Having had a chance to look at your stand, it appears your priority from a consumer point of view is the My Cloud range – can you tell us about the My Cloud product and what it can offer?
We’re here in the reseller area of CeBIT, which is a special section specifically for resellers to come and see what they can buy and customize for their customers. That’s what our line of prosumer and business NAS is all about. CeBIT is one of the biggest shows of the year and we’ve been very excited to introduce new network attached storage (NAS) platforms. The traffic we’ve been getting because of this announcement has been great. We’re introducing two new multi-bay NAS solutions for prosumers and two new ones for small business owners. Basically, introducing new high-end processors amps up the rewrite speed for prosumers because they deal with such large files, whether they’re 4K video editing or just streaming to their televisions. They need the highest speed available, and as their assets get stored on the NAS, they want to protect them. With this in mind, we are introducing a sizeable amount of RAID functionality, as well as disaster recovery, in order to back up your NAS offsite – either to another NAS, the cloud or even external storage.
WD recently debuted the ‘world’s most power-efficient’ high-capacity 3.5 inch HDD for data centres, consuming just 6 watts for the 6 terabyte model. Which markets do you believe will be most successful for this particular product?
This product was aimed at new data centres, such as Google or Facebook, which have to store a tremendous amount of data every day. Data centres tend to have two challenges: one is space and the other is having to constantly cool their data centres. What they require are high-capacity drives that run on very low power.
According to GSMA – in the Internet of things era, the global cellular M2M connection will grow from 196 million in 2013 to nearly 1 billion by 2020. How has WD positioned itself to cater to this demand?
There are many areas where we’re working on this. One of the things that the NAS is perfect for, and even the My Cloud, in the personal space is from a data collection standpoint. Whether you’re looking for the health gear that people are starting to wear or the devices controlling their home, there is a lot of data that people don’t want to share publicly. By working with companies such as Z-Wave, we are storing data on the My Cloud, and then using the CPU on the My Cloud to process that data. This way, the consumer gets two advantages: The first one is that the data stays in their home and only gets released when they want it to, and the second one is that they don’t need a separate gateway, or some kind of IO2 processor, to handle all the connected devices in their home.
One of the latest issues, particularly in the public sector is training staff in order to handle and interpret Big Data. Is this something that WD covers in its training academies?
We have WD University, which is primarily focused on the used cases of our storage products. We aren’t getting into the Big Data analytics portion of it; it’s more about how to incorporate our products into your data centre, into your lab and storing your data more than analyzing it.
The MENA, M2M market alone is anticipated to be worth $US 9 billion in 2015. Given the emerging economies will have different demands or restraints to the developed markets, how does WD vary its approach in terms of the products it offers to its consumers?
There is certainly a different kind of distribution model depending on the market. In the Middle East, we are based in the UAE, where our marketing and sales force is set up. They handle the big markets such as India, Turkey, Africa and the Middle East region. The way our products are marketed are in line with the local expectations in the market, rather than, say, the market in the West.
From a Dubai perspective, we set up the office there about 12 years ago, in Jebel Ali. We were also the first company to have a collection centre for faulty hard drives as a way of improving service standards for our customers. We have now moved to Dubai Silicon Oasis Headquarters, where we have set up the hub for the region.
What products are you most excited about in 2015?
We’ve recently launched the My Passport Wireless, which is essentially a portable hard drive that you don’t have to plug into your computer. Your computer can communicate with the drive wirelessly over a network broadcasted by the drive itself. The drive can also receive an SD card, meaning you can directly transfer images from your camera to the drive. This is a new product category for WD and is doing very well. When you think about how the world is truly going wireless, you can imagine that in a few years from now, in the not-so-distant future, there won’t be a ‘wired’ anything. We’re excited to see where that category is headed. We’ve also recently relaunched the redesigned version of the bestselling My Passport Ultra and the My Passport X. 2015 has been an exciting year for WD, with another major launch stated for the end of the year – the upgraded version of the My Cloud.
What size does the My Passport range come in?
