Clumio seeks to SaaS-ify backup and recovery

Poojan Kumar, CEO of Clumio, wants to apply the SaaS approach to DR

When software as a service was born in the late 1990s, pretty much everything changed in IT and every category has since been redefined… but some more than others. Data backup and recovery has been a tougher nut to crack but a startup called Clumio wants to address that partial omission with a native multitenant cloud service.

The two-year-old Silicon Valley company recently came out of stealth mode, revealing that it had raised about $51m over two funding rounds to begin its mission to do for space what did for CRM, what Google did for productivity apps and, well, you can name many others yourself.  

"The ‘why?' of Clumio is this whole move to SaaS and this whole sector has been ‘SaaS-ified' even now to include data warehousing with Snowflake," says CEO Poojan Kumar when we shared a conference call.

Kumar makes the classic SaaS/cloud argument that nobody in the right mind wants to spend a chunk of admin time on geeky IT of patching and maintaining software instead of adding value and focusing on the business.

"Who in 2019 is in the business of managing infrastructure and backup?" he asks. "They all want to ditch it."

That's sort of true in progressive organisations, but backup has always been a fairly conservative space for obvious reasons and even now old software makes lots of new money on the inertia of customers.

I would, however, take issue with Kumar's suggestion that Clumio is first off the blocks here and I suggest that perhaps the company most associated with modern DR is Druva. But, predictably, Kumar believes that a fresher approach is needed.

"If you look at Druva, fundamentally it's about a 12-year-old company that started out with endpoint protection and tried to pivot into something like this. If you double-click on the architecture, you see the deficiencies. It's not built for scale."

Druva takes issue with such statements, saying it has changed its tech and tactics over time but it's hard to argue with the Kumar logic that newer companies tend to be able to leverage the latest tools and design for today's world. That blank sheet of paper is a luxury only new companies enjoy.

Kumar's back story is worth narrating. A child-chess prodigy who grew up in India, he graduated from Stanford and joined Oracle to work on what became the Exadata data warehousing platform. There was a short-lived startup, a tenure at VMware and then he started a sizeable startup called PernixData that was among a crop of storage-orientated companies determined to beat up the old guard. PernixData got traction but eventually was acquired by Nutanix and you get the feeling that Kumar wants to take lessons from that episode and apply them to Clumio.

Like PernixData, Clumio provides a software fabric but this time aimed at the complex business of backup and recovery in a hybrid IT world where data resides on premises, in the public or private cloud or with third-parties such as co-location partners and manged service providers. The obvious way to do that is via a fully cloud-native service, he contends, to cash in on advantages such as elasticity, low cost and performance.

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As with PernixData, Clumio has two stellar names behind it: Mark Leslie, who founded Veritas and John Thompson, the one-time CEO of Symantec. Both have deep heritage in this space and indeed Symantec acquired Veritas in 2004 to create a security and backup giant. If anybody should know how to build a new powerhouse it will be this pair and their presence will, without a doubt, open many doors in the small world of the Valley. There is also a cabal of ex-PernixData people determined to build a solution that is an alternative to what Kumar describes as the "unmanageable and very expensive" current environments.

These are early days and Clumio is purely reliant on an AWS cloud in the US and S3 storage. Over time, geographies and cloud platforms will be added to, he says. Kumar says there are 30 to 40 proofs of concept out there and commercial customers in place, including the City of Davenport in Iowa.

I asked him what he learned from PernixData.

"You live and you learn, and I've learned a lot from my previous gigs," he says. "We didn't have the tailwind of the public cloud and ultimately it became a bunch of head winds… we were too early." Partly, he adds, it was a case of not having luck with timing.

He says his ambition this time is to build a great company akin to Snowflake and he cites other young thrusting and disruptive companies such as Sumo Logic in DevOps and Datadog in cloud monitoring as being ‘as a service' exemplars. This time around, with cloud becoming the default setting for the new IT, he might be feeling lucky.


Also read:

Druva sees starring role in backup clouds

Snowflake CEO modernises data warehouses