Cloud Computing Platforms

Virtustream Bets on an SLA-Backed, Blue-Chip Cloud

I meet Rodney Rogers in an unusual environment for an interview with the CEO of a fast-rising software company: the mock-Tudor Cittie of Yorke pub in an otherwise Dickensian enclave of legal London. He’s impossible to miss: a bear of a man with the all-American alpha-male attitude to match: fast-talking, a born salesman addicted to metaphor, simile and tale-telling, ultra-confident but eminently likeable and seemingly without the humourlessness or tetchy ego that can affect some (read most) of his peers. In fact, he’s great value as we sup and chat with appropriate heartiness for the venue.

You can think of Rogers’ company Virtustream as a sort of high-end Amazon Web Services that’s aimed squarely at Fortune 500-type enterprises and Government, as well as systems integrators and carriers. However, unlike AWS, Virtustream is more of a platform/product/consulting play. The blue-chip customer demographic is in line with Rogers’ background at Andersen Consulting and in founding Adjoined, a consulting services company he later sold and is now part of Capgemini. He happily concedes that Virtustream is no San Francisco startup with “purple-haired kids with nose rings and cappuccino machines”. It even chose Bethesda, Maryland for its HQ, a place referenced in a Simpsons episode where Alec Baldwin complains that LA is “too phoney”. Homer asks why he doesn’t just move to Bethesda. Baldwin responds: “Not phoney enough.” Rogers even recently wrote a pugnacious article called The Enterprise: I’m Not Sexy and I Know It.

“AWS made the market in commodity cloud and we built our business on those ideas [but to a more niche audience],” he says. “The principle was: build what you know and sell it to who you know.”

Virtustream’s architectural differentiator is a software-based abstraction layer that melts down virtual machine attributes to their elements. Or in Rogers’ location-appropriate terms, “You take the beer, pour it into a vat and split out the barley, hops and sugar.”

That capability supports guaranteed application throughput with SLAs and the ability to apply granular costs, a powerful notion at a time when the financial justification arguments for deploying cloud services have moved on from capital expenditure versus operating expenditure and down to ROI and the real costs of cloud and highly virtualised environments. Virtustream says its technology even works on older applications and collaborates with SAP to change the perception that ERP systems are monolithic, always will be and therefore cannot be virtualised and cloud-enabled.

It’s a premise that has raked in about $79m in venture capital and Virtustream is moving fast with datacentres in the US, UK and the Middle East. Customers include Domino Foods and, reading between the lines, annual revenues may already be around the $75m mark. The vision: a company for the long-term with an equal, three-way split of product, platform and consulting services.

At 47, Rogers is no spring chicken but he’s a modern tech CEO, using every social tool to drum up attention. His tweets, a candid mixture of personal, sporting and business, are a hoot and he says it was a blog he wrote that first attracted the attention of SAP.

On the face of it, this is a very scary sector to be entering. Asked who keeps him awake at night, the list is like a Who’s Who of enterprise IT from AWS to VMware via Google and IBM. But Virtustream has technological USPs, a good story and the benefit of focus. Rogers doesn’t appear to be the type to be stared down by the big guns in town and he refers to rocky times in the past with characteristic stars-and-stripes bullishness. “Those are the times you’ve just got to pick yourself, put your tie on and go sell.”


Martin Veitch is Editorial Director at IDG Connect


« AMD Pilots a New Course to Cloud Servers


How Ethiopian Flux Could Benefit Investors »
Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

  • twt
  • twt
  • Mail


Do you think your smartphone is making you a workaholic?