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Clumio CEO says COVID-19 has driven more people to SaaS

Driven by factors ranging from COVID-19 to Kubernetes, Clumio CEO Poojan Kumar said his enterprise customers want to simplify backup and are readily adopting cloud and SaaS.

COVID-19 has pushed businesses out of data centers and onto the public cloud, and at the same time, businesses are more willingly adopting and paying for services rather than making investments on their own hardware infrastructure. Clumio CEO Poojan Kumar said his startup is well-positioned to ride this wave, and he plans to differentiate Clumio further by becoming a "one-stop shop" for data protection across all data sources.

The SaaS startup came out of stealth in August 2019 and went on to win Best of Show at VMworld that year. In November 2019, it received a $135 million bump in Series C funding, a substantial boost to the $51 million total it had raised in its first two funding rounds.

We spoke with Kumar about COVID-19's impact, the new challenges it has presented to enterprises and vendors and how Clumio will deal with those challenges.

What do you see as the greatest data protection challenge customers are facing today?

Poojan KumarPoojan Kumar

Poojan Kumar: I think the data sources each customer has is just growing. It's not like 15 or 20 years ago, when there was no SaaS, no public cloud. People just had their on-premises environment, where their data and every application was sitting in front of their eyes. You could literally touch and feel it from an infrastructure perspective. You knew exactly what was going on and you controlled it.

Since then, the evolution has gone much more towards SaaS and public cloud, and the world has obviously changed drastically. Now you don't know what's running where and what is and isn't compliant. So I think what has happened, especially with the enterprises, is this data fragmentation. There is no way for a CIO to look at the CEO or the compliance team with a straight face and say, 'Yeah, I am completely compliant. I can actually survive in a ransomware attack or disaster.'

How is Clumio addressing this data fragmentation problem?

Kumar: The company came out of stealth exactly a year ago, at VMworld, and we came up with a SaaS offering running in the cloud to protect VMware on premises. Since then, we've done a lot in terms of expanding the platform, from both running across more regions in the cloud, to going in and supporting more data sources.

We've significantly expanded from protecting VMware on-prem to protecting VMC [VMware Cloud]. We're protecting applications that are built in the cloud, starting with applications that are built on AWS leveraging services like EC2, EBS, RDS, and stuff like that. We also started our journey with our first SaaS application protection, with our support for Microsoft 365.

We basically support all these different data sources, all with a single SaaS offering. This allows our customer to be protected without worrying about upgrades. We are expanding continuously, and we have a lot of our customers today using the platform to protect multiple data sources.

What's next on Clumio's roadmap?

Kumar: Ultimately, we want to be the one-stop shop to protect all data sources. Those fall in three categories: data sources sitting on premises in a private cloud, data sources in a public cloud and SaaS data sources. We're going to continuously expand on all these three segments.

On the on-premises side, we want to go deeper and provide some very cool integration with databases. If you see our offering on RDS today, which is the Database-as-a-Service offering from AWS, we not only provide data protection, but we also provide very granular recovery capabilities. Once you protect RDS database with Clumio, you can write a query and retrieve a single row that has, say, name equal to your query, from any of your past backups. This is a very compelling offering as people are doing searches and really figuring out if there's any sensitive data or data that is not GDPR compliant sitting in their backups.

On the public cloud side, we have multi-cloud ambitions. We want to be the platform that delivers data protection and provides the flexibility to be able to migrate data across clouds and with the same interface and the same experience.

The last leg is SaaS leg, which is we started with Microsoft 365. As the first SaaS application, we do email today, we're going to expand to SharePoint, OneDrive, Teams -- all the other offerings from Microsoft. But also other SaaS applications -- Salesforce, for instance. There are companies that have raised upwards of $100 million that only do Salesforce data protection. We are going to do that, and we're going to go into other SaaS applications along with it.

Between public cloud, private cloud and SaaS, where would you say you're farthest along? And where do you still have the most work?

Kumar: I would say we've conquered the bulk of the key data sources on AWS, so we're definitely farthest along there. We are almost complete on the Microsoft 365 offering also, but obviously we will take on each SaaS application separately. I would say cloud is where we are farthest along, and then comes on-prem, and then comes SaaS.

What about Kubernetes backup?

Kumar: Yeah, absolutely. I think as you get into some of the cloud workloads, people are using containers and writing more stateful applications. For us, we bucketize that into another data source. Container applications could be behind DynamoDB, RDS, Mongo or whatever. Ultimately, it's about delivering the same simplicity for this data source. For us, we conceptually treat it as an application running on VMs. Protecting Kubernetes and the container ecosystem is definitely something we are planning to tackle in as early as next year.

Since Clumio started, we spent a good chunk of time building our platform so that we can "service-ify" it and so that we can rapidly add features and innovate on top of the platform. Now that we have that solid offering, adding some of these data sources is actually much easier than the work that we did for the last three-plus years. I would say it's a not a huge effort to go and add a container application. We have started on it, and we expect that we will deliver something next year.

How has COVID-19 impacted your business or your customers?

Kumar: COVID has immensely helped us because we've become a touchless world. Most vendors are a combination of software and hardware that they bring in that you need to install and run. But in this world of people being remote, things like that have been significant challenges for our customers. So now, an offering that basically takes away all of that drudgery from their hands and protects with a service running in the cloud is so much more compelling.

We've seen some good acceleration in the business because people have been moving much more to VMC and the cloud. For a VMC offering today, every legacy vendor will tell you to go and install a piece of software in the VMC environment and do this and do that. Clumio is just a one-click data protection service for VMC.

So I think the fact that there's more movement that's happening to the cloud, either to VMC, thanks to all the innovation that VMware has done on the cloud, or natively to the public cloud, is helping us indirectly because as soon as a workload lands there, the next obvious thing is, where is my data protection? Even if it's a test/dev workload, it needs 30-, 60-, 90-day retention. And obviously, if it's a production workload, it needs much longer than that.

Who are your competitors?

Kumar: There's no shortage of competitors. It's been a legacy space for a very long time, so we bump into the legacy players a lot.

A lot of customers are trying to protect the public cloud applications themselves. Recently, we bumped into a customer asking where we were two years ago, as they had to go and write scripts themselves on top of the native, primitive tools that AWS gave them. It was very clunky, and it's not maintainable, and they don't even know how compliant it is. So that's one of the biggest roadblocks to public cloud adoption.

With the cloud use cases, we don't typically bump into any legacy solutions that are out there, even though it feels like a very crowded space. That's because there is no good solution that does data protection in the cloud.

For Microsoft 365 and VMware, we bump into pretty much every player that you can think of. We have replaced some of them because of the simplicity we offer as a SaaS. None of those offerings is a true service offering that really scales, especially in the enterprise world, where it's across thousands of virtual machines and petabytes of data. And none of those offerings provide a single platform interface that does multiple data sources. That has been a big unique differentiator for us when talking to enterprise customers.

What's your headcount now? Are you still expanding?

Kumar: Close to 50% of the company joined during COVID. The current headcount of the company is a little over 170 people worldwide, and there were just three of us when we started the company three years ago. We've been rapidly growing the organization because there's just a lot to do. It's a huge market and we have a differentiated offering, and there's a lot of innovation to be to be had in this space.

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