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Startup Platform9 Lets IT Transition Seamlessly From Public To Private Cloud

Cloud computing has become ubiquitous, and the dominant cloud provider for years has been AWS. For some organizations, however, a point may be reached where they want to leave AWS and bring things in-house – leveraging their own infrastructure.

Cloud computing has become ubiquitous, and the dominant cloud provider for years has been AWS. For some organizations, however, a point may be reached where they want to leave AWS and bring things in-house – leveraging their own infrastructure.

Any IT organization that considers this option though is faced with a huge question – how can they make this transition without causing a huge disruption to their operations? After all, many may have been on AWS for years, and the fears of mishaps during a transition are strong.

One startup that has an answer for these fears, however, is Platform9. Founded by several longtime VMWare engineers, Platform9 allows IT to transition seamlessly from AWS to their own infrastructure, essentially recreating their own AWS service but in what is now their private cloud. Joining us today is Sirish Raghuram, co-founder and CEO of Platform9.

IT Specialist: Thanking for sharing your thoughts Sirish. To begin with, can you provide some brief background on Platform9, such as what year you were started and the background of the founders?

Sirish: Platform9 is founded by early VMware engineers with decades of experience building virtualization and systems management products. We launched Platform9 in 2013 and have been in stealth mode as we worked to refine our product. We’re now out of stealth and have already begun extensive beta testing with a dozen customers.

IT Specialist: What inspired you to leave VMware and start your own company? Did you see something or were you working on something at VMware that you thought could be done better?

Sirish: As early engineers at VMware, we were increasingly seeing that many IT organizations weren’t adequately served by existing solutions: traditional virtualized datacenters or the AWS public cloud. In particular, we were talking to one large organization in San Francisco that had grown up on AWS but were increasingly having cost and performance issues with their AWS-service. They were interested in potentially moving off of AWS and bringing it in-house, but they were worried that they would need to hire a lot of new IT staff which they just weren’t interested in doing.

At this point, it clicked for us that there were many organizations like this one in San Francisco that we had been seeing recently – companies that had outgrown AWS or were looking for a simpler, more efficient way to manage virtualized datacenters. We saw this was something that the market didn’t quite have a solution for, and that’s when we decided to start Platform9.

IT Specialist: Starting at a high level, can you provide your 10,000 foot viewpoint on the current state of the enterprise cloud market - are we starting to see more private cloud adoption?

Sirish: From a high level, we sort of segment the cloud market three ways:

1) At the small company stage, organizations go with AWS and they are very happy with it. It’s not surprisingly that most startups begin life as AWS customers.

2) As companies grow, it’s at the mid-sized stage that we start to see IT organizations begin paying more attention to costs incurred with their AWS service. At this point, IT begins thinking about alternatives to the public cloud, and they start to wrestle with how they could move to the private cloud efficiently.

3) Finally, large enterprises typically have a lot of existing virtualized infrastructure, but have seen the benefits of cloud infrastructure (due in part to AWS’s success), and therefore are looking to managetheir existing infrastructure as a private cloud. Some of them are already trying to implement this solution using existing solutions such as OpenStack or vCloud, but are generally unsuccessful because of the complexity involved, and are looking for help.

From our perspective, it is groups two and three who are our target customer base.

IT Specialist: As I understand, your central value proposition is that Platform9 allows IT to transform their local IT infrastructure into a self-service private cloud, is that correct? What pain point does this transformation solve for both IT as well as developers or other end-users? From the perspective of an enterprise IT specialist, how easy is it to implement a Platform9 solution?

Sirish: Our value proposition is that Platform9 is a cloud service that transforms IT’s internal infrastructure into an agile, self-service private cloud in minutes.To put it in a nutshell, Platform9 provides an AWS-like service using an organization’s existing servers.

So how does this help IT and devops? Let’s take a look at how many enterprises are working today. One thing we’ve observed over and over again is that developers don’t want to wait on IT testing/deploying their workloads. They generally have a project they need to get done and want to start immediately. So the developer whips out his credit card and spins up his own machines on the AWS public cloud– developers love the simplicity of this.

