Formed in 2008, the SaaS-based data management start-up (well, not anymore) Druva has now entered the elite club of Unicorns. Mid last year, when the company announced US$130 million fresh investment, led by Viking Global Investors, along with other VC funds and existing investors, with over 4,000 enterprise customers globally, little did the founders know that they will be valued at US$ 1B+. But there it is! As the saying ‘the fortune favours the brave’ goes, from a time when the founders contemplated whether or not to continue the business, to today, it’s a unique case of turn around. Today the company is spread across the world and gets 80% of its business from North America, 12-13% from the Europe and remaining 5-7% from APAC, including India.
Think of a start-up scenario with shoestring budget, a garage set-up, trying to gain trust of its potential customers, managing funds and so on. Typical of a start-up roller-coaster, Druva also emerged and evolved with time.
“There were times when we’d have just enough money to pay off next month’s salaries. Early on, at some point, we were compelled to think whether to continue or shut shops. And then things took a turn. A few customers walked in with orders worth US$ 100,000 and the game changed entirely,” tells Milind Borate, Co-founder and CTO Druva.
Customer faith went up, a few key people joined the company, new avenues started appearing on the horizon and that built the momentum for the company. “What mattered the most to us was our people and their belief in our vision,” says Milind
The journey, as it happens, was evolutionary on both X and Y axis. On the X-axis, Druva came up with its first line of business – Laptop data protection. From there it evolved into an end-user data protection offering and then into a full data protection suite including end-user data, SaaS application, server data, workloads running on the datacenter infrastructure etc. On the Y-axis, different unique use cases started building up. Backup and restore was an obvious choice, however, moving ahead, use cases such as disaster recover (DR), having copies of data for legal hold and compliance, data analytics and machine learning started building up. “Today, we are one of the few companies that offers ‘back-up as a service’ for the entire spectrum of data and provide value-added services on top of it,” Milind claims.
“Not so long ago, data, by most IT teams, was considered a liability. The reasons were obvious. The cost of storing data was high. Its accessibility was tough. The chances of data being breach were immense. Today, with the pervasiveness of data availability and value-added services in the cloud, data is the most valuable asset.”
Evolution of SaaS-based Approach
The company also evolved from providing on-prem options to an entirely cloud-based SaaS model. “From a 100% on-prem business in 2011-12, to today where 90% of Druva’s business is SaaS based, we have turned into a pure-play cloud player. So much so that like a metered billing for our customers. If a customer uses only 1GB of backup in a month, it will be billed only for that,” says Milind.
The choice for being a SaaS-based company was quite futuristic and logical. Functionalities such as data analytics, machine learning are extremely resource intense. They can’t be run with limited capacity of a datacenter. Here’s where Druva comes in – delivering a universally accessible, scalable and autonomous enterprise data resiliency to the users.
However, a bigger question still remained: ‘Were customers convinced with ‘Data in the Cloud’ model? There were still a lot of apprehensions among enterprise users about the safety of data and reliability of the infrastructure.
As part of evolution of any new industry/solution, a lot of education is required. Druva wasn’t alone in this battle. “The onus of educating customers was on us. Also, we build on our reputation through a number of third-party certifications for our cloud-based solutions. That instilled the confidence among enterprises that the data was safer in the cloud than in their own on-prem datacenters,” says Milind.
No doubt, the entire ecosystem of BigTech companies and cloud technology giants like AWS, Microsoft, Salesforce, Google, IBM etc. have orchestrated massive education drives to uplift the faith in public cloud technologies.
Shift from a License-model to Subscription-model
As part of its evolution, Druva saw the early signs of SaaS being the preferred model of software consumption. Companies like Salesforce.com, Oracle, MuleSoft, Adobe, SAP, Microsoft and many more have begun to move in that direction. “To achieve scale, it is important to look at alternative consumption models. If a company wants one-TB of back-up, it’s doable using a product license – buy, deploy and consume it. But if the requirements are dynamic, from a Terabyte to a Petabyte (PB) or 10 Petabytes, it’s impossible. We have customers who do >10PB backup with us. That’s where we realized that a SaaS model will be long lasting. And to do so, building our own datacenter wasn’t the right choice. That wasn’t our core business. That’s when we decided to go with AWS,” informs Milind. Druva’s entire Cloud Platform is built on AWS. AWS infrastructure gives Druva’s solutions the required agility and scalability making it more open and accessible. Enterprise users can streamline governance, improve cyber resiliency, and gain critical insights to uncover opportunities and expedite decision making.
AWS over Other IaaS Providers
In the year 2012, Gartner declared Druva as top enterprise endpoint backup solution. It was in the same year that the company launched its integrated back up offering and was preparing for the data protection and governance platform. It was a matter of achieving scale and that made Druva decide to host its solutions on AWS infrastructure. “AWS was perhaps the only public cloud service provider which offered the depth of IaaS services. Compute was still a simple thing. But the scalable ‘object storage’ in form of Amazon S3, and distributed and relational database services were the additional components that AWS offered, which made the whole infrastructure very compelling for us to build the initial products,” explains Milind.
As any infrastructure player would, AWS also evolved over the time. The number of services increased and the prices rationalised and cropped. This helped Druva in passing on the cost benefits to its customers. “We can guarantee that being a SaaS provider, we are 50% more cost efficient than any other on-premise or hardware-based solution provider. The capital investment, power requirement, the storage cost all go in favour of a SaaS provider,” he says.
When Druva was formed, inSync (Endpoint Data Protection & Governance) was the first product that came out in 2008. Over a period of time, three different products were launched to cover the entire spectrum including user data, server data to all other workloads that run on public cloud. “As we speak, the data is in motion. Earlier it resided on laptops, now it’s on O365. Earlier it resided in emails, now it is on Slack. Earlier it was in the relational databases – Oracle or MySQL – now it’s fast moving to the distributed databases like Cassandra, MongoDB etc. Through our SaaS solution we cover the entire gamut for all sorts of data and across all storage systems.”
The company ensures that whenever AWS launches a new product or service, its features, functionalities and cost benefits are passed on to the users. “For example, AWS recently launched S3 Glacier Deep Archive. We immediately launched a value-added service for our customers for long-term data retention and digital preservation. The cost of this service is 30% lesser than traditional back-up and data retention options.”
In many cases Druva has also helped AWS address the gaps and challenges. “As a user of DynamoDB, we pushed it to its limit. The kind of scale we wanted to achieve and the development practices for DynamoDB didn’t match. How do you balance the load in terms of time and the distributed keys that were used for the DB? Druva and DynamoDB product management team worked together to overcome those shortages. Quite a few of the features that you see in DynamoDB today came out of collaboration between the two,” explains Milind.
In the end, it would be prudent to say that the limitations of legacy IT infrastructure have built a solid case for public cloud. It is now more than proved that you can offload your grunt work of infrastructure installation and maintenance on to cloud players and focus on creating innovation business solutions that give you competitive advantage. And ISVs like Druva, which are entirely based on scalable AWS infrastructure, can offer immense benefits to their customers.
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