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March 14, 2018

Avere Systems’ Journey to the Top of the Cloud

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Private: Josh Goldman

Today, the cloud is a primary driver of the digital economy, shaping the way that businesses produce, market and monetize their products and services. It’s quite a change from 10 years ago. Back then, most Fortune 500 companies would have balked at the notion of placing their most valuable information assets on a public cloud infrastructure. Why? Because of security concerns, compliance and the fear of not being able to recover their data. At the time, startups and small- and mid-sized businesses were the primary early adopters of the technology.

As a pioneer in high-performance, file-based storage solutions that combine the best of on-premises hardware and cloud storage, Avere Systems showed enterprises early on that the economics and efficiencies offered by cloud technologies can provide significant competitive advantages.

Avere’s ascent was powered by executive leadership that zeroed in on three fundamental principles:

1. Validation: building value for customers and their businesses

2. Communication: listening to customers

3. Measured optimism: establishing and communicating clear, realistic milestones to employees and stakeholders

They climbed quickly to the top of the hybrid cloud market and, a decade after its founding, in January 2018 was acquired by Microsoft—more on that exciting news later in this post.

Cutting Edge Storage

Avere’s story begins in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2007, far from the intensity of Silicon Valley. Before cloud storage became the de facto solution for enterprises, on-premise storage was the standard. Companies kept prized data assets in their own storage systems within their four walls. That’s because enterprise customers feared letting their IP out of their data center and making it vulnerable to a security breach.  In its early years, Avere (the word means “to have” in Italian) took a calculated approach. It offered a traditional on-premise storage solution with a cutting-edge storage innovation based on an advanced file system to reduce latency to high density disk arrays. The company’s technological advantages directly benefited from its proximity to the world-class data storage research center at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

As the cloud market developed, Avere’s technology offered dual benefits to cloud customers: high user responsiveness and the ability to cope with high amounts of latency typically found in cloud and hybrid cloud deployments. These benefits helped drive home Avere’s value to companies that were nervous about moving their core data to the cloud.

At the time, Avere made the case that their value in migration to the cloud without taking the performance hit typically found in other cloud solutions. “We started with an insanely elegant solution for inserting flash into the data center,” says Ron Bianchini, Avere’s president and CEO. “Our solution was—and still is today—about hiding latency and enabling cloud deployments without compromise.”

Pointing to the Cloud

Bianchini admits that early on, establishing trust with enterprise customers took a concerted effort. But his three basic principles proved to be a durable and effective strategy in a dynamic marketplace.

The third principle was especially important to Avere’s resilience at home.  Communicating customer stories gathered during executive road trips built belief among employees: they were working for an emerging storage leader, they were excited to bring new value to customers, and they were confident Avere was on the right path toward success.

Bianchini related to employees how a government agency was very satisfied with how Avere’s high-performance file system allowed the deployment of vastly less expensive disk arrays versus the alternative of being forced into a more costly alternative from a competitor. Bianchini also relayed how a media and entertainment company that was able to cut production time from three years to just nine months because of Avere’s solution.

Bianchini’s trip reports validated Avere’s technology in the field and therefore kept talented employees confident in the company’s direction, especially at a time when their skills were in high demand by emerging cloud storage startups. “They wanted to see the road ahead. Communicating these stories both validated Avere’s position and helped infuse optimism into our overall mission,” Bianchini says.

Over the past decade, Avere has delivered wins for many of the world’s top brands in media and entertainment, government, life sciences, technology and finance.

Bianchini also won—by sticking to his three fundamentals. Successful customer stories and Avere’s leadership in storage took shape under the guiding executive leadership that zeroed in on his three basic principles he’d adopted.

He believes entrepreneurs can benefit from a strict focus that incorporates these key points. They can help a startup build momentum in small steps while keeping their valued team apprised of the change the company is bringing to the marketplace.

The Next Chapter is Being Written Now

Avere’s crowning validation was Microsoft’s recognition of its enterprise storage applications and the fact that they align elegantly with its mission to give customers the most flexible, secure and scalable storage solutions in the marketplace. New cloud applications and services are emerging that offer highly innovative and competitive offerings for a broad number of industries and applications. Avere and Microsoft are well positioned to move forward with a shared mission to enable demanding enterprise workloads run in the data center, or in the cloud or in a hybrid configuration that combines the best of those two worlds.