Sometimes it can take a while for a business to discover its core mission.
The cloud-based data platform now known as Silk started life in 2008 under the name Kaminario, a flash storage provider offering both hardware and analytics software products. Over the last two and half years, however, it has undergone an evolution to a software-only vendor, embracing the cloud under a storage-as-a-service model. The company rebranded under the name Silk in 2020.
The Silk platform is a layer that sits between the full applications stack and cloud data infrastructure. It allows users to move workloads between cloud vendors, to the private cloud or to on-premises. The company claims that users “get 10 times the performance out of their existing cloud data while spending 30% less.”
Customers include financial services, high-tech, software vendors, and medical and healthcare providers. Chief operating officer Itay Shoshani says the platform allows for faster access to data as well as more storage capability and services, such as data reduction through compression, than are available in the public cloud. “It’s critical for a company to be able to access data quickly, efficiently and in a protected mode,” he says.
To handle its hardware component, Silk turned to Tech Data Corp., distributor of a variety of I.T. products and services. Shoshani says the choice was made after a six-month review of prospective hardware vendors. In the end, it was drawn to Tech Data’s ability to provide global lifecycle management (GLM) services. “It was very clear that it had to be Tech Data, with their combined abilities,” he said. “They were able to do integration and installation, sell to partners and customers, and support it.”
Tech Data and Silk weren’t exactly strangers. Back when Silk was Kaminario, it was a customer of Signature Technology Group, Inc., a provider of data-center and professional services, which was acquired by Tech Data in 2015. Kaminario had been relying on Signature for global installation, deployment, maintenance and support of its hardware products.
“When Silk decided they wanted to take the direction toward being a software-only solution, they came to us because of our capabilities in other areas of our GLM business — the ability to design and build these solutions, as well as deploy and support them,” says Larry Miller, senior vice president of GLM with Tech Data. “They actually extended that beyond design to procurement of the components, which brought in another group within Tech Data, our global computing components (GCC) division.”
The GCC team took over responsibility for working with Silk to design and source the hardware components. Then Silk turned to the GLM division to build the solution in Tech Data’s integration center. Today, Tech Data manufactures hardware for Silk at its own factories in about a dozen locations around the world. “That allowed Silk to be purely focused on development of their software,” says Miller.
All of those changes in Silk’s core offering, including handing over the hardware component to Tech Data, presented the company with certain challenges. “As a young and brave company, we decided to go cold turkey,” recalls Shoshani. “We set a date, and in January of 2018 we went from selling perpetual licenses and hardware to selling subscriptions.”
The switchover required that the partners were aligned in their strategy “in a way that was cost-effective and, most importantly, met customers’ requirements,” says Miller. Ensuring product quality was especially vital, in order to address any defects in underlying components from suppliers. “Being able to respond to that and mitigate the impact on the customer was key,” he adds.
“We pulled through,” Shoshani says. “For some customers, it was actually a benefit to see a player like Tech Data come in as the one selling the hardware. It was a big vote of confidence.”
Miller sees the move by Silk as indicative of a larger trend toward outsourcing in the technology sector. “I’ve been in the tech industry for 40 years, and I would say that in the last two to three years it has increased significantly,” he says. Factors driving the change include the growing popularity of the cloud in support of a services-based model, as well as the transition of the value of intellectual property to software. Hardware, by contrast, is increasingly being commoditized. “Everything associated with hardware is no longer strategic,” he says.
As for Silk, it’s all in on the services approach. And Tech Data speaks now of providing “XaaS” — anything as a service. It views the concept as an opportunity for pursuing new product lines, arising from emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and the internet of things.
Miller sees the possibility of deepening Tech Data’s relationship with Silk. “One of the elements we haven’t explored with them yet is managing end of life,” he says. “Once equipment is approaching that stage, how do you manage that from a disposition standpoint?
“Silk wants to make sure its customers are moving to the most recent and advanced version of the product,” Miller explains. “Software drives the lifecycle in terms of the capabilities of the product — and it drives the viability of the hardware.”
Shoshani considers Tech Data to be a key partner in its ongoing efforts to attract more customers to its cloud offering and services model. Miller agrees: “Silk has been the epitome of a partner. We collaborate on virtually everything.”
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