CIOs no longer want to be locked into a vendor or storage solution: Chris Powell, Commvault

In an interaction with Dataquest, Chris Powell, CMO & VP Operations at Commvault gave insights on the new R&D center in India and how Commvault plans to expand its business in India. Also shared his views on the major trends and challenges impacting CIOs and CEOs. Excerpts
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Please give a brief about Commvault’s turnaround story – acknowledging the recent challenges and how your leadership helped turn results around in the past 24 months?

After many years of being one of the fastest growing IT organizations globally, Commvault, like many successful start-ups, found itself slowing in terms of growth as it matured and faced a changing IT landscape.

About 18 months ago as a leadership team we looked at our strengths and where we stood in the market. We genuinely had the best product in our space, we had a strong balance sheet with zero debt and we were seeing the rapid release of new technologies such as cloud adoption, hyperconverged infrastructure and big data initiatives which were opening new opportunities for us. We saw back then that we needed to make some changes if we were to get ahead of the curve in this opportunistic market. While we knew it would mean a slight plateau, we were confident the changes would return at the right time.

Competitively we were up against large vendors such as EMC and IBM, who were at the time securing customers alongside major hardware sales and seeking to lock them in for the long term. As well, we were facing newcomers who had significant marketing investment and noise in the market compared with us; however who only offered a single point capability of the wider Commvault solution offering. So we knew we needed to differentiate better and drive our awareness if we were to return to the growth we had experienced in the past.

The major changes we made were around our packaging and pricing, visual identity, how we specialized in particular markets such as Healthcare and a continued strong focus on our product roadmap and innovations.

We have been fortunate recently that some of our major competitors are going through seismic changes, such as the Dell acquisition of EMC, and the Veritas sell off. The timing could not have been better for us as we have been gaining momentum again, while our major competitors are distracted and inwardly focused on the significant organisational changes happening in their businesses. We are now in a strong position to continue this momentum and to deliver ongoing innovations to customers at a time they need them most.

What were the drastic changes that were made in the company?

The first of the major changes included our packaging and pricing models to make it easier for customers to purchase a single solution set and unlock other capabilities in the same platform as and when they need it. This has been well received by the market and customers are seeing the benefits of managing their information from a single console, yet phase their investment at a pace that suits them.

Secondly, we focused on our visual identity and this meant a fresh brand and logo, a more optimized and data-driven web presence that was aligned with what people were searching for online, and an increased investment in our digital marketing program to ensure we were engaging with customers from the research stage of the buying cycle. This investment has been transformational, and we are now certainly practicing what we preach to our customers in using our information as a strategic asset.

Finally our product. We have a strong and proud history as the leading backup and recovery vendor on the market, ranking in the leaders quadrant for five consecutive years in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Backup and Recovery. However we saw early on the opportunity to build on this and give customers greater capabilities and unprecedented ‘openness’ in their IT environments. Where traditionally in the past, the idea of moving hardware or storage vendors or embracing new technologies was perceived as an arduous and risky task, Commvault’s latest release of innovations has enabled data portability and removed risk for customers. We are enabling CIOs with to modernize their data environment, particularly around their use of cloud, enabling them to be more agile and flexible to change. Data portability across all private, public and hybrid cloud environments is a major need for customers today.

What are the major trends and challenges impacting CIOs and CEOs?

We see major trends in 2016 in three key areas for CIOs – data portability into, out of and across cloud infrastructures, protection of big data initiatives and the emerging ‘open platform’.

CIOs no longer want to be locked into a vendor or storage solution. They want flexibility, choice and openness in their entire IT environment as infrastructure modernization becomes a priority. They want to drive their adoption of cloud, yet extend their usage to essentially be part of their extended data centre – and not be faced with huge costs or complexity in accessing or moving that information. This is where we’ve focused on in our latest innovations, further enabling openness and flexibility where the location that a customer is storing their data can scale at the speed, simplicity and at the cost point they want.

