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CEO details HYCU backup for hyper-converged, multi-cloud

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Simon Taylor, CEO of HYCU, discusses his company's foray into hyper-converged and multi-cloud backup and recovery. The new vendor spun off from Comtrade earlier this year.

Since launching its first product in June 2017, HYCU has more than 1,000 customers across 35 countries, according to CEO Simon Taylor. That product is a new kind of data protection: backup and recovery for Nutanix hyper-converged infrastructure.

HYCU backup and recovery has since expanded to another major vendor: the Google Cloud Platform.

"What we've really learned from our experience is that you've got to build purpose-built backup and recovery services for each individual cloud," Taylor said in a Back up to Basics podcast. "We did that with Nutanix. We did that with Google Cloud Platform. And I think you could certainly expect to see more down the pipe from us in terms of other clouds as well."

Taylor said he believes the software-as-a-service business and the backup-as-a-service business are here to stay.

"The days of hardware-defined backup and recovery products are over," Taylor said.

HYCU backup had existed under the Comtrade Software label. The Comtrade Group spun off HYCU into a separate company in March 2018, when Taylor became CEO. He previously worked in various roles at the Comtrade Group, which included developing and launching the new software division. He also developed and launched HYCU, which is based in Boston.

Taylor said he gives some credit to Nutanix for the quick rise of HYCU backup.

"The fact that we are the world's first and only purpose-built backup and recovery product for Nutanix, and Nutanix has done so well in the marketplace, that certainly helped our customer adoption and helped us to grow extremely fast as well," Taylor said.

Backup for Nutanix has become a hot type of data protection. Many major data protection vendors, such as Veeam Software, Cohesity and Rubrik, back up the Nutanix AHV hypervisor.

To find out how HYCU backup stands out in a competitive market, plus challenges the company faces as well as trends in data protection, listen to the podcast and read the transcript below.

Editor's note: The following transcript has been edited for clarity and condensed.

HYCU started out as protection for Nutanix, but recently added backup for Google Cloud Platform. Why did you make that addition to your portfolio? And was it in the plan all along for HYCU backup to go beyond the Nutanix protection?

Simon Taylor: HYCU is really a 25-year-old business. It's been laser-focused on looking at the evolution of data protection. And we've spent the last five years evolving ourselves from a services organization to a pure-play software company focused on backup and recovery.

One of the things that we felt very strongly about was the proliferation of data. When it comes to cloud, I think initially people had this view that there was somehow going to be this mass migration from on premises to public cloud. What we actually ended up seeing was something a little bit different than that. People were moving data all over the place.

Our research indicates that the average company has between five and six clouds available to them at any one time. So when you're thinking about protecting data, backing up and recovering data, you want to make sure that you can cover as much of that market space as possible. From our perspective, Nutanix has been really leading the way in terms of becoming the operating system of the data center and supporting the on-premises migration. And we see Google Cloud Platform as a really emerging vendor when it comes to being a hot public cloud.

Why do you see the Google Cloud Platform as being particularly hot versus some of the other options out there?

Taylor: When we're looking for new areas of the market to go after, we start with this premise of multi-cloud and the fact that people really do have data in all sorts of different areas. But then when we think about how we can best support the marketplace, we look at our two core areas of expertise. One is monitoring, and one is certainly backup and recovery. And when we think about which clouds we could provide the most value to, it's going to be a cloud that's growing extremely fast.

It doesn't necessarily have the ecosystem strength that Amazon or Azure has right out of the gate. So for us, there was this brilliant white space where we could really enter the market and add an amazing amount of value. Our viewpoint is that in order to effectively support a customer, your product needs to look and feel like the service it's protecting. It needs to be purpose-built for a specific cloud.

That's why we built a purpose-built HYCU backup and recovery service and products for Nutanix, and then we built a purpose-built backup and recovery service for Google Cloud Platform. I think that Google's overall emphasis on the enterprise, the kind of talent they're recruiting, and the underlying product that they're providing the customers is going to really be a game changer in the industry.

HYCU stands for hyper-converged uptime, correct?

Taylor: It does. We started out as a company called Comtrade. Initially, Comtrade was a couple of guys who had left Hewlett-Packard 25 years ago and started a business that was focused on building data protection software for third parties. So they hired hundreds and hundreds of engineers, and they started working with large blue chip vendors to build backup and recovery products as a service for other blue chip vendors.

Headshot of HYCU CEO Simon TaylorSimon Taylor

When I started at the company about 10 years ago, I looked at this and I said, 'This is crazy. We've got hundreds of engineers who are incredibly adept at backup and recovery, have 25 years of experience on average, and yet nobody knows who we are. We need to break out of this. We need to evolve and migrate up the value chain and start building our own products.'

And I made it my mission in the last decade to really evolve the company from being a services provider to being providers of pure-play software. And that's exactly what we did. We started out with a suite of monitoring tools for Citrix. We exited that business to Citrix in 2016; then we built a purpose-built backup and recovery product for Nutanix. We launched that in June 2017. In a little bit over a year with that one product, we're in 35 countries and have well over 1,000 customers. So it's been a terrific ride for us evolving the company from services to software, and always with this wonderful focus on data protection.

So is there any sort of rebranding that's needed if you continue to add HYCU backup in different areas that don't necessarily have to deal with hyper-converged infrastructure?

Taylor: HYCU is a nice acronym and it's something that we found useful given the fact that we talk about hybrid cloud and hyper-converged. The 'HY' can stand for a lot of different things.

