Hammerspace exec interview on supply shortages — and working for Warren Buffet

Are you affected by IT hardware supply shortages? We had an email interview with Hammerspace’s SVP for Strategy and Business Development, Tony Asaro, who’s been hearing from customers about this very issue. It’s real and it is affecting them.

Tony Asaro.

Blocks and Files: What are customers telling you about server and storage hardware order lead times?

Tony Asaro: We’ve heard from multiple customers that getting new hardware has a lead time on average of 16 weeks.  And that is across all suppliers.

What are the causes of the delays?

This is due to supply chain issues including sourcing components but also and perhaps a bit less obvious, transportation challenges, worker-scarcity, and even gas shortages in some parts of the world.

What effects do you see as a result of this in terms of IT projects being delayed and the economy generally?

What is of concern is that new projects that require dedicated hardware are being impacted. Many of them are directly tied to driving revenue, creating content, research, design, analytics, and the list goes on.  

And not only is availability a challenge but prices for hardware are also going up. So, as well as time-to-market being impacted, so too is profitability.  

The negative domino effect on the market doesn’t seem to be overly apparent today but all the signs are there. The question is whether it is a just bump in the road or something far more profound.

If customers are not willing to wait what can they do? Are any cancelling orders?

No-one that I have spoken to on this issue is cancelling, but they are delaying projects instead. They have their purchase orders in and are planning around the extended lead times.  

If the project is at the Proof Of Concept stage, then they are leveraging the cloud, if possible. POCs are becoming almost like staging areas so when their equipment arrives they will be more prepared. They are taking this time to work out nuances, best practices and optimisations.

Do you see customers being more willing to move to the public cloud if orders for on-premises hardware are being delayed?

Keep in mind that Hammerspace has a very strong cloud offering and as such our customers can focus on those aspects of the implementation. We are finding that customers are not necessarily moving their workloads into the cloud in lieu of on-premise system availability. Rather, they are prioritising the parts of their projects that focus on the cloud, which normally may have been done in later stages. It is now going to the top of the list.

At a macro level it certainly could be a boon for the cloud and SaaS providers in the short term, but they will eventually require new hardware as well — not just to meet new demand but to refresh their datacentres as equipment ages out. At some point, they may feel the pressure as well. They have a massive appetite for hardware infrastructure.

How does this affect Hammerspace?

It many ways it is good for Hammerspace. First, we can utilise existing storage assets that our customers have on-premises. As a software-defined storage solution, If their storage systems have spare capacity, whether it is NAS, SAN or object storage, we can utilise it. And of course, we can leverage the cloud for both compute and storage.

The other advantage of being software-defined is that we are not an appliance or pre-packaged with hardware. We can run on any commodity server and our customers tend to allocate the equipment they need especially for early stage projects. Having said that, we are not immune to the server shortages. We have customers that are delayed but luckily we can pivot to the cloud aspects of the projects. 

Can Hammerspace’s technology mitigate the delayed shipments? Could customers move to the public cloud temporarily and then move back?

You bring up a great point. One of our strengths is data orchestration. Once data is stored in our global file system, moving it from cloud to on-premises storage is child’s play for us. We do live, transparent data mobility that does not impact the users or applications.  

Do you have any sense on when the shipment delays may go away?

I wish I did. I would go work for Warren Buffett.