Kelly Battles, CFO of Bracket Computing, talks about the strengthening trend of enterprises tapping into the public cloud and how Bracket is disrupting the industry.
RJ: Kelly, thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate the time. I’d like to kick off with a little background about Bracket Computing.
Kelly: I’d be happy to. Bracket was founded in late 2011 with the mission of making the public cloud useable by the enterprise customer. And by public cloud we mean resources that are being brought to bear by innovative companies like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Compute Engine. Our unit of trade is data center. It is a massive market — statistics say there is roughly $84 billion in annual spend just in CapEx for the private data center industry. And that market is in disruption because of the public cloud. So Bracket aims to help lead that disruption in the enterprise. We are targeting the world’s most sophisticated customers, the Global 2000. To meet their data center needs we’re building out an integrated platform of essentially four major investment areas: virtualization technology, storage technology, security technology, and a control plane. We are all software, we have no hardware. And we present infrastructure as a service. It is a tremendous opportunity but it’s also a complicated problem. We have raised $85 million in two rounds, and we have a very healthy cash balance and very strong investors. We also have a very senior team who’s working on solving this problem.
RJ: That’s very helpful. For some of the folks in our readership who are not as familiar with the cloud, how would you position Bracket compared to competitors in the space?
Kelly: We are enterprise-grade infrastructure as a service. The customer would log in to our portal and use our platform to meet their data center’s needs, to split up workloads and manage those workloads. It’s an integrated platform, not for point solutions.
Today the public cloud is very, very disruptive and is taking off. Amazon’s business is roughly $5 billion per year and it’s growing at 50%. They are perceived to be the leader in this space, yet if you look at enterprise workloads in the public cloud right now, estimates say about 2% of enterprise workloads are actually on the public cloud. And why is that? There are four basic blockers, if I had to massively oversimplify: security, performance, control, and vendor lock-in. Enterprise customers still question the security of the public cloud. The public cloud is a multitenant environment, and multi-tenancy means shared resources, and shared resources mean resource contention. Resource contention can create performance issues. The enterprise customer is also used to having high levels of control in their very protected environments in their private data centers. Bracket exists to solve these issues and enable the adoption of public infrastructure by enterprise clients. We have solved those above issues.
Our vision is to be the nth data center. If customer has three private data centers, we want to help be the fourth and beyond. Customers can use and harness the underlying infinite sea of resources that the public cloud provides, but with the service levels and control performance, security and reliability that they’re used to seeing in their private data center.
RJ: That’s fascinating. You’ve been with some very successful companies in the past, so it’d be great to hear a little bit about your background and how you came to Bracket.
Kelly: Sure. So I’m a Princeton engineer with an MBA. I worked in banking at JP Morgan and consulting at McKinsey. At that point I decided it was time for me to find my passion and pursue operational finance. I went to HP and worked in a variety of areas, including corporate development/strategy, M&A, equity investments etc. And from HP jumped to do my first startup, which was IronPort Systems, I was the VP of Finance at IronPort. We sold email security appliances to the enterprise customer. It was a very successful, wonderful experience. We were acquired by Cisco and I stayed at Cisco and worked there through the integration. From Cisco I went to my second startup, Host Analytics, where I was the CFO. I was there for four years before I joined Bracket. Bracket was founded and funded by several IronPort alumni so it was an easy switch. And that, combined with the very disruptive and unique opportunity made it an easy decision.
RJ: Could you share with us your views on the cloud infrastructure space currently and where you think it’s headed?
Kelly: Obviously I’m a big believer in the cloud, being at Bracket. If you look at the traditional data center, the private data center, its building blocks are purpose-built equipment from companies that we all know and love. Big refrigerator sized boxes that are incredibly secure and reliable systems, but they can be fairly rigid and inflexible. Typically the boxes that you see in a private data center are very expensive and are over-provisioned to handle the peaks of a business needs. These boxes are built on what’s called scale-up architecture. They’re built to maximize the real estate available in the box and squeeze every job of resource from it. I’ve seen some Gartner data that says on average, storage boxes are at max 40% capacity. So along comes the public cloud which is a very disruptive phenomenon. A dozen or so web companies came along and innovated fundamentally in hardware. The building block of the public cloud is consumer-grade hardware that’s cost optimized and also deployed at massive scale.
Part of the innovation is what we see as an infinite sea of resources of the public cloud. If you look at a typical enterprise data center, they count their boxes or their servers in the tens of thousands. These public cloud companies have millions of servers, a two orders of magnitude difference in deployment. Their architecture is also very different. They have what is called scale-out architecture: if something fails, you find another.
It’s an infinite sea of resources that are built out based on the needs of the business. What is happening with the public cloud is that it’s helping us and other companies design a very, very different data center where instead of optimizing the real estate of the boxes, you’re actually designing for service levels. At Bracket, part of our vision is not just to be the nth data center but also to reduce running the data center down to managing by directive. Think of the simplicity that the scale-out architecture and this essentially infinite sea of resources allows for the end user in the data center of the future.
The other thing I’ll say is if you think about the typical CEO of a company, my belief is that the C-Suite of an enterprise company wants to get out of the data center business. The CEOs of Proctor & Gamble or of these really big companies have so many other things to be thinking about. Do they really want to be building the next data center in their company? These data centers are becoming so complicated and expensive to build. If you can use the public cloud resources safely, reliably, and efficiently, think of the agility that gives to your business and the flexibility to redeploy those resources that were focused on building these data centers to potentially more strategic areas of their business.
RJ: Does this optimization dramatically reduce the capacity needed for these large enterprises?
Kelly: I don’t think the public cloud reduces the need for infrastructure in a company. I think it gives them more flexibility. They don’t have to build out that infrastructure themselves. If you think about Amazon Web Services, they think in millions of servers versus the average enterprise having tens of thousands of servers.
Allowing the public cloud to be used by the enterprise customers allows the enterprise customer to take advantage of those efficiencies on that scale. And again, how long does it take to build a data center? These things cost billions of dollars now. These efficiencies would be hard to for even some of the largest enterprises to get to without the public cloud.
RJ: Great, Bracket is clearly providing a very disruptive option to enterprises. We look forward to accompanying the continued evolution of the space. This was very informative, thanks again for your time.
Kelly: I appreciate that. Thank you for having me.