But then what you’ve got is tens – and maybe at large enterprises even hundreds – of employees all ’leaking’ workloads to the public cloud, and IT has no visibility into who is doing what, and how much of their company’s data is outside of the firewall, or the costs involved. This is the ‘shadow IT’ problem we keep hearing about, and it’s a serious issue that keeps many CIOs and line managers up at night. Just think of companies in sectors such as healthcare, and the amount of privacy regulations they are subject to. Hence, we’ve seen the proliferation of services that purport to track ‘shadow IT’.

But with the Platform9 solution, IT can move everything in-house, but developers can still spin up their own workloads as they would on AWS – except everything is now behind the firewall, on the servers being managed by IT. Developers get UI and API based self-service access to their private cloud - they can rapidly provision and access instances without waiting on human intervention.Developers don’t care if it’s a public or private cloud, as long as they have the ease of use and simplicity they get with AWS, they are just as happy to work off of a private cloud. Hence, the CIO has just solved their ‘shadow IT’ problem, but developers and other employees are still just as happy. Below is how Platform9 looks from the developer’s perspective:

Now looking at things from IT’s perspective, I would emphasize that we are a SaaSservice ourselves, so Platform9 does not require any complex management software to be installed and managed. Our solution is also designed to make managing the organization’s new private cloud extremely easy, so CIO’s don’t have to worry about additional complexity or adding headcount to budget-constrained IT organization.

In terms of performance, the Platform9 dashboards provide rich visibility and insight into your private cloud, across infrastructure, workloads and users, as well as across datacenters and geographies – so this eliminates management silos. Below is an example of how our dashboard looks:

Platform9 pools your servers, storage and networking into a private cloud that can be shared by teams of users. At the same time, our "intelligent placement technology" lets IT manage capacity quotas, and to express rich policies for tiered consumption of resources.

IT Specialist: Could you explain a bit more about how Platform9 technology actually works? My understanding is that Platform9 sits on top of an existing infrastructure? Does that infrastructure need to be OpenStack (or how does OpenStack fit into the equation)?

Sirish: The way it works is that an IT Admin signs up at Platform9, which is a service based on OpenStack. The Admin then simply downloads a small agent and installs it on each one of their servers.Once the Platform9 host agent is on the organization’s servers, it reaches out to their Platform9 service (again, we are SaaS ourselves) and from that point on, the server is managed by Platform9. Note that they have a dedicated instance of OpenStack, and this isn’t shared with any other organization.And with the Platform9 API, IT has access to the full OS Platform9 supports. I would emphasize that this entire process literally takes five minutes, thus solving the concern IT has about the potential complexity involved in managing a private cloud. Below is a diagram of how the process works:

 

 

Finally, I’d add Platform9 also provides unified management across diverse environments - KVM, Docker and VMware vSphere, across datacenters and geographies.

IT Specialist: Turning now to the corporate level, I read that you were in beta with about dozen companies. How is this testing going and are these beta customers AWS public cloud users?

Sirish: That’s correct. We have about a dozen customers in beta. One organization I can mention that is testing Platform9 is Moz, which provides marketing and search engine optimization software. They have been on AWS for some time, and have been very pleased with how Platform9 can solve their concerns about moving off of AWS to a private cloud.

In terms of other beta testers, some are like Moz – looking to move from AWS to a private cloud – and some are looking to better manage their existing virtualized infrastructure as well as to solve their ‘shadow IT’ problem.

Since our launch, a lot of other organizations have reached out and expressed interest in our solution, and we’re thrilled with the opportunity to serve more customers.

IT Specialist: Has Platform9 raised any money yet, and if yes, who are your core investors?

Sirish: Yes, we just closed a Series A round with Red Point ventures. Red Point invested in us for two reasons. First, they liked the deep experience of our founding team from our decades at VMware. And second, Red Point believes that there is a large market for private clouds.

IT Specialist: Finally, for those who might want to trial your solution, what would be the best way to learn more? Is there a contact person with whom they should interface?

Sirish: Sure, they can visit our site at www.platform9.com to request a free trial or e-mail us at info@platform9.com

IT Specialist: Thanks for your time Sirish, and best of luck going forward.

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