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Exclusive Interview With Simon Taylor, CEO, HYCU

In backup and recovery for Nutanix




He is:

He was:

  • President at Comtrade Software
  • SVP/GM, VP product and sales director US East at Comtrade Software 
  • Senior associate at Forrester Research
  • Marketing specialist at Omgeo
  • Investment specialist at Putman Investments

StorageNewsletter: HYCU is a recent name on the market so we need a bit of background to understand where does the company and the team comes from?
Simon Taylor
: HYCU as a company is relatively new to the market. However, unlike other companies, we’ve been around in the industry for more than 25 years, providing deep expertise with both data protection and monitoring solutions to thousands of customers worldwide. Earlier this year we relaunched Comtrade Software as HYCU, Inc. Our corporate headquarters are in Boston, MA, and we have technical solutions centers located across Europe. The change to HYCU, Inc. provides us the operational independence to expand our software offerings and grow our business worldwide. HYCU, Inc is privately-held, and Comtrade Group, an IT company with more than $400 million in annual revenue, continues to be the primary shareholder. Our focus remains the same. We firmly believe that there is a better way to manage, protect and recover data within hyper-converged infrastructures (HCI). We delivered the first purpose-built data protection solution for Nutanix more than a year ago, and continue to drive innovation for Nutanix customers. The past twelve months in particular have been an exciting time for the company. Our partners, customers and team have really helped make HYCU for Nutanix the success it has been to date. We, as a company, will continue to deliver purpose-built software solutions that our customers can deploy in minutes, while gaining a significant ROI within days versus the months typically associated with legacy software provider alternatives.

HYCU is growing fast with two businesses, Monitoring and Data Protection, but Data Protection seems to be the #1 revenue contributor by far? What is the rational behind that?
HYCU as a company has been focused on data protection and monitoring. However, we have rich and extensive engineering and product development experience with enterprise backup and recovery software in particular. Whether it was time and materials development work, contract services, or more involved product design and development, we have worked with thousands of customers over time to effectively deploy, manage or service many of the leading enterprise backup and recovery software offerings. We sat down recently and counted a significant percentage of the leading enterprise backup and recovery software offerings in the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant we had either worked on or helped with over time. That is what sets us apart from many other companies in the data protection space. We have years of learnings to know what works best. For example, what are ways to effectively develop solutions so users can spend time on managing and deploying applications versus trying to get their backups to work in a timely manner. That’s what attracted us to the hyper-converged space. We knew the simplicity which companies like Nutanix were bringing to market were so important that data protection should carry forward that same philosophy in design and execution.

What was the trigger to start this business? Could you share some key points about the evolution of backup and data protection in general as platforms and systems evolved with virtualization, HCI and more recently containers?
With every significant technology shift, there has been an emerging backup and recovery solution that has emerged. If you look back to the rise of Unix and the emergence of Veritas, to the rise of Windows and the emergence of Commvault, to the rise of virtualization and the emergence of Veeam, to where we are today, where Nutanix as a multi-cloud enterprise platform is emerging. Much like you had in the prior waves of technology innovation, there is a need for a data protection solution that helps take this new multi-cloud platform to the next level and complements what customers are trying to do.

And why do you target Nutanix platform? Is it a question of business opportunity or lack of serious data protection solution for the platform?
A few years back, after we had made a successful IP sale of or Citrix MP business to Citrix, as an executive team, we took a look at what was the next technology shift that was emerging and what could we do to significantly do to be a part of that shift. As I’ve mentioned, we have a long rich, history working in the data protection space, so we wanted to combine that expertise with the emerging technology shift we had identified. We determined that the emergence of hyper-converged infrastructure solutions, in particular Nutanix, was that next wave. So to us, it was part technology needing the right solution but also making sure there was truly a significant business opportunity as well. Since we introduced HYCU for Nutanix a little over a year ago, I would say we made the right decision.

In a nutshell, could you present what your data protection solution does and why it is unique?
I would say there are a number of reasons why what we do and what we have created is unique. It was extremely important to us, and our engineering team, to take the years of learnings they had, to create a solution that tightly integrated to the platform, to scale as needed, was easy to learn and deploy, and didn’t require a team of professional services staff to get up and running. In a nutshell, HYCU for Nutanix is purpose-built data protection for Nutanix customers. It extends the value proposition and vision of simplicity in IT. It’s easy to deploy as a virtual appliance, does not require agents, is hypervisor agnostic supporting both Nutanix AHV, VMware vSphere and ESX, fully automated and is extremely efficient. And, of course, it does not require additional licenses or infrastructure to deploy and support so it’s extremely cost competitive as well. That is a hard package to beat with what else is available on the market currently.

