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I was introduced to Paula Long the CEO of DataGravity about the same time I arrived at a16z (nearly four years ago).  Every time a new storage deal was pitched to us, I would call Paula to get her thoughts. Given my own background in storage and systems software, I was blown away at Paula’s depth and knowledge in the space. Not only did she articulate every technical nuance of the project we discussed, she had an uncanny feel for what was likely to happen in the future.

Paula casually rattled off every company doing similar things, price and performance of solid-state storage, file systems, volume managers, device drivers, block interfaces, meta data, NAS, SAN, objects, and security. It was enough to make my head spin, yet she analyzed every situation with a clarity that I had never seen before. I had known Paula as the founder of EqualLogic (her prior storage company acquired by Dell for $1.4 billion in 2008), but her insight and wisdom about everything storage far exceeded that of anyone I had met. When she came to me with her own ideas for a new storage company there was no hesitation. Betting on Paula would result in something really special. In December 2012 we invested in DataGravity.

When we talked about DataGravity in those days, Paula would tell me how the real future of storage was unlocking the information residing in the gazillions of files and terabytes of unstructured data that organizations store but never use. She articulated that most other storage companies were in a race to zero; chasing the faster and cheaper angle, with their solid-state storage and incremental innovation. “Table stakes,” she would say. “DataGravity is going to do something never done before. We are going to unlock the value of storage. Storage is the obvious place for intelligence to be surfaced.” This all sounded great, but – even with my background in the space – I never fully appreciated what Paula had envisioned. She had a secret.

Today, DataGravity is unveiling the world’s first data-aware storage system. The system is quite simply revolutionary. We saw a demonstration of the system’s capability at a board meeting a few months ago, and that is when it all came together for me. This was not some incremental system that everyone else was building, but an entirely new way of managing storage and information. I left the board meeting thinking that all storage systems in the future would have elements of the DataGravity concepts. It was truly new thinking.

This was not some incremental system that everyone else was building, but an entirely new way of managing storage and information.

The secret sauce DataGravity brings to the market is making dumb storage smart, all in a single system. DataGravity is both a primary storage array and an analytics system combined into one. The combination — without any performance or operational penalty — means, for the first time, that organizations can use their primary storage for file storage, IT operations, AND analytics at the point of storage. “Data-aware” means indexing and giving storage intelligence before it is stored. Instead of having dedicated and expensive secondary systems for analytics, operations and data analysis, DataGravity does it all in one place.

DataGravity is about to change the way we think about storage. From the demographics of data, to data security, to searching and trend information, the system will unlock an entire class of capabilities that we have not yet begun to comprehend. For example, imagine knowing when a file is being written or corrupted, before it is accessed. Or being able to identify subject-matter experts in an organization based on who is writing the most content on what and when. Or determining data ownership and control and correlate this with active or inactive employees. All this from a “storage” system.

So here we are today at an amazing inflection point in the history of storage. Twenty years from now, we’ll look back at this day as the day storage went from being dumb to being smart. The day that transformed the way the world stores its information. Just as Paula predicted, and just as Paula knew.

 

 

A new architectural era in computing is upon us, and the datacenter is changing to accommodate it. The cloud generation of companies has ramped their dominance and proven their models, and the legacy enterprise is close behind in making this massive shift. These new datacenters—as pioneered and designed by Facebook, Google, and Twitter—are defined by hyper-scale deployments of thousands of servers, requiring a new software architecture to manage and aggregate these systems. Mesosphere is that software, and we believe this architecture will be as disruptive to the datacenter as Linux and virtualization have been over the past decade.

Today’s application architectures and big data workloads are scale-out, stateless, and built to leverage the seemingly infinite processing capacity of the modern datacenters. These modern hyper-scale datacenters are the equivalent of giant supercomputers: they run massively parallel applications that serve millions of user requests a second. We are moving from a collection of servers running discrete, stateful applications, to massive scale-out applications that treat the hardware as one giant server.

In that “giant server” view of the world, Mesosphere is the obvious foundation for this new cloud stack and adoption is scaling fast. Look under the datacenter hood in many forward-looking, hyper-scale environments, including Twitter, Airbnb, eBay, and OpenTable, and you will find Mesosphere.

The Future of the Datacenter is Aggregation (not Virtualizaton)

Ten years ago, virtual machines (VMs) revolutionized the datacenter. This was because while the servers were getting bigger and bigger, the apps running on them pretty much stayed the same size. In order to make better use of those large servers, it made sense to virtualize the machines so that you could run multiple applications on the same machine at the same time.

Today, aggregation is fomenting a similar revolution and applications don’t fit on single machines anymore. In today’s world, applications run at a much larger scale (millions of users, billions of data points, and in real-time) and they are essentially large-scale distributed systems, composed of dozens (or even thousands) of services running across all the machines (virtual and physical) in the datacenter. In this world, you want to stitch together all of the resources on those machines into one common pool from which all the applications and services can draw.

Aggregation has proven itself in the A-lists of hyperscale companies, like Google and Twitter. They’ve demonstrated that it’s much more efficient to aggregate machines—pooling all of the resources—and then build applications against the datacenter behaving as a single machine.

Aggregation, and the tools to manage it at scale, is what Mesosphere is bringing to everybody —and it’s what we believe the future of the datacenter looks like.

The companies that buy into this architecture do not abandon virtualization, containers, or other approaches. These become important infrastructure components. But the way they manage their entire datacenter will evolve beyond the duct tape and band aid, highly manual approach to scripting IT operations tasks and “recipes”, and configuring dependencies each time a new application is brought online or a server goes down.

