The CommVault handbook to keeping acquisitors, at bay

By Cat Yong

CommVault almost never made it to where it is today – taking market share from the big enterprise players and growing at least 4 times the market rate.  It had begun in 1988 as a development group in Bell Labs, and later went on to become an AT&T business unit. 

Come 1998, current CEO Bob Hammer stepped in, and even as early as then, he knew they had to move away from being a backup solutions company, and towards being a data company.

Hammer reflected, “When you start to think about data, you start to think about a lot of other things like applications ie. where does the data come from? With backup, it’s just 1s and 0s, if it’s lost, you recover it.

“With data, what’s the application, what’s the object of the file… it’s a different view. It’s an application-centric view of the world, not the 1s and 0s, storage-centric view of the world. Your data view is much more comprehensive than your storage view.”

According to Hammer, on top of that, most of the things that happen with data, are infrastructure-related enough with businesses having to think about compute, network, and storage.
“When the phone call comes in and the customer has an issue, you can’t tell ‘em, call the network guy, or the server guy or the app guy. You gotta know and solve the problem, otherwise you can’t provide support.”

The evolution
When CommVault went back to the drawing board in 1998, they did so with the assumptions that bandwidth, CPU and storage was infinite because they cost cheap enough to have as much as one wanted.

Back in 1998, there was probably also no inkling that data would see the explosive growth it is today, but this was taken into account, as was the requirement, that the new data management architecture had to be distributed as well as extensible.

Hammer related, “My new VP of Engineering came up with something I called a hardwired console, and the thing that controlled your data was wired to this. “

That, and their seven (now nine) pieces of software or stacks of code, set the foundation for CommVault to start working on the platform solution it now has today, called Simpana.

Today also, CommVault with over 2000 employees, near 20,000 customers, operations in 6 continents and a value of around USD4 billion, can boast to having achieved all these organically, without resorting to mergers or acquisitions. And it is exactly in this ‘pristine’ and ‘acquisitions-and-mergers-free’  state that Hammer targets for CommVault to reach USD1 billion revenue.

Hammer said of his company’s strong financials, “These numbers by the way, are not an accident. These numbers are tied to shareholder value.

“You start with innovation, you always have to be the innovation leader that ties to customer value. You provide more value to the customer than anybody else, you provide the best support and services, then you increase relevance by creating more function as the business grows.”

Ability to address trends today
A lot has happened in the IT industry the past 15 years. 

Environments are more complex now, with virtualisation and the data explosion. This time also, it isn’t enough anymore for businesses to just keep storing more and more data for business and regulatory compliance. Data also has to be much more accessible than before, as per big data and analytics requirements, while maintaining security and integrity.

Not to mention, a lot of big enterprises and also governments are re-engineering their IT and consolidating them onto big private cloud platforms. 

And then there are also the big managed service providers (MSPs); of which over 100 are CommVault’s customers; who have many requirements. 

Hammer described, “Advanced data management means instead of streaming data on to tape, now you have to use snap and replicate. We knew in 1998, there was no way we can move all that data, which was at most terabytes at that time. All we can do is take a picture of that and move it.”

In 1998, CommVault had designed the underlying architecture to enable that, according to its CEO.

The million dollar question
Now, same as back then, CommVault has had to ask the million dollar questions that would shape the direction of its data management solution platform, and propel the company towards its USD1 billion revenue target.

With so much required of data and the many processes it has to be put through these days like encryption, replication, migration, deduplication and so on, how does it maintain easy manageability, while at same time be secured and protected?

Hammer also observed, “And by the way, now there are virtual machines, mobile devices, laptops and data is expected to move around. The indexing of data and knowledge of that infrastructure is a lot more complicated than it was 15 years ago.”

Keeping the hardware business arm’s length
Something else that CommVault foresaw also was customers liking hardware appliances. “They don’t have to do any integration, just drop an appliance into their environment and it works,” said Hammer. He also emphasised that CommVault would never enter the hardware business. 

“If you take the hardware and tie that to the (hard disk) spindle; and the price of that spindle is commoditised, I will get all kinds of issues. That’s not a good place to be. I’ve been in the hardware business. I don’t want to be there.”

Last November, CommVault entered into partnership with StorServer, a dedicated purpose-built backup appliance (PBBA) maker, for their Simpana 10 data and information management software to be integrated into StorServer’s PBBAs, as well as sold, supported and maintained by StorServer’s extended reseller network in the Americas.

CommVault boasts having its own global integration team. Hammer explains, “A large percentage of them (employees) are engineers.  To do what you do, you have to have a massive integration team, because new hardware is coming out all the time. And you have to be current.”

Hitachi Data Systems, Netapp, Fujitsu, Huawei, Symantec, IBM, not to mention big software solution vendors like Microsoft, Red Hat, SAP, Oracle and so on, count among some of the technology companies that CommVault has technology partnerships with.

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