Interview with Michael Tso, CEO of Cloudian
This wednesday morning I had the pleasure to speak with Michael Tso at breakfast in an Amsterdam city-centre hotel.
Born in mainland China, Michael was raised in Shanghai and Hongkong, finished high school in Melbourne and graduated at MIT in 1993. In his 20 years business experience he not only lead companies commercially, but also accumulated 32 patents.
He’s the CEO of Cloudian, a company I only recently became aware of.
On-premise Amazon S3 cloud
Cloudian allows you to build your own Amazon S3 compatible cloud on-premise, they have built a software stack that is compatible with any application you run on Amazon. Cloudian offer their customers either a software-only offering or a software + HW appliance that comes pre-installed.
Their current claim is that they can offer enterprises their software + hardware appliance product at $1ct per GB per year.
Though relatively unknown in the US and Europe, they have 40 large customers worldwide among which Vodafone, Nextel, NTT, SoftBank, Nifty, and Lunacloud
Search engine and Mobile telephony background
Michael has much experience in the search engine market, he was early employee for Inktomi whose search engines were behind AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft. In the pre-Google era, they ran 60% of all search traffic in the US.
In 2000 he met with Hiroshi Ohta, the inventor of the cameraphone and founder of the first photo messaging service. The service did well but Hiroshi had trouble with data spikes causing crashes. He met with Michael who built very stable search engines and together they founded Gemini Mobile in 2001.
Mobile Message storage platform DNA
Gemini Mobile built the messaging service platform behind Vodafone Live and later rolled out similar messaging platforms for other carriers. These systems processed and stored messages for carriers and were ‘Telco-proof’, very robust systems.
With their impressive client-base and conviction that the need for data-storage will continue to grow exponentially, Hiroshi and Michael decided to explore the storage space and created Cloudian.
During our talk, Michael identified three trends in storage that inspired them to build Cloudian.
Trend 1: Flash will drive data away from expensive storage arrays
Flash has taken the market by storm. Michael sees storage diverging, a high IOPS performance tier in flash and a low-cost scale-out object capacity tier on commodity hardware. He sees this trend leading to the demise of high priced, high I/O storage arrays.
Trend 2: Object storage on commodity hardware is the only answer to exploding data increase
50-60% of the worlds data is generated in the last 2 years, which means in 5 years time, 75% of the data in the world would be created between today and then. Michael:”That’s an amazing change in the storage industry, the likes of which the world has rarely seen. That’s why we are excited at this opportunity, that we see as a 10 year not 2 year opportunity.”
Object based storage makes sure that data is easy to archive and retrieve, commodity hardware keeps the cost down and allows for much faster innovation cycles. Michael explains that to keep up with all that data increase while staying cost/performance competitive, the standard 3 year innovation cycles aren’t going to cut it anymore. Cloudian’s own software+hardware appliance offering is on a 6 month cycle.
Trend 3: Free cloud storage is coming; get ready
Like free email, free enterprise cloud storage is coming. Either amazon, Google or Microsoft will be first and the rest will follow. Though not all data can be hosted in the cloud, some data can always be migrated towards it. Enterprises need to be able to leverage that free storage to stay competitive. Compatibility between private & public clouds is key for enterprises to effectively build their hybrid solution.
Cloudian has only just gotten started
Michael tells me Cloudian is founded with a 10 year horizon in mind. They spent the first two years perfecting the storage system without any effort put in marketing.
Recently they have invested in a marketing and sales force and will be expanding into Europe and the US. I expect Cloudian to do extremely well. Stay tuned!
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