Why did you choose an agent-less approach and why is it better?
It boils down to wanting to deploy a solution that is easy to manage and does not require too much overhead or infrastructure to support. We’re able to do what we do without agents so why create a technology solution that requires more than it needs. As firm believers in the art of subtraction, we don’t feel you need technology for technology’s sake when you can do what you can do without agents.

What do you do for Nutanix AFS? How do you leverage AFS features?
Nutanix Acropolis File Services (AFS) is a fully integrated, core component of the Nutanix enterprise cloud. It’s a dedicated file services offering that gives users a public cloud experience, with the control of a private cloud deployment. AFS builds on Nutanix AOS and eliminates the complexity of deploying and managing separate infrastructure, scales on demand, increases capacity dynamically, and enhances the protection and recovery of files.

HYCU Data Protection for Nutanix eliminates unnecessary redundancy and allows Nutanix customers to leverage key storage-specific capabilities, such as snapshots, clones, replicas, compression, and deduplication, to run on Nutanix while complementing it with agentless application data protection, recovery and application discovery features. For, HYCU AFS Backup and Recovery, we leverage Nutanix Change File Tracking (CFT) APIs to perform impact-free, agentless file-share backup. This means Nutanix users can do backups in a fraction of the time it takes for the typical legacy backup. It also leverages the scale-out function of HYCU and AFS to perform backups in parallel. Even the first full backup can be completely parallelized. This all makes HYCU for Nutanix, the first and only efficient, scalable backup solution for Nutanix AFS.

Could you explain how customers’ RTO influence the backup policy? How does it work?
From an end user’s perspective, RTO is one of the toughest data protection service level objectives to achieve. In a nutshell, RTO is the time you need to bring your data or application up in case of a disaster. Easier said than done. It typically requires in-depth expertise, advanced administration and configuration of the complete production environment as well as the backup infrastructure needed to support it. Most customers over provision or do set and pray to make sure they meet it when needed.

HYCU’s advanced logic includes the ability to optimize the utilization of an end user’s backup infrastructure in order to achieve the desired RTO. We ask them upfront and do the automation required to make sure it happens when necessary.

For HYCU users, they literally don’t have to do anything special to address RTO. They can simply define different RTOs for different policies (classes of data) and at the same time they will have optimized utilization of their infrastructure. All a HYCU user has to do is define the business requirements, RPO, RTO and retention time – and leave the rest of the settings on auto-drive.

HYCU will then optimize the backup data allocation based on the capabilities of the different components of the infrastructure, continuously fine-tuning it based on the actual data throughput for different data paths.

Simple but powerful.

What about ROBO data protection?
Nutanix provides an out-of-the box efficient ROBO DR solution by replicating data to the central location and enabling efficient virtual machine failover. HYCU is able to backup the ROBO data from datacenter replicas, which results in zero resource requirements on the ROBO and network side. While we do this, we also, enable one-click recovery within the datacenter or at any remote location at the same time.

Our HYCU design philosophy is about simplicity and integration. Our goal is to protect the investment customers have made for their Nutanix Enterprise Cloud. If anyone can provide the most efficient replication and DR capabilities between the ROBO and datacenter, it is Nutanix. What is also important is the capability to provide an application consistent replica of data. What this means is that one already has the data available in the datacenter.

HYCU also enables VM or file-level, admin or tenant-level recovery within the datacenter or on the ROBO site. So, most importantly, no ROBO staff required, no additional ROBO infrastructure required and no additional bandwidth required.

How are you integrated with CALM?
HYCU is available as a ready to deploy blueprint for Nutanix customers right on the CALM marketplace. Customers looking for data protection can now simply click to add HYCU to their environments. CALM helps orchestrate the provisioning, scaling, and management of applications for a true app-centric experience. HYCU is the first and only full backup and recovery software deployable via CALM.

