On-prem enterprise backup is dead: Clumio CEO

We, as an authentic SaaS enterprise back-up company are scratching the surface – fast and furious – of the colossal market with our ‘SaaS first, Cloud first’ approach, says Clumio CEO Poojan Kumar.

poojan kumar cofounder ceo clumio edited

Poojan Kumar’s tryst with data, storage and cloud computing doesn’t seem to end. The IIT graduate from Mumbai who served as the head of Data Products at VMware and founder at Oracle Exadata, now has a new tech start up Clumio. The first company incepted by Poojan in his 18 year career, PernixData was acquired by Nutanix in 2016. Why another start-up? 

“I've done a new initiative in a big company that has made the company successful and I started my own venture that got acquired. The enterprise back-up market needs a cloud-native disruptor and that’s Clumio,” says Poojan Kumar, CEO and co-founder, Clumio in an extensive interaction with Computerworld.

Edited Excerpts.

Do you actually feel enterprise backup technology has gone up the tech stack for companies and CIOs? What is your gut feeling?

Historically, there was only one dimension of data, with companies primarily having on-premise data. But now, data on-premise is declining and more applications are built in the cloud. And more enterprises are using other SaaS apps. Data is already bifurcated into multiple dimensions. For compliance reasons and obviously protecting the enterprise, you basically need visibility into all your data sources. Hence, backup becomes even more critical as the data sources expand. And in the light of ransomware and other attack surfaces, it becomes more important to make sure that you are backed up and ready to come back up just in case something goes wrong.

poojan kumar cofounder ceo clumio Clumio

Clumio, built on the public cloud natively, can be so much ahead of anybody else. And that is the drug, I say, and it's a good drug in a good way. Once you are exposed to the drug and you understand the benefits, you can go accelerate your journey.
Poojan Kumar, CEO and co-founder, Clumio

But the on-premise enterprise backup itself is a colossal market.

Yes, there is still on-prem with some version of a software and hardware that customer manages. Too many moving parts need a team that is focused on managing it, concerned about storage, retention etcetera. It's like - do you want to buy a Microsoft exchange software and say a bunch of Dell hardware and do email for the enterprise? Clumio does that together, and when you go Office 365 or G Suite, the same thing applies. You are forced to do things which you don’t want to do because of legacy technologies.

On-prem enterprise backup is very big today but it will decline, ultimately it's dead in my opinion. That’s where Clumio gets interesting as we are natively built in the cloud. 

Clumio claims to be an innovator of authentic SaaS for enterprise backup. Please explain.

The reason for calling ourselves authentic SaaS is because a lot of people have abused the name SaaS. Some have misused the abbreviation claiming their subscription business model to be SaaS. Of course, the subscription model is part of SaaS. The hard part of SaaS is truly building a service that you can essentially run at scale and the enterprise customer doesn’t worry about install, upgrade and the whole cycle. Authentic SaaS because we truly have a good built in service architecture in the public cloud. That’s the true definition of SaaS and subscription model comes as an after effect.

Secondly, many on-prem players take a piece of software built for on-premise and run it on the cloud, calling themselves as a SaaS vendor. That’s a broken model because the customer still manages all of infra, whereas SaaS means customer has to consume a service and not worry about managing infra. Hence, we emphasize on being authentic SaaS with a true service architecture.

Poojan’s Bucket List for CIOs

  1. Develop a ‘SaaS First’ mind-set than ‘DIY’ approach
  2. Ensure compliance, visibility across all data sources
  3. Protect data with fall back mechanism to recover in case of attacks.

But it’s a crowded market (enterprise backup is becoming commoditised) with Dell, HP and niche players like Commvault, Veeam, VERITAS, to name a few. How easy or difficult has been the journey so far?

We have integrated technologies in our platform - something that what four different companies would do. Besides building the backup software capability, we have compression, de duplication, encryption, all of that engine on the public cloud. Additionally, we have delivered all of it as a multi-tenant solution running in the cloud. Therefore every customer thinks they are the only one using the platform, but the underlying platform itself is more titanic. And lastly, we deliver it as SaaS service in true multi-cloud fashion.

Each of these competition companies mentioned provide the backup software piece, with Dell and HP for example providing the hardware piece. And none of them can do SaaS and be a multi-tenant system or deliver a service on the public cloud. And that differentiation has ultimately led Clumio to get traction. When the customer sees the power of our platform versus their vendor’s it's just night and day. I believe we are barely scratching the surface of the enormous cloud enterprise backup market.

Your strategy must be targeting green field enterprise accounts, but also the easy route to replace existing on prem (brown fields) legacy backup customers with Clumio.

It’s both sets of customers. We attack the on-prem use case, typically replacing the legacy vendors because the customer itself wants to go deep in to a cloud journey and they don't want to buy more on-prem for this kind of a use case. When we pursue public cloud application whether VMware running on public cloud or native cloud apps, it becomes more Greenfield for us. And protecting other SaaS Apps is also Greenfield.

