Driving ahead

Editorial Type: Interview Date: 2018-11-01 Views: 1,280 Tags: Storage, SSD, Flash, Strategy, Data Centre, Memory, Ortial PDF Version:
Storage magazine editor David Tyler speaks to Mark McCarter, product manager at Ortial, one of the fastest-growing businesses in the SSD sector
David Tyler: Can we start with some background: where has Ortial come from, and what has been your focus since joining the company?
Mark McCarter: Ortial was established in 2013, originally as part of the Pinnacle Data Group, a US office was opened in 2016, and by February 2017 Ortial Technologies surpassed its revenue targets with a business focused primarily on server memory. In September 2017 we launched a range of networking components (transceivers and cables) to support the range of memory products that were already established and then - probably of most interest to Storage magazine readers - SSD products. We now have German, New Zealand and Australian offices which only opened in the last few months. Ortial is currently growing 70% year-on-year, and our rate of growth is quite surprising to many in the sector. And that growth is supporting us as a business as we expand in lots of different ways.

I was brought into the business specifically with a product management remit off the back of all the new product releases we've been introducing - this is very much my background, bringing new technologies to market. I've been developing a roadmap for new product development to keep the expansion going in terms of products and revenue.

DT: Tell us more about the SSD range and where those products sit in the market.
MM: As I said, 2017 saw us launch our own SSDs products - a Standard range and an Enterprise range, and now most recently a new Performance range that sits 'in between' the two. These are very high spec products at a very affordable price, which lets users put enterprise products into existing servers - a way of refurbing existing IT infrastructure and prolonging the useful life of that technology.

We have products already that stand up 'spec for spec' against our main big-name competitors in the enterprise SSD sector, but the price of those models reflects that very high spec and that doesn't suit every potential buyer. We saw a market opportunity for a more competitively priced offering, particularly in that 'refurb and reuse' market space.

Currently we can offer products at a substantial price differential to the established Tier 1 brands, while still maintaining very high levels of service: we ship everything same-day, we maintain 5,000 lines of stock and manage our own purchasing very tightly to make sure we can handle any temporary dips or bumps in currency fluctuations, for example. From our UK head office we are now supplying to 50 countries worldwide - though the bulk of our sales are still in the UK for the moment.

DT: You mentioned being brought in to manage the company's continued expansion plans - can you elaborate on the strategy?
MM: We've had a really good year, and we're looking to continue to expand. We're planning to recruit specialist staff - we're always on the lookout for talented people - and potentially move office and establish our own warehousing operation early in 2019. Our product testing team is one area where we are recruiting to help expansion. Although we are still a relatively small business unit, we are very highly skilled - my own background is in engineering, for instance, so I can influence testing as well as product development. And that breadth in depth is reflected across the whole team - multi-skilled and highly focused.

All of our product assembly is done in the UK, and we think that is an important part of our appeal to customers. Being totally UK-based means we can offer a localised 24/7 technical support that the Korean or Chinese brands, for instance, aren't able to match. We are at that interesting point as a business where our UK focus remains vitally important even as we are transitioning into being a global business with our various offices and sales operations around the world.

DT: How important is the channel to your growth plans?
MM: We're currently talking to a number of distributors and we've had some very good interest with regards to the channel. As I already touched on, it's important that any distributor coming on board with us has a pan-European reach, at the very least. Our plans for next year involve that ability to reach out across Europe. At the same time we have entirely new product ranges to bring to market as well, which will diversify our target markets into areas including the gaming sector. We see gaming as a key growth area for us next year, building on our in-depth expertise in SSD and memory technologies.

There are also plans to diversify the portfolio next year in terms of introducing a line of mini-PCs; this gives us a way to get Ortial memory and SSD products out to a wider market. The strategy is always that any new product must complement what we already do in some way.

DT: How do you see the Ortial proposition as differentiating itself from the rest of the market?
MM: As a company, Ortial is consistently ambitious - we have very aggressive targets that we're determined to hit. As well as bringing a distributor on board we hope to at least double our turnover over the next 12 months, all while investing in new people and facilities. So there are some very big targets to aim for, but at the same time we have a very comprehensive strategy to back those targets up.

It is worth mentioning that we offer a ten year warranty on all Ortial SSD products - we wanted to offer a significant step up from the standard 'me-too' market offering, typically 5 years. We do a lot of accelerated life testing on our product and we have a great deal of confidence in our offerings. That warranty applies on the entire range, by the way, from Standard right up to Enterprise grade.

At the same time, Ortial SSDs tend to be more affordable than comparable products from say Kingston or Crucial. The depth of our product range, our aggressive pricing, backed by the reliability inherent in a ten year warranty all help us to stand out from the crowd.
More info: www.ortial.com

"As a company, Ortial is consistently ambitious - we have very aggressive targets that we're determined to hit. As well as bringing a distributor on board we hope to at least double our turnover over the next 12 months, all while investing in new people and facilities. So there are some very big targets to aim for, but at the same time we have a very comprehensive strategy to back those targets up."