Storage & Data Center Solutions

Basho's enterprise focus is winning friends and funds

Smart readers, of whom you of course are one, will know that Basho was a Japanese poet of the (quick Google search) 17th century. Adam Wray is CEO of the company Basho but confesses he has no clear idea of why the company carries that name. “I asked but never got a clear answer from the founders,” he says, laughter shrieking down the line from the US to the UK.

Wray laughs easily but then I’d be laughing too if I’d just bagged another $25m to take funding to about $64m for this NoSQL database company. The money will help Basho keep up with other leaders in the NoSQL gang, from those like DataStax in the Cassandra open source camp, to Couchbase and MongoDB. Of course, Mongo has raised over $311m, and $80m this month in its latest funding round alone, but Wray, Basho’s Kansas-born CEO who joined the company last year, says, “I don’t believe they’re dramatically different to us. I think they’re south of $50m.”

He doesn’t want to play the ‘who’s got more VC’ game but is happier to share other metrics. Basho, with over 110 staff, is turning over “tens of millions of dollars” and he points to the company’s focus on the enterprise, fast deployment, performance, scalability and ease of management as critical in winning customers.

“We’re solving a complex question: workloads distributed across many environments and geographies. That’s hard to do with high availability and integrity of data.”

Wray says that Basho’s simplicity provides a “definite advantage” over the likes of DataStax. “Cassandra is a wonderful tool but it’s hard to manage.”

He also sees Basho tapping into the zeitgeist of IT today where the Internet of Things is just starting, Big Data is growing, device types are proliferating and cloud computing is becoming a hybrid phenomenon. Sitting below all this, unstructured data (the multimedia, web content, metadata and other information that doesn’t sit nicely in a traditional relational database management system) is booming and accounts for by far the majority of data being stored and analysed – often in real time too.

“A lot of people still don’t understand the notion of unstructured data. A customer like (mobile adtech firm) Tapjoy has scale issues that maybe only a JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs or an Apple would once have had.”

Thankfully, he’s not one of those pie-in-the-sky types who contend that Oracle and the other classic RDBMS giants will go away overnight but he does see his target market as a $50bn opportunity as IT realises the need for a new way forward.

“There’s always going to be a need for a relational database management system but people have been cramming unstructured data into a transactional database.”

The bullseye would be to build a market that eventually overtakes that of the RDBMS, he says. Basho might not have the funding of some rivals but Wray says it’s “only a matter of time” and certainly that other key indicator of strength – living, breathing customers – offer a strong suit for Basho.

It’s the breadth as well as the names that hit you: the UK’s National Health Service, online gambling firm Bet365, Yahoo Japan, Turner Broadcasting, BestBuy, Nokia… The revenues are more than doubling and customers are taking an average two-years-plus subscription on the licences that make up for almost nine-tenths of Basho’s revenues.

Customers are surely a better gauge of Basho’s appeal and a comfort factor for prospects.

“Where there’s smoke there’s fire,” Wray says. “When you see enough other Fortune 500 companies, you kind of feel comfortable.”

The strategy is to “land and expand”, extracting more money from customers by showing them what else Basho is capable of once it has got in the door.

He recognises the company still has plenty of challenges: building a partner channel that he says will include the biggest blue-chip consulting firms, and making it easier for developers to work with the company. A recent HQ move to Bellevue, Washington has also kept him busy and he’s interested in exploring a go-to-market relationship with a complementary Hadoop vendor.

Pressed for a model, Wray eventually names Microsoft as a company that made its name by focusing on the 80% of what customers need. “You have to focus on the things that matter when you’re building functionality,” he says.

But what of the RDBMS 800-pound gorillas – surely they’re going to make big pushes soon?

“It depends on the gorilla,” he quips. “I’m sure some will buy [NoSQL firms] but they’re now at the point where they’re seeing the dollar signs big enough.”

Already the valuations are high in the sector, he adds, pointing to the soaring success of the HortonWorks IPO late in 2014.

At least one of his rivals will float in 2015, he says, and if the market sentiment is friendly, all the newcomers will benefit.

“When it comes to this the big guys they don’t even have a clue so we have the ability to define and become the market leader. We want to build it strong and let the cards fall where they may.”


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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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