Secondly, we have noticed the big data adoption wave. Many organizations who have embarked on big data initiatives have suddenly found themselves with Hadoop or Greenplum data clusters that are unprotected and at a volume almost too large to manage. Increasingly these organizations are coming to us to find out how they can take a step back and get the data management right so they can protect their data, as well as get the portability to map those architectures to new infrastructures as they choose. Organizations need to look at how they are capturing the information in these big data platforms, how it might be classified, how it’s helping them drive their business and ensuring they are applying the right retention and governance policies to that data. Further, they need to be able to rapidly recover at least an entire cluster itself, small slices or even a single node and its information, into any infrastructure they choose. This is a new area of opportunity for us and we have seen a great amount of interest from CIOs who want to take the outputs from these big data initiatives and map them back to more traditional data governance or policy based management for that data.

Thirdly, the emerging open platform is on the CIO and CEO priority list as they seek to be more agile and flexible to change. This is underpinned by data portability across different infrastructures including cloud and virtualized environments, as well as enabling organizations to embrace disruptive technology in a way that ensures business continuity and where they can still have access to data from old infrastructures. As we are agnostic in terms of sitting across the entire environment, we offer a unique capability to organizations in this area.

Can you give some details about your recent partnerships with Cisco, Nutanix?

In June 2015, Commvault became a ‘Preferred Solution Partner’ within the Cisco Solution Partner Program. As a member of the program, we are now able to quickly create and deploy solutions to enhance capabilities, performance and management of the network to capture value in the Internet of Everything. Part of this is certification for Cisco Validated Design Reference Architecture.

The jointly tested and developed architecture offers a scalable building block solution based on the amount of data the customer needs to protect, regardless of a customer’s preference to have the solution on premise, hybrid and/or in the cloud. Further, it provides greater agility and faster time to value, and reduces operational risk by compressing the time it takes to complete the implementation.

In India, we are already seeing strong interest from customers as well as cloud service providers and enterprises to gain access to the reference architecture. One of our customers, Greenply Industries, has seen major network efficiencies and business continuity benefits with Commvault protecting their Cisco UCS and SAP HANA environment.

The new partnership with Nutanix is significant at the business level as it partners two organizations with a common vision of invisible infrastructure.

Commvault support and integration of the Nutanix hypervisor, Acropolis, adds to the support we already have available for VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V. This means we now provide customers with greater choice to leverage the most appropriate hypervisor for their environment, as well as the data portability needed to support a move across infrastructures.

Typically, the majority of organizations running hyper-converged infrastructures are also running a VMware virtualisation solution, and may be looking to move away from these traditional spending areas. Having that hypervisor choice is critical, as is the data portability to enable customers this flexibility to move data across their hypervisors – including making the move away from their traditional spending areas into other technologies like Nutanix.

This new integration goes beyond backup, but covers the information management lifecycle such as dev/test. It also means that customers can speed the recovery process of Acropolis as well as make the backup process nearly invisible.

Please give details about the new R&D center in India and how Commvault plans to expand its business in India?

We consider India a key opportunity for us globally, and as one of our fastest growing markets we are making investments to aggressively grow our business in this region.

Last year we opened a new R&D center in Bangalore, which will be the third globally alongside our corporate center in New Jersey and our existing center in Hyderabad which opened a decade ago. We recognize the incredible talent pool that India offers and the cultural focus on innovation, and as a result, we see this new center as instrumental in helping us accelerate the development of our software portfolio.

We have an exceptional leader for India and Saarc, Ramesh Mamgain, who joined about two years ago and has built out a strong team who is continuing to add new customers at a rapid pace. This year already we have added new sales managers, consultants and technical experts to the team to address increasing demand from customers across all regions including New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. It’s an exciting time for Ramesh and his team and we see a burgeoning opportunity to significantly expand in India and Saarc over the next few years.

 

 

 

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