I think you spoke also about DPaaS, how do you contribute here?
Customers are adopting HCI because they want a public cloud like experience for their next generation infrastructure. Traditional data protection when applied to HCI, breaks that model. We are in a journey to disrupt that. We want customers to have a Cloud Services like experience for Data Protection. In the ideal case (DPaaS), end users just use the service. An user can provision the workload, select the data protection policy and that’s it. Nothing more. Modern data protection solutions should also be able to follow the workload as it is migrated between different platforms (for example public cloud to on-premises cloud). And finally, the challenge you need to address is when you need a consolidated view of your data protection / compliance, you need a DPaaS solution that can do that as well. We designed HYCU with this specific use case in mind.

Data protection is a tough market with plenty of players for decades now and 2 other hot competitors – Rubrik and Cohesity – but you seem to have found a good niche, what are the differentiators between you and them?
The emergence of new data protection solutions is tied to the emergence of new HCI platforms. As opposed to the breed of new providers that are looking to take new approaches to backup and recovery, versus legacy providers which work to tune older platforms to try and make them work, we are working to keep to our simple vision: be the best data protection solution on the market for Nutanix customers, and multi-cloud environments. The most significant difference between us and the emerging data protections solutions is the way in which they are deployed and the end goal. We are not trying to be all things to all people, or another platform that include redundant features and functions. We believe in complementing the Nutanix platform and extending the value that platform already provides. Also, we’re software-only. And have no intention of deploying as an appliance or requiring hardware. That’s an important distinction. I could talk more also about not having VC pressure or needing to justify a valuation that may or may not be real, but if we stick to our vision and design principles, I think we have things covered.

What are the next few key functions or services you’ll add to the platform in the next 12 or 18 months?
Nutanix is an innovation machine and you can expect to see us map our key functions and services to the Nutanix innovation roadmap. As customers bring more and more business-critical applications onto the Nutanix platforms, we will keep adding to our list. An example of this is the introduction of SAP HANA support by Nutanix and our announcement of support for the same. And, I wouldn’t be surprised if you hear more from us around bringing even further automation and intelligence into the process, but I’ll need to share more on that at a later point in time.

Beyond Nutanix, what is the plan for other platforms as they should have similar challenges?
Our vision continues to be around the best data protection solution for Nutanix customers. We’ll continue to map to the Nutanix innovation roadmap and tie our development efforts to be the first to offer a solution to support Nutanix customers. A year ago, we introduced purpose-built support for AHV. And, since we’ve added support for ESXi, scale out and most optimized AFS support, along with other applications, workloads and platforms we know are important to Nutanix customers. Earlier this year, we even introduced support for non-Nutanix virtualized workloads, so customers that may be looking to add or grow their Nutanix investments have a way to migrate at their own pace and they know their experience would be the same, no additional licenses, hardware or infrastructure investments required. We believe Nutanix is the future of the data center and have placed our bets firmly on them.

How do you consider AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform…?
We support both AWS and Azure as cloud-based backup targets. However, most recently, we introduced HYCU for Google Cloud Platform, available as a fully managed service from the GCP marketplace. HYCU for GCP is an independent solution from HYCU for Nutanix, but its development is rooted in our on-going work to support the Nutanix innovation roadmap. GCP is Nutanix’s partner for Nutanix Xi public cloud services. We began working on HYCU for GCP at roughly the same time Nutanix revealed plans for Xi at .NEXT in Washington, DC last June. HYCU for GCP will be integrated with Nutanix Xi Cloud Services when they become generally available. Similar to the approach we take with Nutanix, HYCU for GCP leverages the native platform capabilities for a simplified and efficient application and virtual machine backup and recovery.

What ‘s your sales model and business strategy?
Our go-to-market is 100% through partners. We work closely with the distributor and reseller communities especially those that are tightly aligned with Nutanix. Our VP channels Junelle Swan, who joined the company earlier this year, spent time talking to our key partners and working with them to determine what was working well with the program and how we could take it to the next level. Based on our partners feedback, we recently launched our simplified, partner friendly Global Partner Program.

Read also:
HYCU Introducing Purpose-Built Data Protection for Google Cloud Platform
Delivering managed backup as a service for Google Cloud
2018.08.10 | Press Release
Comtrade Software Now HYCU
Simon Taylor CEO
2018.04.03 | Press Release