But I think the concept of HYCU is really what we're all about. When you think about a Japanese haiku poem, really what they're doing there is they're taking a lot of data and they're shrinking it down to one elegant usable and scalable package. When we think about today's data center and the need to manage enormous amounts of data with elegance and simplicity, I think that's what HYCU is really all about. That's truly our mission to the marketplace. And I think that the HYCU name really stands for that.

Getting back to the actual hyper-converged protection, how closely do you work with Nutanix?

Taylor: Incredibly closely. I think they have been an absolutely wonderful partner to us. We're actually one of just a handful of what they call Strategic Technology Partners. I think there are about seven of them out of the hundreds and hundreds of partners that now support the Nutanix ecosystem.

We consider ourselves to be students of Nutanix design. I think Nutanix understood fundamentally not only the need for a multi-cloud operating system for the data center, they also understood the need to create consumerized software, software that looks and feels so elegant and so simple that really anybody could use it. And I think that's what they did with Nutanix Prism.

When we began building the dashboards and the UI for HYCU backup, we really took that to heart. We built a dashboard and UI and a way of thinking about data protection that is elegant, that is simple, that is incredibly focused on the application. I think Nutanix really appreciates that. They put out a lot of press about us; they're very supportive of us in social media. And you'll often see us exhibiting together at shows and doing a lot of collaborative marketing together.

At a much deeper level, the two companies work very closely together in terms of discussing what data needs to be protected and what we should be focusing on as a company. They have a huge impact on our roadmaps for the purpose-built HYCU backup and recovery products. We want to make sure that we are incredibly aligned with their products, the needs of their customers and their direction for the future. I think you see that in the products that we sell, and in the customer delight that we're seeing with the customers that are using HYCU as a product.

Where do you think we are in the overall story of hyper-converged data protection now?

Taylor: If you think about the classic bell curve, I would say that we're probably three or four years into a 10-year cycle. We're quickly moving from a space in which hyper-converged was unknown and this niche play to something that is becoming an integrated part of the data center. I think there are a couple of reasons for that.

The hyper-converged platform is truly a platform; it's not a server. It's not a piece of hardware. It's not something you put in there for secondary storage. This is a platform that when done correctly, the way that Nutanix does it, is really helping you to manage your data, whether it be on a private cloud, whether it be in a public cloud, and everything in between.

When they say that they are the operating system for the data center, they mean it. And I think that they're doing an enormous amount of work to make sure that their customer base can effectively manage their data, can effectively store their data, and can really get the most out of that hyper-converged experience.

From a backup and recovery perspective, it behooves us to make sure we can keep up. I think a lot of companies who are in the data protection space have struggled with this. They've had legacy products that were built for earlier cycles in the data center's evolution.

One of the real benefits of us being purpose-built for Nutanix is that we were able to become students of Nutanix design. Then we used what we learned to build a backup and recovery product that really is natively built into Nutanix. In fact, it's a virtual appliance that we can deploy in about three minutes. I really give Nutanix a lot of credit for that.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges in your market today?

Taylor: There's a little bit of an identity crisis going on in our industry. You've got the legacy vendors who are doing a lot of cloud washing to try and work with cloud. But then you've got some new, exciting hyper-converged backup and recovery vendors. But many of them are selling an entire platform. And that's a challenge.

If you get into the hyper-converged space and you invest in Nutanix as a platform, it is not a server, it's not just a piece of storage. You've literally bought it so that you can cut down on silos, and you can use Nutanix as this one uber platform for your entire data center. So it's a problem if you go to buy backup and recovery and you've got to buy another silo, you've got to buy another platform, you've got to buy another hyper-converged implementation, and by the way, it's going to cost you the same as the platform you bought for production.

Software-only is going to be key. Lightweight is going to be key. Using your hyper-converged platform to the full extent possible is incredibly important. Making sure that the backup and recovery services look and feel like the production services they're backing up are all major elements.

What do customers need at this time? What are some other current trends in the market that you're seeing?

Taylor: I feel like if customers are throwing their hands up in the air about one thing, it's just 'Keep it simple, keep it simple. I don't want any more complexity.' I think the days of us having a UI that looks like the cockpit of a plane are over when it comes to backup and recovery. People want intelligence baked into their product.

I think that they want the setup to be really simple. … It doesn't mean that the simplicity that we're seeing on the UI translates into some lack of sophistication on the back end; it simply means we're baking the intelligence inside. And I think that's the way our data protection products ought to operate. You want to be able to deploy them in a couple of minutes. They ought to be very lightweight, and the software ought to be intelligent enough to allow you to enter your personal objective and have the product do the configuration for you.

If there's one real challenge in this industry, it's striving for simplicity. We've got to stop striving for complexity. We've got to stop working towards having the most knobs and the most buttons, and start really working towards a simpler world, a life in which customers are getting the value that they need in a much shorter time.

You had mentioned earlier the work in Comtrade -- how has it been operating HYCU backup independently, and how is it different now?

Taylor: It's been really wonderful. I think we were always thrilled to have Comtrade, as we were effectively a company within a company for a long time, operating as a semi-autonomous department within a larger business. I think the biggest challenge with that was really in terms of name recognition, branding and helping customers understand how powerful our engineering team was at building first-rate backup and recovery software.

The clarity brought by splitting off and becoming a separate company has been indescribable. Now that we're known as HYCU, it makes it a lot easier for customers. It's a brand name that people have gravitated towards, they've accepted it in the market, and I think some of the accolades that we've won and some of the ways that customers have experienced our products around the world have really helped that name to take root fast.

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