Mesos: From UC Berkeley to Reality

In 2009, Mesosphere Co-founder Florian Leibert was working at Twitter to scale the application in response to its exponential growth. At the time, he spotted a new open source technology that had been built at UC Berkeley called Mesos and he helped Twitter bring it into full production.

Today, almost all of Twitter’s infrastructure is built on top of Mesos, which is now an Apache open source project and is at the core of Mesosphere’s products. The Mesosphere stack, which includes Apache Mesos, is not a hypothetical technology. It’s highly mature and battle-tested, in large-scale production, running in both private datacenters and in public cloud environments. Other organizations using Mesos include: Hubspot, Airbnb, Atlassian, eBay, OpenTable, PayPal, Shopify, and Netflix.

Mesosphere is harnessing the core open source technology of Apache Mesos, and making it possible for everyone to tap into its power. By building an entire ecosystem around Mesos, they are making it easy to install, operate, and manage. For developers, Mesosphere provides simple command-line and API access to compute clusters for deploying and scaling applications, without relying on IT operations. For IT operations, Mesos abstracts the most difficult low-level tasks related to deploying and managing services, virtual machines, and containers in scale-out cloud and datacenter environments, and provides true automation, fault tolerance, and server utilization for modern scale requirements. Finally, Mesos allows applications to move between different environments without any change to the application.

Mesosphere will help define the next generation datacenter. I am honored to be joining the board of a team of dedicated system-level software engineers who will change the face of enterprise computing.

Everything that can be invented has been invented.
—Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. patent office, 1899

Last month, we gathered 75 of the top CIOs from around the country to discuss the new generation of enterprise software and the redefined role of the CIO. These CIOs are dealing with an unprecedented level of experimentation and innovative new approaches focused on unsolved problems in enterprise software. The end result will be a complete remaking of the entire enterprise software stack at the intersection of cloud, mobile and SaaS.

All of the CIOs are also facing a changed environment, one where every department within an organization makes its own software buying decisions, outside the purview of the CIO. This “departmentalization of applications”—from Box for collaboration to GitHub for software development to Tidemark for Enterprise Performance Management—means the CIO not only needs to figure out how to enable the department and employee to leverage these software products, but also meet the security and compliance requirements of the larger corporate environment—which, by the way, Bromium, CipherCloud and Okta allow you to do. These CIOs know that they can adapt or organizations will adapt without them.

Their jobs weren’t always so difficult. For those of you old enough to remember, there was a time when enterprise computing was almost exclusively dominated by Microsoft, Oracle and Cisco. It was a time when on-premise, Windows-based applications were the de-facto standard and there was no alternative. The enterprise was so entrenched that challenging the status quo was viewed as suicidal and very stupid. So hardened was the thinking that most innovation in the enterprise was relegated to mere feature extensions of existing solutions.

Fast-forward to today and the world of enterprise computing has done a 180. Traditional IT is being blown to bits as cloud infrastructure, Software-as-a-Service and mobile computing become the new standard. We are experiencing innovation and usage as never seen before. It is truly a renaissance of massive scale. Hundreds of billions of dollars are up for grabs as buyers shift to new architectures and away from old, as new users and new markets embrace the availability and ease by which they can consume technology.

On the Road to a Revolution

VMware and Salesforce catalyzed this movement from unlikely origins. Both were little known and under-funded, but against all conventional wisdom each visualized a new world order—a world where the data center was virtual and where applications would run off-premise, eliminating op-ex and painful software upgrades. The world watched but there were few believers. “Suicidal,” people said. “Why would I ever permit my precious customer data to reside outside my firewall?”

But momentum grew. VMware figured out how to effectively break apart the functionality of software from the hardware it resides on, driving a new set of economics into data centers. Salesforce began expanding beyond CRM, demonstrating the wider viability of subscription-based payments and the customer benefits of constant iteration. Customers began to believe that this new vision might actually come true. From a single virtual server and a single customer relationship app, both companies paved the way for a new world order.

Every part of the business software stack is now being remade—from infrastructure to applications to mobile to analytics—with every incumbent in danger of having its core business eroded. And, sure, incumbents will try to buy innovative products and will try to develop their own competing technologies, but the reality is that this new paradigm disrupts the entirety of these businesses. Overcoming a foundational shift cannot be met by a simple product buy or even a strategy change—the new breed of enterprise software startups has different revenue recognition policies, different sales models and different go-to-market models, and engineering processes than incumbents. We are talking about transformations occurring here simultaneously in technology and business models! It’s an entirely new approach to IT.

The Departmentalization of Applications

Buyers are clamoring for this new approach. None of our portfolio companies use Oracle. Some use Microsoft, but the majority opts for Google or an open source package. In our own Executive Briefing Center, where we connect and facilitate exchange amongst global brands and the rising stars in tech, we’re finding that even enterprise CIOs are looking beyond mature players to new and emerging technology companies, especially in areas like cloud computing, mobile, big data and SaaS. These are the early indicators of a more permanent shift in IT consumption habits. This shift is resulting in software applications that are targeted for specific business functions. Apptio, for example, has built a world-class application that specifically targets the CIO as a customer. Mixpanel helps companies learn from their data and grow their business, with a specific focus on analytics for mobile applications. This shift is what I am calling the “departmentalization of applications”.

And entrepreneurs know that incumbents are vulnerable. We see a tremendous number of entrepreneurs bringing a new approach to this crusty, old enterprise software market. We see entrepreneurs like Ben Werther of Platfora, who is passionate about up-ending the Business Intelligence market, and Ash Ashutosh of Actifio, who is creating the next generation storage software.

These are entrepreneurs who choose to do the hard work of building software for companies to use, and the software they are creating is elegant, fast, does what it’s supposed to, and priced fairly. This is an unbeatable value proposition. For everyone except perhaps the incumbents, this is a great time to be involved with enterprise software.