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Exclusive Interview With Ronald Bianchini, CEO and Co-Founder, Avere Systems

"Our cloud business is growing in high double digits and set to eclipse revenue from NAS Optimization this year"

Who is Ronald Bianchini?

He is:

  • President, CEO and co-founder of Avere Systems Inc.

He was:

  • Senior vice president at NetApp (leading the Pittsburgh technology center following Spinnaker Networks acquisition)
  • CEO and co-founder of Spinnaker Networks
  • VP at Fore Systems, following acquisition by Fore
  • Co-founder of Scalable Networks
  • and before, professor at Carnegie Mellon University

StorageNewsletter: With Spinnaker Networks you wished to build a scale-Out NAS. It was 2 years before Isilon was created and we know you did a fantastic exit with NetApp in 2004. With Avere, founded in 2008, it was again about file storage virtualization and acceleration, could you share with us the various elements that trigger the creation of Avere?
Ron Bianchini: The big focus is solving customers' problems and making them successful. So when we started the company one of the things I did was go on the road and talk to customers and learn what customers' problems were. That was incredibly important and that is what drove the core of our product.

The original insight into Avere was all about flash storage. Flash storage is what you find in your phones, it's very fast but very expensive. And we found ourselves asking the question: how do we optimize the data center for performance leveraging this new technology yet still allowing you to put all your capacity on disk? So we figured out a way, the optimal way, to get flash in so you get the benefit of the flash performance but you still are buying big amounts of capacity based in disk. What's interesting about it is the choreography of it all, figuring out how to organize the data flows to show up when you need them to. And to be at the right spot at the right time.

Where we succeed is if you have a very large data set, and you're trying to mine it. You're trying to find the right decisions to make, and that's where our IP comes in. We give you this ever-increasing performance while you're still having this ever-increasing capacity of data.

Avere evolved a lot since the beginning with several OS iterations and market influences? Please summarize?
We figured out that not only could our IP be used in the data center to make slow storage fast, it could also be used in the cloud to make latency between customer data centers and the cloud disappearing. We're trying to solve a general problem of, "I'm here, my data's over there, how do I make all this work" as if it was all in one location. Now businesses can use the cloud as if it was in their data center. It's completely changing the landscape of how enterprise customers adopt the cloud.

What are the features you have developed that create your differentiator on the market?
With Avere's cloud features capabilities, such as FlashMove and FlashCloud, companies can move data to and from the cloud and can add and reduce capacity when they need it. What really differentiates us is that we allow companies to decide where their data is stored - on premises or in the cloud - while allowing them to leverage the services of the public cloud, such as the ability to spin up lots of compute.

We see that you address data consistency for data stored in the cloud and your solution is unique for that? How do you solve that Cloud 'natural' behavior? (I refer here to the CAP theorem)
The CAP theorem states that in the presence of a network partition, one has to choose between consistency and availability. Therefore, it is mpossible for a distributed storage system to provide all three:

  • Consistency - Every read receives the most recent write or an error.
  • Availability - Every request receives a response, without guarantee that it contains the most recent version of the information.
  • Partition-Tolerance - The system continues to operate despite an arbitrary number of messages being dropped by the network between nodes.

Here's where Avere has the CAP advantage: our NAS technology used in tandem with the public cloud introduces a system that has all three capabilities: consistency, availability and partition-tolerance.

How many customers do you have? What are segments where you see fastest growth? Where your installed base is the largest one?
We have close to 200 customers across a select number of verticals that we focus on: media and entertainment, life sciences, financial services, technology and government. An average customer is also a repeat buyer, once they purchase the first amount of Avere equipment, they purchase an average of 4 more times. Our fastest growing segment at the moment is life sciences and they are also leading in terms of adopting a hybrid cloud architecture as well.

In two words, why users select your firm and not your direct competitors?
Hybrid cloud.

In term of business, we understand you're 100% channel oriented right? How many of them do you have? What is the profile of these partners? Are you looking for new ones?
Our channel mix is actually 50/50 – half of our deals are sold directly and the other half are indirect. We have around 50 registered VARS and distribution partners in our program; however, some are much more active than others. The newest partners we are working with specialize in the cloud, specifically in how to move enterprise applications and workloads to the cloud. So, we are always on the lookout for new partners, especially ones that have expertise in working with the AWS, Google and Microsoft cloud platforms.

What about OM or other alternatives?
We do not currently OEM our product to any other vendors; however, we do have virtual instances of our product for each of the major public cloud providers so that we can run in their cloud environments.

How do you price your products?
Our prices run the gamut from an hourly price in the cloud around $4 per hour for a virtual Avere instance all the way up to $100,000 for our top of the line FXT hardware appliance with 384GB of memory and 10TB of flash. It really depends on the use case - in cloud, or on-premises – and how much they use Avere. One thing that the cloud has done is to allow us to attract smaller customers that are using the cloud for infrastructure. Before that, we sold mostly to large companies that had a big data center footprint.

Could you share your revenue range, we heard something around $40 million?
We are still a private company and do not disclose revenue figures. The one thing I can say is that our cloud business is growing in the high double digits and is set to eclipse revenue from NAS Optimization this year.

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