All data is not equal

Editorial Type: Interview Date: 2018-03-01 Views: 1,675 Tags: Storage, Backup, Data protection, Cloud, SMEs, Strategy, StorageCraft, ExaBlox PDF Version:
Storage magazine speaks to Florian Malecki, International Product Marketing Director at StorageCraft, about the company's recent acquisitions and the appeal of 'pay as you grow' storage

David Tyler: Our UK readers may be more familiar with the company you acquired a year or so back, ExaBlox, than StorageCraft itself; so can we open with some background on the business?
Florian Malecki: StorageCraft is probably best known globally for its backup and recovery software, ShadowProtect, and its Cloud Services for DRaaS. But we have made a number of interesting acquisitions in recent times: ExaBlox as you mentioned brought us OneBlox, which is a scale out object based NAS storage solution that addresses the needs of midsize and enterprise organisations, while Gillware Data Services (acquired in September 2016) adds very sophisticated data analytics to our portfolio. This allows us to help users to determine what files really needs to be backed up in the first place - and maybe more importantly, what does not need to be.

Customers locally who are using ShadowProtect are also able to replicate their data in our disaster-recovery cloud, thanks to our data centres in Europe (Frankfurt and Dublin). What this means is that if a customer experiences a server failure or a complete site-wide disaster, they can use our cloud to spin up virtual servers, so they can be up and running in minutes, almost as if nothing had happened.

Private investment back in 2016 has allowed us to push toward growing the business - as a backup specialist it was a logical step for us to acquire a storage company, hence the Exablox acquisition. The two companies already had a close working relationship, and we'd had a technology and sales agreement in place with them prior to the acquisition. The OneBlox product (from ExaBlox back then) was frequently being deployed as a backup target and was certified for use with StorageCraft, so there had been a partnership ongoing for some time.

Looking at StorageCraft as an organisation now, we have the backup and recovery offering, DRaaS with our cloud services and storage, as well as the analytics expertise from Gillware that complements our solutions well. Consequently we have become a data protection and management solutions provider, as opposed to a purely backup or storage supplier. We describe the StorageCraft proposition thus: "Safeguard your business data - combine the best in reliable data protection with infinite scale-out storage."

DT: Tell us a little about your route to market, as well as the kind of businesses you are targeting.
FM: Our go-to-market strategy is two-tiered. We sell through distributors and resellers as well as a growing number of MSPs who offer our products - or in some cases use our products as part of their backup/recovery and storage services to their own customers. If you look at the markets that we address, the focus is on the SMB and mid-sized enterprise.

Of course, we do have larger organisations as customers, especially in the OneBlox side of the business. A good example is Santa Clara University, which has around 9,000 users including students and staff - so yes, we can serve that size of customer for sure, but our sweet spot has tended to be around the mid-size sector. In terms of verticals, education, retail, healthcare, manufacturing and construction are all markets that we target for all of our offerings, as you'd expect.

DT: So how does the storage element of OneBlox integrate with your existing product offerings, and indeed with your marketing messaging?
FM: Firstly, the amount of data being created is growing exponentially of course, especially unstructured data, so organisations need to look not just at backups but at all of their storage: all data is not equal, so what is most important in terms of being in primary or secondary storage, or indeed in archives that need to be kept for regulatory compliance? You may not need to access that data for five years or more, for instance, and that's one area where the analytics we discussed comes into play. This total offering approach informs one of our key messages as a business: "Where your data is: always safe, always accessible, always optimised."

The way we are positioning OneBlox is with the idea of 're-imagining storage'. There are lots of different broad approaches to storage in the market: appliances, software-defined, even cloud solutions, but again for the mid-sized client who wants to keep storage on-premise, customers coming to us can literally BYOD - by which we mean not Bring Your Own Device, but Bring Your Own Disk. From an economy point of view, users - and especially MSPs using our technology to offer storage as a service - are no longer locked into a specific vendor's disks. Some of our rivals have their own disks, with very high markup, and that's where you see the Total Cost of Ownership getting higher and higher for the same capacity requirements.

This makes us much more cost-effective from that perspective. It is much easier for our customers to grow their capacity as their needs grow, rather than having to invest heavily upfront based on what is essentially guesswork. With OneBlox, the approach is more like 'pay as you grow' - very scaleable, and very much in line with how our clients want to work.

DT: How would you summarise your sales or marketing message in terms of how StorageCraft differentiates itself in the sector?
FM: From a sales viewpoint we have grown in sales and pre-sales, in order to help us get our concepts across to customers, as this is still quite a new way of looking at storage for many of the people we're talking to. We're often told that users didn't realise, for instance, that they could use their own disks (provided they are on our list of supported hardware, of course) in this way.

In the storage industry there are a number of very well established and dominant market players - I'm sure I don't need to name them! - and we're at a point now where we and some other similar sized companies are able to question the way those vendors have been doing things for the last 20 or 30 years. Storage is expensive, there's no denying that, and that is made worse when we point out that users are often using perhaps as little as 60 or 70% of what they are paying for. So why pay more?

The reason is - or it was - that people were unwilling to take the risk. For all the guesswork in building your storage infrastructure, when you reach the maximum level of scaling up, all you can really do is purchase a new infrastructure or new appliances, and painful forklift upgrades. What happens then is you start running storage systems that get more and more complex and more and more expensive. Typically over a 5 year lifecycle a vendor will have introduced new versions, new platforms, and started to introduce end-of-life for some of those existing solutions.

So a customer who needs to grow their storage capacity might be trying to integrate a new appliance with something they bought five years ago that is barely supported. This means users end up with various disparate silos - which no customer really wants - or they have to refresh everything and basically buy the whole shebang all over again.

The beauty of the StorageCraft approach is that you can scale out as you grow, and as your storage increases it doesn't matter, we'll be able to support you throughout your data lifecycle requirements.
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