastore; VM-level performance isolation and analytics. All in a 3U package that could be installed without professional services…so all that stuff went into the RFP as requirements. I invited the two de-facto storage vendors at the time to bid along with Tintri.

“Who can even do this?”, they responded in bewilderment.

I won’t lie. There was a sense of delight at their incredulity. One vendor backed out immediately. The other came back with a bid 400% higher than Tintri…but offered a one-time discount to bring the costs in line with our budget ignoring the fact they whiffed on the requirements.

Tintri was a game-changer. I knew it. They knew it. And despite FUD from the industry giants, I made a career-shaping decision to go with the upstart.

Within a few weeks, Tintri was providing 100% of the virtual machine storage for our growing enterprise. All physical machines were converted to virtual machines. All new services would be virtualized.

Sans exception. Pun intended.

Our virtual infrastructure grew exponentially. We deployed dozens of new applications in support of the business. Tintri didn’t break a sweat, eventually supporting clinical operations applications, enterprise apps, virtual desktops, and everything in between.

To the Dark Side

After my run in Pharma, it was time for a new challenge. Once again Tintri came calling and in 2014, I became Tintri’s first enterprise SE. My personal experience with Tintri’s technology had proven incredibly successful and I was eager to share my story with as many virtualization fanatics like me as I could…and as it turned out, their experiences would mirror my own.

Tintri and its customers were flying high. I was flying higher.

While in the moment, sometimes there can be a jarring and unexpected turn away from “happily ever after”.

Much like storage architecture pre-Tintri, navigating stock markets can also be a dark art. For a million reasons perceived and for some real, Tintri was not destined to succeed as a publicly traded company. Customers LOVED our technology. Wall Street, it appeared, did not.

And so, in the summer of 2018, act one of the Tintri story would come to a close.

Why I came back to Tintri

Eventually, after sulking my way through a much-needed vacation, I found my way to an early-stage startup focused on multi-cloud container infrastructure.

The space was new. Silicon Valley’s version of the Wild West. Dozens of young upstarts, their pockets full of seed capital, looking to make their mark in this fanciful and new “multi-cloud” market…much like the “software defined datacenter” market of the previous decade.

Intermittently, Tintri would catch my gaze like a familiar friend from across the room.

Spiraling into bankruptcy is no milestone to hang your hat on. Coming out of hibernation lean and mean with new life certainly is.

The news that Tintri was to be acquired by DDN came in the fall of 2018. Though focused on my new role, I was rooting for Tintri. The technology was too good and too many enterprises had yet to experience the kind of change that I had personally experienced.

“Go Tintri go!”, I would whisper to myself, like an alumnus cheering for their alma mater in making a comeback.

Eventually, it became clear that customers were returning to the fold en masse, or had never left. Nothing else could offer them the experience that Tintri had, and they eagerly awaited the reliable supply of their favorite technology; budgets in hand. DDN proved to be a willing and able parent company, motivated by Tintri’s passionate bordering on fanatical customer base, to continue the story that had gone into intermission just months before.

Tintri, as it turned out, would have a second act: The Comeback.

As with many a second act, the protagonist changed by consequences must rise up to meet a challenge, often enlisting a rag tag crew of fierce and loyal allies.

One year removed, I was drawn back in. Slowly the pieces were coming into place. Customers had not left, and trusted former Tintrians were coming back.

The passion for a company and for a technology was reignited. I HAD to be a part of Tintri’s resurgence. I returned in the summer of 2019. Tintri may have a new look with some new faces; its core technology intact, tempered by flame, and rising again.

8 years after that first demo in 2011, it is still the most profound technology I’ve ever been a part of, and I look forward to being a part of its future as we continue to bring the Tintri experience to virtual environments everywhere.

-E

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