Interview with Alex Benik of Battery Ventures

Battery VenturesBattery Ventures, interview with Alex Benik
Date: 19 Augustus 2014
Battery Ventures CrunchBase profile

I had the honour to speak with Alex Benik, partner at Battery Ventures where he focuses on IT Infrastructure technologies. He previously worked for the Yankee Group.

Battery Ventures is a large fund that invests in a wide variety of start-ups, divided in eCommerce&Retail, Digital Media, Industrial Technologies, Software&Services and Infrastructure.

Alex currently works with a number of known players in IT infrastructure, namely: Diablo Technologies, AppDynamics, Catchpoint, Chef, Cumulus Networks, Nutanix, Primary Data, and Stratoscale.

When he has the time, Alex blogs for GigaOM, where he writes in-depth articles on trends in the infrastructure arena.

I had a brief talk with Alex about his views on the IT infrastructure market and specifically his take on SanDisks acquisition of FusionIO.

I enjoy speaking with VCs, because of the great overall grasp of the markets they cover.

Talking with Alex really helped me put some trends in the right proportions and get new insights on what is driving concept of the Software Defined Datacenter.

How do you see the path towards the Software Defined Datacenter?

alex-benik-bigWhat I believe is driving this trend, is that developers and organizations are looking to move extremely fast.

Developers are getting used to the paradigm of going on AWS (Amazon Web Services) and getting resources immediately instead of weeks/months of provisioning time. That is the benchmark against which they are now holding their internal IT organizations.

They are benchmarking their IT organization against AWS in terms of ease-of-use, agility and price. I think that is the fundamental macro trend that is driving the desire for the software defined datacenter.

That manifests itself across the traditional silos of IT Infrastructure: Compute, Networking and Storage, plus the tooling to configure, manage and monitor all this gear.

Battery Ventures has various bets in this area; we think it’s a fundamentally disrupting time. It is very exciting from our point of view.

Once we have delivered on the Software Defined Datacenter promise, what will be the next thing in IT Infrastructure?

Well the notion of the Software Defined Datacenter is a vision we have laid out, but very few traditional companies have been able to execute on this. Only companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook have succeeded; these are large companies with vast resources that have done everything internally.

I think many traditional enterprises are quickly becoming software companies that need learn to do rapid software development. IT Infrastructure should be an enabler to this, not an inhibitor.

That said most companies have yet to implement the fundamental SDD building blocks in the compute, network and storage layer. We have a long way to go.

How do you work in Battery Ventures? What does a typical week look like?

We work very collaboratively as a team here, we work out of one global fund. We’re organized by themes and not by geography. We have offices in Israel, Boston and on the westcoast, I am frequently travelling between them.

There is a core group of 7 people that work on IT Infrastrucure. A typical week for me is divided in 3 main activities; New deals , Working with existing portfolio companies, and the other part is general networking. Spending time at events, meeting CIOs and VPs of engineering to stay in touch with the market.

How do you regard SanDisks acquisition of FusionIO, and how does it affect Diablo Technologies?

I think it is an intriguing acquisition. I believe they bought a go-to-market machine with a great installbase and some real significant customers.

Read my last interview with CEO of Diablo Technologies, Riccardo Badalone here

Obviously, given their acquisition of Schooner, Smart Storage and now FusionIO it is clear they want to be a serious player in the enterprise SSD space. What they have been lacking is the go-to-market part of the equation, which they now have through FusionIO.

Fusion is obviously a business at scale, I think they paid a fair price for the company.

What we have seen in terms of actual performance, Teradimm bring a next generation of performance to the market that PCIE approaches don’t bring.

Our aim with Diablo Technologies is to do to PCIE attached flash what PCIE did to SATA and SAS. We’re bringing another step in performance.

I think SanDisk has been messaging the delineation between these products pretty well. Ultimately I believe they want a broad portfolio so that customers can choose what works for them in terms of price and performance.

SanDisk and Smart Storage have been great partners for Diablo, we’re excited to continue working with them. Now that they have a stronger go-to-market power, I believe that when they have the integration sorted out this acquisition will be a good thing for Diablo.

The other thing that is interesting is that FusionIO is an excellent software company. Much of that software can be leveraged on top of Diablo hardware.

Thanks for your sharing your views Alex!

I will stay in touch with Alex over the coming time, stay tuned!

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