Industry Innovators

Welcome to the first edition of Industry Innovators, where we sit down with industry thought leaders to get their perspective on what they see as the key challenges and opportunities facing the industry and IT executives.  Befitting of this section’s title is a company that won VentureBeat’s CloudBeat 2011 Innovation Showdown – Zadara Storage.

Today, I am pleased to be joined by Noam Shendar, VP of Business Development, who is no stranger to innovation and enterprise storage.  Prior to joining Zadara, Noam was with LSI and StoreAge.

Zadara is pushing the boundaries of cloud storage in the enterprise with its Virtual Private Storage Array technology (VPSATM).  To learn more about the company, please follow the links provided below.  Our discussion today will focus on the challenges that Zadara sees and what makes its approach different from the many other cloud solutions out there.

Welcome, Noam, and thanks for joining me.

SDI:  Zadara is an interesting name; does it have a particular meaning?

Noam:  We think the story behind it is interesting, too. The name comes from the date of our founding in the Hebrew calendar, the 7th day of the month of Adar A, where the letter Z in Hebrew stands for the number 7: Z-ADAR-A.

SDI:  Cloud Expo concluded recently in Santa Clara.  What are the greatest challenges that you see facing widespread Cloud adoption at a high level, and are they the same as those expressed by show attendees and your customers?  Sometimes the industry focuses on the strategic challenges when customers are struggling with more mundane, tactical problems, especially when it comes to adopting new technology.  Product interoperability is always an issue.

Noam:  We do take a somewhat tactical approach, in that we provide private Enterprise-class storage, at public cloud prices, at a number of popular cloud providers. You can say it’s tactical because we enable customers to take their existing applications, unmodified, and run them in the cloud. Whereas some advocate that to take advantage of the cloud one has to build applications from scratch, we say that is a laborious, expensive and not always necessary endeavor. For those situations where re-architecture is unnecessary (and there are very, very many of those), we offer a better way. We think the fact that we solve these mundane yet ubiquitous and difficult problems will make us the most widely adopted cloud block storage software among cloud providers. 

Data Security is another common concern that we hear about from our customers, whether that is for regulatory compliance reasons or safeguarding one’s strategic data assets.  Again, we take a tactical approach, securing the data with military grade encryption. Customers manage the keys, ensuring that no one else has access to their data – not Zadara, not the cloud provider.

SDI:  What advice would you give companies in order to get beyond those concerns? Related, what should they look for/look out for when choosing vendors/partners?

Noam:  Get educated about the pros and cons of the various approaches in the cloud. “The cloud” is a bit of a misnomer because it should be plural; there are many cloud vendors and many approaches. For each application you wish to run in the clouds, decide if it should be migrated as is, rewritten for the clouds, or transitioned to a SaaS offering. That first option (migrate as is), thanks to Zadara, has just become extremely attractive. We also have discovered that we are a great help to the 2nd category (certain clouds-specific applications) because we provide some of the best storage IO rates and latencies in the clouds. And, as I mentioned before, most of our customers are SaaS companies, which means we help with the 3rd category as well. 

SDI:  Turning to Zadara; what is Zadara’s approach to addressing those concerns and needs?  What is innovative about your approach?

Noam:  We at Zadara looked at the landscape and asked ourselves why the clouds market is so much smaller than the overall IT market – by orders of magnitude. Moreover, we realized the youth of the clouds only partially explains things. We then broke things down by type of technology: compute, networking and storage. We noticed that compute in the clouds is very good and practically identical to on-premise VMs. We also noticed that networking in the clouds is at least pretty good. But when we looked at storage, we saw a big problem.

Storage in the clouds looked nothing like on-premise storage. That was a red flag and we asked ourselves, given our very deep background in Enterprise storage, whether we could do better. And we did. We combined two things which until now were mutually exclusive: the power of traditional, on-premise storage arrays with the flexibility and economics of the clouds.  

SDI:  How would you describe the market segments within the cloud storage space?

