Sequoia Portfolio Company Solves Security Problem for the Enterprise Cloud

08.28.15
Interviews

Rami Tamir, CEO and Co-Founder of Ravello Systems, speaks with GrowthCap about enabling enterprises to leverage the benefits of the public cloud while maintaining the security and control of a private data center.

RJ: Rami, thanks so much for joining us, we’re really excited to speak with you. Let’s kick off with some background on Ravello and how it came to be.

Rami: Sure.  So I co-founded Ravello in 2011 along with my co-founder Benny Schnaider.  We’ve been working together for the past 17 years, and this is the fourth company we are starting together.  Cisco Systems acquired the first two of our businesses, and after spending some time at Cisco we left and started a company called Qumranet, which is relevant to what we are doing today.  At Qumranet we developed Kernel Based Virtual Machine (KVM) technology. We eventually sold the company to Red Hat.  Today KVM is used in most public clouds, in open stack, and others.  So it was very nice to see the success of KVM and how it’s shaping the industry today. We then left Red Hat to start Ravello, and in Ravello we’re trying to look at the next stage of what was virtualization 1.0 and virtualization 2.0, and it is actually a bigger change in the dynamics of a data center for an enterprise.

RJ: There’s quite a bit of new technology out there today related to the cloud and its infrastructure.  Could you shed some light on the niche that Ravello serves and how it fits into the larger ecosystem?

Rami: When we started the company, we were trying to figure out how this whole enterprise and public cloud thing work.  It took us a while to understand that enterprises will look at the cloud differently.  If you take a look at the success of the cloud to date, it’s mostly around startups that grew by a lot or around companies that have a wide variation of capacity needs. Take a look at Netflix as an example of that.  But when you take a look at an enterprise, it looks different.  For one, they’re not a uni-application company like most startups.  And in order to get the job done on the IT side you have a lot of software, different hardware vendors, and specific requirements they’ve built into the data center.  It is more complex than just taking one application to the data center, but given the revolution of the cloud, they get exposed to “cloud economics”, which is essentially pay as you go, commodity prices with endless amounts of capacity.

So how can enterprises get cloud economics without re-doing everything, or to take it a step further, how can they get cloud economics in their data center?  So this is how we founded the company, asking, “Can we actually create this model for enterprises in a way that will allow them to get cloud economics, but at the same time maintain their methods, the security, and anything else?” What we ended up doing is developing a technology that allows us to encapsulate any enterprise application, and once encapsulated we can run it anywhere.  When I say encapsulate I mean we take the application, and give it the same computation engine, same networking, and same storage.  It’s going to be the same VMs that you use internally, same format, same patches, same drivers, and everything is going to be the same. Our networking provides the same network addresses, same VLAN, same virtual appliances that you use to support your network, and the same storage.

And once you encapsulate it, you can run it on any cloud, be it Amazon, be it Google, be it any other public cloud that we support.  Once you’ve done that you basically have your hybrid dream come true because we can run your data center application in the cloud today. And if you have greater capacity needs, or if you have bursts, we can actually run it in the cloud and let you pay only for what you use, and more than that, the cloud would look exactly like your own data center, exactly the same.  It’s not a matter of taking the application, then taking out the stack and trying to do it within your cloud.  We take the application as is, the technology that you’ve developed, and we’ll run it in the cloud in exactly the same format and the same way.

RJ: Fantastic.  And could you share with us a little bit about your target customers? Is this primarily for larger enterprises or do you also hit medium sized enterprises?  Could you also give us some indication of the current stage of Ravello?

Rami: In terms of the size of an enterprise we are targeting, I’d say medium to large. It can be even some of the smaller ones, but typically it’s going to be larger enterprises, although it’s a huge variation because it’s very easy for a client to get on board and expand from there.  In terms of where we stand as a business, we started selling the product in the beginning of 2014, and today we have hundreds of customers running applications or workloads on our system.  An application can be anything from a 4 to 10 VM application all the way up to an application using hundreds of VMs.  It can be a full data center running on top of one of our platforms.

RJ: And do you find you’re going up against other companies with similar technology?

Rami: No, not really. The technology we developed, a virtualization technology that allows us to do all of this magic, is all from scratch. It’s a hard technology to create, and there have been quite a few companies that tried to do it and have failed in the past.  We have the advantage of previous experience in developing KVM so we know what it takes to actually develop such a technology. At this point we don’t see direct competition with customers.  When you go to customers, our offering is, at this point, unique.  I’m sure that, by judging what’s going on in the market and previous attempts, there will be other companies who will try to do it in the future, but at this point they are not there yet.

RJ: One of the unique things about Ravello is that this is a company founded by two co-founders that have a lot of experience working together in the past.  Did you also bring over team members from your prior companies?  It seems like this is a great competitive advantage for you in that hiring is easier and that you have a good working dynamic from the start.

Rami: Absolutely, we basically tried to bring some of the band back together.  Starting with investors, this is the third investment for Sequoia with us, the second investment for NVP with us, and the first for Bessemer, so the board has some similar structure.  We definitely also brought some of the Qumranet people back to work with us. I wouldn’t say it’s easier necessarily, but it’s nicer and makes more sense to actually work with people you worked with in the past.

RJ: And in regards to your near term expansion plan, are there specific markets you’re currently focusing on?

Rami: I’d say today we focus more on easier insertion than markets, and we see the easier insertion mainly around enterprise applications and networking use cases and security use cases. So we will continue to focus on these areas as they are the low hanging fruit. 

RJ: Great. Well thanks again for joining us and sharing your insights into enterprise infrastructure. It’s a space that continues to grow exponentially and one that a lot of our growth equity and family office readers are focusing on.

Rami: It was great connecting, thanks for having me.

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