Right now, we have capacities of 500GB, 1TB and 2TB. I think that as the technology improves and we’re able to miniaturize the storage area and maximize the battery life, the capacity will continue to improve. You’re already looking at something that’s around twice the height of an iPhone 6 and it won’t be long before both devices have the same dimensions. Of course, when it comes to the network attached storage for both consumer and the My Cloud, there are a lot of directions we can move in with that, in terms of offering more performance and more flexibility. On the prosumer and business side, I think WD has only just scratched the surface. We’ve only been in that market for around 10–11 months, which is why we’re so excited to announce the new products I mentioned earlier. But I think we have a lot more value to bring to the market, so these are very important for us. On the portable, direct attached storage you’ll see us coming out with some interesting new vertical products that we think will generate a lot of excitement.
In your personal capacity as VP for consumer, what are the key achievements you’re looking to accomplish in 2015 and in the mid-term in the run up to 2020?
The way we look at the market place is that there are an incredible amount of USB attached external hard drives being sold. However, in the current day and age, from a desktop or home perspective, there’s no need for that. If people knew what a network attached storage drive could do for them and they thought it was easy enough to install and use, why would they ever buy a USB-based one? With a USB attached drive, you don’t have access to the data once your computer is turned off. The network-attached storage is always available, it’s always on, consumes very little energy and you can access it anywhere in the world from your smart phone. For us, growing the TAM for network-attached storage is our key focus. When talking about the number of people who would like to buy network attached as opposed to direct attached, we think the way to approach that in terms of what we’ve done is invest in the ease of use and ease of installation. One of the reasons USB external attached storage is so popular is because you just plug it in and it works. That’s really how we measure ourselves for our new network attached storage products. It would be great to grow the market as people become aware of how powerful that type of storage is, as far as remote access is concerned, and being able to centralize all of your family’s content onto one device and back up all computers in the home.
Right now, we target consumers with our My Cloud product. We target our prosumer market, which is the EX20100 and the EX 40100 – extremely fast, either two-bay or four-bay, with various RAID redundancy options and remote access. We also target small businesses with our new DL 2100 and DL 4100, which are Intel processors, so you can run multiple processors, multiple users and multiple applications. In the future, we shall be moving up to more users.
Which markets are you most interested in?
Since the election of Prime Minister Modi in India, things have really taken off and growth has been encouraging, with the easing of foreign regulations there. Emerging markets in the Middle East, South East Asia and Latin America are our key focus markets when it comes to growth.
The People’s Republic of China is sponsoring CeBIT 2015 – how important is the Chinese market to WD ?
WD is very successful in the Chinese market – the market for direct attached storage is phenomenal. When it comes to network attached storage, we’re still in a growth phase there, primarily because of the internet infrastructure there. The bandwidth there isn’t sufficient, so they can’t realize the value of network attached storage. As far as the size of the market, it’s a huge market for us as far as direct attached storage is concerned. We look to China as a key growth driver in moving forward. As the Internet improves, then certainly we’ll look to develop our NAS business there as well.
Is there anything you’d like to add on behalf of WD?
It is worth noting that in Europe, people store data on an average of 40 devices, such as laptops, cameras, etc. One of the biggest challenges for consumers is to centralize that data. The other issue we didn’t touch on is the privacy issue. Laws are currently being passed in Europe, dictating that data, emails and servers must be kept inside the country. Where we’re going with our personal cloud line-up is that not only is your data inside the country, it’s inside your house.
A network storage device is ideal for populations that have more of a mobile lifestyle than a traditional computing lifestyle, such as the GCC. Since phones fill up very fast, we have software that automatically transfers the content from your phone to your storage device, which you can then access at leisure. This is really what network-attached storage is all about; it’s the ability to free up the space on your mobile device. As far as economies go, the amount of storage that a country buys is directly related to its GDP. For the smaller and emerging markets, a direct attached portage hard drive is more approachable in price. But once the data starts getting spread all over the place, they’ll want to centralize it, so I think it follows the same trend in all the countries. When they start, our most successful products are lower priced USB storage units. As the Internet bandwidth and GDP start to increase, they become more sophisticated and start moving to network attached storage.
Interview was conducted at CeBIT, Hannover, Germany on 16th March 2015