Noam:  One way to divide things is by access protocol: object, file and block. Object storage is the most common type of storage in the clouds, and it has its benefits – especially simplicity and cost. But object storage is best only for static (unchanging) files and does not support most existing Enterprise applications. In contrast, file and block storage is what Enterprises are used to, but before Zadara those were either unavailable or lacking in the clouds.

SDI:  Where is Zadara’s sweet spot in the market – particular application, industry, etc.?

Noam:  We have seen the most traction with customers who want to run databases of all flavors (both traditional ones like MySQL, SQL and Oracle, as well as newer offerings like MongoDB and Cassandra). From an industry standpoint, most of our customers are in the SaaS (software as a service) space. We also have customers in the big data or analytics space. And with the introduction of file storage (NAS), we are seeing interest in running media (video and audio) and CAD applications using our storage in the clouds.

SDI:  Who do you see as your main competitors (company or technology)?

Noam:  Our main competitor is the status quo. Our toughest challenge is to convince customers to give the clouds and us a chance. Once they try, they fall in love. And they fall in love for two very different reasons. One is our technology: the ability to have a no-compromise experience in the clouds—performance, reliability, control AND flexibility—is liberating. The other is service: we stand with our customers at every step of the way. We advise, we assist and we proactively ensure that their experience is good. The combination is extremely attractive to cloud providers—because it means they can recruit Enterprise customers today—and we are seeing a lot of interest in and enthusiasm for our solution that corroborates that.

SDI:  What is next in terms of items on the roadmap for the company?

  1. What new features and/or support are coming?

Noam:  We are extremely excited about a number of upcoming data management features. Our alpha release of both snapshots and remote replication is very near. With snapshots, our customers can easily and rapidly back up and restore their data. And with remote replication, they can create a multi-region and even a multi-cloud-vendor storage environment. In other words, we are taking availability and continuity in the clouds to an even higher level!

SDI:  Tell us about the company’s recent announcement

Noam:  We’ve actually had a slew of announcements recently, which is the result of the rapid pace of our innovation as well as the effectiveness of our partnership strategy. On the technical side we announced both our File Storage (NAS) offering, and integration with OpenStack Cloud Block Storage (Cinder). And on the partnership side, we’ve announced our availability through the Rackspace Tools marketplace, partnerships for Disaster Recovery in the clouds, and our integration partner program, which we call ZIPP.

SDI:  Looking ahead, where are some of the untapped opportunities for cloud related innovation?

Noam:  If you believe we’re headed in the right direction, then there are two areas that follow. One is automating and simplifying the migration of applications from on-premise environments to the clouds. The other is automating and simplifying the use of the clouds as disaster recovery sites for on-premise applications. Not coincidentally, these two problems are very similar. And opportunities for innovation are, of course, not confined to traditional applications. We are seeing so much promise in the areas of public health and education to name just two, which were not possible before the clouds came to the fore.

SDI:  If readers have questions, who can they contact?

Noam:  We pride ourselves on making ourselves accessible – you could say that high availability is not just about our technology; it also applies to the ability to reach us. Readers can always contact me (noam@zadarastorage.com) and they are also welcome to use the Contact Us form on our website, which goes directly to all our executives at once.

That brings us to a close.  I’d like to thank Noam for his time and insight and thank Zadara for helping me to launch the Industry Innovator interview series.  Zadara’s approach to cloud storage certainly runs counter to traditional thinking where application re-engineering for the cloud is almost a given.  This eliminates a common and very real concern for CIOs who are contemplating moving to the cloud.

As always, I look forward to your comments.  If there is a Cloud, Big Data or Data Analytics company with an innovative approach that you’d like to know more about, let me know.

Zadara Links -

Crunchbase Profile

InfoStor – Six Storage Startups to Watch

Forbes – The Silicon Valley Startup Scene

Venture Beat Profile

Innovation Showdown Competition

Innovation Showdown Contestants

Openstack Summit

Dell Tech Center Blog – Virtual Private Storage Array

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