The hard part of SaaS is truly building a service to essentially run at scale and the enterprise customer doesn’t worry about install, upgrade and the whole cycle. Authentic SaaS because we have built in service architecture in the public cloud which is the true definition of SaaS and subscription model comes as an after effect.
Poojan Kumar, Clumio

Within 10 to 15 minutes on a customer call, I can on board them to Clumio - it's quick to get them up on the service in the cloud. That is the power of a SaaS platform, which is very different than typical procurement process of buying software and then installing hardware.

Cloud data management is perhaps more of a marketing jargon by many companies like Veeam. Is their cloud story different than yours?

Exactly. Any company, in the backup space or not, in the last few years has latched on to a story of claiming to be a cloud player. Be it public or hybrid cloud. Because if you don't talk cloud, you aren’t relevant today and you definitely won’t be in the future.

They may have the typical cloud element but underneath the hood, it is the same thing cycling in last decade as the technologies plonked from on-prem is termed as powered in the cloud. That is so expensive and it doesn't scale in the modern cloud world.

Can modern organizations undergo digital transformation effectively with on-prem enterprise backup solutions? I'm sure you'll say cloud back up.   

The last couple of years have been a revealing journey. Clumio built on the public cloud natively can be so much ahead of anybody else. And that is the drug, I say, and it's a good drug in a good way. Once you are exposed to the drug and you understand the benefits, you can go accelerate your journey.

The companies figuring out "I don't need to do things the way I was doing a decade ago," are really succeeding. And that's where AWS, Azure and GCP are taking off. You can do SaaS that CIOs are subscribed to because they don't want to be in the business of managing stuff for everything else. There is public cloud and if both these use cases don't fit, then there is a little bit of on-prem presence. The bottom line is that Clumio plays ‘SaaS first, Cloud first’ thinking (approach) really well.

Who's your main influencer during tech purchase as budgets increasingly pop up from LOB, CFO, CMO, HR than core IT team? And how would Clumio play a key role with DevOps team at the customer end?

CIO is still responsible as chief decision maker. But the CIO landscape has changed as he does not have just traditional IT, but DevOps apps built in the cloud, folks responsible for SaaS apps. CIO role will change once the buying stuff shifts from Capex to more Opex. From that perspective and cloud story, the CFO does play a role too.

All the apps are built in the cloud by DevOps team and we need to provide that one-click experience to go and discover all the data sources and protect them. CIO doesn't want DevOps team to tinker and figure out among themselves. And when something happens, who's really responsible becomes a issue. CIO needs that experience to protect the data sources and integrate with maybe a CI/CD pipeline. It’s a different world with apps typically deployed across multiple cloud accounts, and across multiple regions in the public cloud.

What would be your do's and don'ts for CIOs' enterprise backup blueprint?

The reality is that they should have a ‘SaaS First’ mind-set. Don’t do it yourself if a SaaS service exists. Another big do is ensuring compliance and visibility across all the data sources. And lastly, data is such an important asset, just protecting yourself in terms of recovering and in the face of attacks like a ransomware attack. In the current day and age, you should have a fall backup mechanism to recover yourself in the face of those attacks.

If somebody can spin up a SaaS with a click, what will be role of sales team or presales role to convince organizations about Clumio?  

We are extremely focused on the channel partners and especially the partners who are cloud-first in their thinking. Maybe our sales teams basically amplify their own presence by working with channel partners in the region, and reach their customers. It could truly become a model to get a big leverage from the channel as they get wrapped up on the platform and its capabilities.

We will expand in other regions beyond the US, besides expanding the platform, the idea is to advocate more use cases, and expand our teams. We have grown quite a bit in the last two years, which now encompasses over a couple of hundred people. We have the ability to scale fast and run pretty large environments today. Customers obviously do a big scale test with us and once comfortable, they are game for it. Sometimes, we start off with a part of the organization, a particular department and then grow gradually.

Clumio’s R&D in the US has a big presence in the Bay area, and in Bangalore and Pune in India. Our goals is to grow 10x in both countries as we are focused in terms of talent acquisition. 

Poojan, From IIT Mumbai to Oracle to Clumio CEO, what important hardships have you learnt as a tech entrepreneur? Any role model in the tech industry?

I started PernixData that got acquired by Nutanix, and before that I spent a long time at Oracle building a new initiative, which became successful. I've done a new innovative initiative in a big company that helped the company get successful. PernixData acquisition was the right outcome because we missed the secular shift to the public cloud.

As an entrepreneur, the strategy has to be clear vision on where the world is going as one wrong move can be the difference between being the successful independent company or not. I would take advantage of all the learnings from my last company PernixData to accelerate and continue to Clumio, attract great talent and build this cloud-native platform.

Mark Leslie is a great role model and has been my mentor for many years. As founder and CEO for VERITAS, he’s been with many interesting companies in the last decade like Nutanix. I have learnt humility, attention to detail and clarity of thought from him. He’s also a major individual investor in our company and on the board of Clumio.

Lastly, Clumio is an interesting name. What does it really mean?

Clumio actually doesn't mean anything by itself. We started the word Cumulus (which means cloud) as the genesis, played Scrabble on it and Clumio was born as a Cloud Company.

We see ourselves building into a data management company in the long term, as you take all of these data sources and back it up with needs of compliance and insurance.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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