Greater than the sum of its parts

Matt Medeiros, CEO of StorageCraft, speaks to Storage magazine editor David Tyler about how current rates of data storage growth have created the need for a new approach to intelligent data management

David Tyler: It's a couple of years now since StorageCraft saw a significant investment in its business from TA Associates, which was followed by the acquisitions of Gillware and then Exablox. To what extent has this helped you to deliver your proclaimed aim of a platform that combines primary and secondary storage?
Matt Medeiros: We have always had a vision: StorageCraft had a legacy software offering for backup and recovery, but it wasn't a complete solution. We needed to move things on quickly around product development, and acquisition was one way for us to get products and solutions to suit our customers' needs, and also to have better control of our own destiny. At the same time we had to revamp our approach to the channel - not because what we were doing was wrong, but more because the solutions we are selling today are very different to what we were selling prior to the TA investment.

Looking at our business model today we sell an awful lot of subscription services to the MSP market, around backup and recovery for their customers. Customers had been saying to us "We like your technology, but we don't want to have to do the heavy lifting of pairing your technology with the server, we don't want to have to optimise the solution - we would prefer you to do that."

DT: So the combination of StorageCraft and Exablox technologies is more than the sum of its parts?
MM: This was an opportunity to really disrupt the BDR (backup and disaster recovery) market; when you optimise the StorageCraft and Exablox technology you no longer have just a BDR offering, you have a scale-out intelligent data management solution. And that is precisely what we had defined as our vision.

We acquired Exablox over a year ago, and we've been working on unifying the products, making sure they not only complement each other, but work really well with each other. Now we provide our ShadowXafe product, the next generation of our ShadowProtect software, and it had to be optimised and unified onto our platform. That's what we've been spending our R&D efforts on since the Exablox acquisition. Now those products are integrated, the companies integrated, and we are able to serve our customers in a much more seamless way.

DT: How has this shift toward a broader data management offering affected business?
MM: We officially started shipping product in October 2018, but well before that our Exablox business in Europe was growing at well over 100% CAGR. That's not just down to the product, but also to the sales model we deploy here, as well as the people we employ and the leadership of the management team.

Our cloud offering is also enjoying well over 100% CAGR here in Europe. There is again a great connection unifying those products: we can seamlessly move data from a OneXafe solution to the cloud and back. Customers are definitely looking for that easy 'transportability', and the knowledge that their data is always going to be available to be recalled on demand.

DT: Does this growth in cloud business mean a shift in focus for you toward more enterprise level prospects rather than your traditional SME market?
MM: Some of our sales now would certainly suggest that they are well beyond what we'd typically think of as an SME type of investment, so yes I think so. Six-digit sales by customer are not uncommon for us these days. Equally it's not uncommon for a customer to be talking to us about not a terabyte of data in our cloud but a petabyte. Those are the kind of conversations we're having increasingly now: complexity, yes. Huge scale, yes as well.

Customers are also respecting the level of agility that we've brought into the business - unlike a lot of the status quo storage providers, our users have an expectation on us to be more nimble. The definition there of agility is not about us 'jumping through hoops', it's more about data being transportable, while still maintaining data integrity. Customers value that they don't have to go through a validation process to ensure that what they wanted transferred, did get transferred, whether that be on-premise or in the cloud. DT: How important is your partner network to the shift to cloud?
MM: We do all of our business through partners, and in the UK a huge percentage of our business is specifically through MSP partners, and they are having that conversation internally: whether to carry on doing things in their own data centres, or to come to StorageCraft and exploit the IP that we've built up. We're seeing a large transition of people moving to our cloud over the last twelve months or so, because it is so robust and so simple as a solution - and we anticipate that accelerating this year.

It comes down to this: whether you're an SME or a large enterprise, we have a foundational belief that not all data is equal. Certain data, you want to make sure is always accessible. And there is other data that, frankly, you just want to move it off to the cloud and "I'll get it when I get it."

DT: It sounds like a large element of your sales proposition is based on the idea that you can help businesses to regain control of a storage infrastructure that might be at risk of collapsing under the weight of exponential data growth.
MM: We're in danger of losing sight of the dilemma that if data is doubling every year, how does my IT budget keep up with that? We've simply got to get smarter. StorageCraft can give you intelligent tiering of your data, then you can make practical decisions on it. That's why we love our partner model - they are the professional services providers, who can go into a customer and analyse their business agenda while also helping them organise their data pools in the best way.

That is what we mean by intelligent data management: you can go in, perform a targetted analysis and prescribe a simple approach toward how the customer should look at their data and recovery. But this requires work - it's not just a matter of flicking a switch. Someone has to profile the data: what's important to your business? The answer will be different depending on who you ask, of course. That's why our partners have to have a close working relationship with the business.

It takes time to get there, but people are doing it - why are they willing to invest time and money to get this right? Because they just can't keep up with the exponential rate of growth of data. I've heard so many times: "My IT budget in 5 years is going to be 90% storageā€¦" That's just wrong.
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"We're in danger of losing sight of the dilemma that if data is doubling every year, how does my IT budget keep up with that? We've simply got to get smarter."