Technology Reseller finds out more about fast growing hyperconverged secondary storage company Cohesity from EMEA Channel Manager Johannes Kunz
Cohesity is making waves as a disruptive start-up in the management of secondary data operations, such as backups, disaster recovery, file services, object storage, test/dev, archives and analytics.
Founded in June 2013 by former Nutanix co-founder and Google lead developer Mohit Aron, Cohesity addresses the cost and complexity of secondary data sprawl and infrastructure silos by consolidating all secondary data and apps onto a single, hyperconverged, webscale data platform spanning on-premise infrastructure, the cloud and remote or branch offices.
Through the Cohesity DataPlatform and associated solutions, Cohesity helps organisations tackle data fragmentation and improve security, productivity and data insight by creating a global secondary data store with ‘single pane of glass’ management.
A recent study by Vanson Bourne found that more than one third of organisations use six or more solutions for secondary data operations, such as backups, disaster recovery, file services, object storage, test/dev, archives and analytics. Of these, 10% use 11 or more.
Cohesity is enjoying rapid growth. Over the last five quarters, it has more than quadrupled its customer base in EMEA and increased revenues by 365%. It reports ‘exceptional’ growth in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Denmark and Switzerland and in key verticals, including financial services, the public sector and healthcare.
Further expansion is on the cards after Cohesity raised an additional $250 million in June 2018, bringing total equity raised to $410 million. The Series D funding round was led by the SoftBank Vision Fund, with strong participation from strategic investors Cisco Investments, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital, along with early investors including Sequoia Capital.
Technology Reseller spoke to Cohesity EMEA Channel Manager Johannes Kunz to fnd out more about the company’s proposition, its channel strategy and its global expansion plans.
Technology Reseller (TR): Cohesity’s technology is often described as disruptive. In what ways is this so?
Johannes Kunz (JK): The easiest way to explain this is to use an iPhone analogy. Before the iPhone, you had a camera, a telephone, an address book, an alarm clock. Then the iPhone consolidated everything onto one platform. This made things much easier for the user; it enabled them to be more productive; and it made the sharing of information much easier than it was seven, eight, nine years ago. You can apply the same analogy to Cohesity and secondary storage, which is where we focus our efforts.
In this area, there are a lot of silos. There are different kinds of backup, in many cases with different vendors, for different use cases; then you have NAS files; you have archives; you have a test/dev environment; you have cloud gateways. All this is extremely complex to manage and, in most cases, very inefficient. You end up with a lot of dark data in this environment – data that people don’t know exists. That is expensive and not easy to manage.
We come in and consolidate all these secondary storage silos and the whole management of them onto a hyperconverged webscale platform. We eliminate storage silos and simplify data management: we have a search engine; we give the customer access to their data; and we make it very, very efficient, with simple management and, of course, user gateways into the cloud – Amazon, Google or Microsoft – for peering archiving applications and so on.
TR: How big a problem is secondary storage in modern enterprises?
JK: Primary storage – high performance storage that you need for mission-critical applications – makes up about 20%-30% of all storage in a company. This is where Pure Storage plays and Nutanix plays and EMC with its storage. All the rest – 70%- 80% of all storage – is secondary storage. This is back-up; archiving; data on the tape; data in the cloud. There is tons of this data on different platforms in big enterprises and it is a nightmare for big companies to manage.
TR: In what ways does Cohesity help enterprises manage their secondary storage?
JK: First, we offer a very easy, simple way to manage data. We have one platform to manage all those things I have just mentioned. With that, we can reduce costs dramatically – we have TCO calculations showing that we can reduce costs by around 50%.
Then, there is scalability. Scaling with silos is a big, big problem, but with Cohesity, enterprises can scale out very, very easily. If they need more capacity, more compute power, they just add another node into their rack without any disruption during their main business hours.
That’s the principle of the hyperconverged approach, and it is still what customers are looking for. There was a lot of hype around hyperconvergence for primary storage, with companies like Nutanix, and we are now seeing it in secondary storage, too, because a lot of people understand what the advantages of a hyperconverged solution are.
TR: Who are your customers?
JK: That is very easy to answer, because there’s a certain amount of terabytes at which it makes sense for our customers to work with us. This is mainly in the enterprise space. In Europe, we have very big customers in the financial sector and in healthcare, insurance and manufacturing.
In some countries, there is also a nice mid-market. The UK and France are mainly enterprise but in Germany and the Nordic countries, there are high mid-size organisations with 1,000 people or more, and we are also targeting them. We can start small with a three-node cluster and around 40 terabytes, but we are definitely not serving the SMB market.
TR: How do you attract customers? What is your route to market?
JK: As a start-up, you have to find ways to reach out and get your first one, two, three, four customers. That phase is far behind us. Today, we put a lot of marketing dollars into branding to make us more visible. We attend the big trade shows, so that people understand what we are doing, and we are increasing the number of sales people we have.
