Qumulo makes another round of layoffs

Qumulo has laid off customer-facing staff in “sales, marketing, sales ops, and field marketing,” according to a person close to the situation.

Bill Richter, Qumulo
Bill Richter

The scale-out and parallel file system supplier produces the Core software to run on premises, on its own and third-party hardware, and also in the cloud with a scale anywhere theme. It recently signed a reselling deal with Fujitsu.

The biz was started in 2012 by ex-Isilon execs who wanted to build a better scale-out file system supplier than EMC-acquired Isilon, and then the Dell-acquired EMC. The ongoing Isilon product is now branded PowerScale. Qumulo has raised a total of $351 million in funding with the lastest E-round bringing in $125 million in 2020. It has been led since late 2016 by CEO Bill Richter.

The company laid off around 80 employees in June last year as supply chain issues and insufficient growth caused a restructuring effort. There were also layoffs in February this year according to LinkedIn posts by execs in VAST Data and WekaIO. Now, 18 months later, we have a repeat exercise with, our source said, a deep layoff round.

Marco Goebel, director of Velocity sales was affected, with his LinkedIn post lamenting: “My wonderful time at Qumulo is coming to an end. After being impacted by the recent round of layoffs, it’s time to move on to new challenges.”

We contacted Qumulo about this and it denied there had been a deep layoff round. A spokesperson told us: “Qumulo did have a minor reorg last week but no broad-based layoff. This is part of the strategy to double down on modern product-led growth to maximize the Scale Anywhere value proposition of Qumulo, to increase investments in partnerships with the public clouds, especially Microsoft Azure and AWS. Only a small number of employees were impacted and the company actually has immediate plans to increase hiring into strategic growth areas of the business. Net headcount inclusive of new roles the company is hiring is virtually unchanged.”

LinkedIn posts from Jeff Denworth at VAST Data and David A. Chapa, then at WekaIO

Background situation

Qumulo is facing competition on two fronts.

Enterprise scale-out file system suppliers:

  • Dell PowerScale
  • NetApp ONTAP
  • Pure Storage
  • VAST Data
  • WekaIO

High-performance computing (HPC) file systems players:

  • DDN (Lustre)
  • IBM (Storage Scale)
  • Panasas (PanFS)
  • ThinkParQ (BeeGFS)

Both markets are feeling the generative AI push, with the most obvious effect being support for Nvidia GPUs via the GPUDirect protocol. All the listed enterprise file system suppliers above support GPUDirect. Qumulo does not. In the HPC world, DDN, IBM, and ThinkParQ support GPUDirect while Panasas and Qumulo do not. Panasas recently appointed a new CEO, Ken Claffey, and its GPUDirect stance may change.

We think Qumulo is getting squeezed in the enterprise file system market between industry leader Dell and mainstream incumbent NetApp on the one hand, and startup high-performance competitors VAST Data, which is growing fast, and WekaIO on the other. Its lack of GPUDirect support gives the other suppliers an easy competitive knock-off in AI-related deals. Dell is working on SuperPOD validation for PowerScale.

Our understanding is that Qumulo does not have a strong presence in the HPC market, where it is outsold by IBM and DDN. Again, with the AI surge bringing the enterprise and HPC scale-out file system markets together, its lack of GPUDirect support could be a limiting factor.

Qumulo says on its website: “Modern GPU-based massive parallel thread AI workflows can easily generate tens of thousands of concurrent reads, but many legacy solutions limit concurrent reads to a fraction of that. This throttles model-building. This needs to be fixed for AI to become highly agile.”

It adds: “Qumulo has never placed limits on how many simultaneous reads you can perform. So unleash the hottest new Nvidia GPU tools and models away, free of limits from your file data platform.” But it does not support GPUDirect.

GigaOm’s recent scale-out file storage radar report placed NetApp as a clear leader, with Pure Storage, WekaIO and VAST Data in front of DDN, Dell, Qumulo, IBM, Panasas and ThinkParQ.

The GigaOM analysts pointed out: “Qumulo is working on implementing data compression, extending its global namespace with geographically distributed deployments, and adding native S3 protocol support. Multi-tenancy capabilities are incrementally developed and should be fully available by the end of 2023.

“Qumulo offers a comprehensive scale-out file system solution that is simple to manage and implement [with] rich and complete data services … a broad choice of deployment models … making it one of the most flexible solutions currently available.

“Although the solution is very comprehensive, some important features are currently still on the roadmap. Better data reduction and multi-tenancy are among them.”