The partner landscape is also very important for us. We run a two-tier model and do every transaction through a partner. The strategic relationship we have with our partners means we are focusing on only a handful of partners in each country. We expect these partners to invest in us, which means selling our technology to their customer base and making sure those customers understand it and the value of it. This works pretty well.
TR: How many partners do you have in the UK?
JK: About 20, and we want to limit it to a maximum of 25. When I joined a year or so ago, we had already signed up a few very, very large partners. That was a surprise to me, because that doesn’t normally happen until you have a runway of business, but these partners understood the value of the product and its disruptiveness. I think they were also looking for some new solutions to sell.
Softcat is a very good partner for us, and CDW, one of our biggest partners in the UK and across EMEA. We are talking to Computacenter, which operates in the UK and in Germany, and we have just signed WWT. Then, we have a few smaller partners focusing on different things like managed services that use our platform to deliver those services to their clients.
TR: You are still growing at a very fast rate.
JK: Yes, as a company, we are growing at a rate of about 300% year-on-year, with all the pros and cons this brings. One of them is the need for a particular type of person. I make the distinction between farmers and hunters. At this stage of a company’s growth, you need hunters, people who are prepared to work hard, to go the extra mile, to go out and pitch the product. It’s not always easy to find those kinds of people.
We are lucky because our solution and this new market attract a lot of people. So does our founder and CEO Mohit Aron. He was a co-founder of Nutanix and his name alone attracts a lot of very good engineers, and they are not easy to find. Our product is at version 6.1 and already at a very solid stage.
TR: Your future growth won’t just come from taking on more sales people and partners. Are you also expanding your product portfolio to open up more markets?
JK: Absolutely. What we have right now is our platform, which is software-based and runs on different kinds of infrastructure – Intel-based, which is our own, but also on Cisco and HP and Dell. So, this platform has the capability to have more applications. Today, 90% of our customers are running Data Protect, our back-up product, on the platform. About 60% are using the platform for file shares, for NAS applications. We have about 30-35% using it for test/dev and about 20% who use it for analytics, for analysing the data.
If you look at these four applications, from a technology point of view, the most developed one is back-up, but from an analytics perspective, there is still a lot of scope for more development. Over the next three to four months, you will see a lot of announcements about the further development of these applications that enable the customer to go into big data analytics. We will be bringing out new applications, as well as putting more development into existing ones (see box).
TR: What are some of the challenges you face at the moment?
JK: I think the challenge, as always with new technology, is convincing customers to change, especially when it involves migrating petabytes of data from one platform to another. Big enterprises know they have to change but are still sometimes shy about doing so. That’s certainly what we are seeing in a few environments right now.
The good thing is we normally offer those customers a migration path and, what makes us completely different to our competitors, is we don’t have to go into those accounts and rip and replace everything. We can start out working on a back-up target, putting in our data platform, because products like Veeam or Veritas or Commvault run on our platform as well. That gives the customer a smooth transition from their old legacy infrastructure to the new Cohesity infrastructure.
That is what we have seen happen in big enterprises. They start small, maybe with a specific application like backing up a certain database, and three months later they come back to us and say: ‘That works really well, I would like to do more’. Then we add a few nodes and scale with the customer.
Generally, we have a huge market to go after, which is fantastic for a start-up. We are not a niche play; we are playing in a $60-$70 billion market and that gives us lots of opportunities. The challenge for us today is to scope with our growth and to get our partners up-to-speed so they become self-sufficient and can run these fields by themselves. This takes time and the only way you can do it is to optimise your processes and hire more people.
TR: Do you have to spend a lot of time with each of your partners?
JK: Yes. I have hired very professional channel managers in the big markets –the UK, Nordics, Germany, Italy and Spain – and they do that. Our model is for our sales people to team up with our partners in a very close relationship. We only have two dozen partners in big markets like the UK, which keeps margins high and makes the relationship between our sales people and dedicated sales people in those partners very important. We can leverage those relationships in a very good way.
TR: How many people on the channel support side do you have in the UK?
JK: Today, we have about 7 sales teams in the UK – a team includes sales and pre-sales. We have a channel manager, we have built up our marketing and we are running a service desk from Cork in Ireland, where we already have about 55 people. And we are hiring as we speak.
TR: How will you spend the $250 million of funding you got last summer, from SoftBank amongst others?
JK: SoftBank is a Japanese company and they want us to develop the market in AsiaPac and Japan, of course, with some of that money. The money also goes into engineering and product development, and also in the field. We have announced an objective to hire another 500 people in the next year or so and that would not be possible without that funding. It is quite early for round D funding, but we were approached and it gives us a good foundation for the next 2 or 3 years to grow the business and bring the company to an IPO or whatever.