Talkin' Buurst Data

Buurst! Where did that come from?

May 24, 2021 Buurst Season 1 Episode 11
Talkin' Buurst Data
Buurst! Where did that come from?
Chapters
Talkin' Buurst Data
Buurst! Where did that come from?
May 24, 2021 Season 1 Episode 11
Buurst

Vic Mahadevan, Buurst CEO and Garry Olah, prior Buurst CEO provide insights into the recent company history in changing the company name from SoftNAS to Buurst as well as our new product Fuusion.

Show Notes Transcript

Vic Mahadevan, Buurst CEO and Garry Olah, prior Buurst CEO provide insights into the recent company history in changing the company name from SoftNAS to Buurst as well as our new product Fuusion.

Stephen Spector:

Welcome to Talkin' Buurst Data. This is your host, Stephen Spector, with a fantastic new edition, something unexpected for our podcast listeners. I'm really excited. I have the two key leaders from when Buurst was called SoftNAS few years back. I have Vic Mahadevan, who is our current CEO, and have Garry Olah, who led the transformation of SoftNAS to Buurst, on the podcast. Welcome to both of you.

Vic Mahadevan:

Great to be here. Thank you, Stephen.

Garry Olah:

Thanks, Stephen. It is good to be here.

Stephen Spector:

Garry, I want to start with this idea, and I'm really interested. I've been here about six, seven months, so I don't have the story. SoftNAS had been around about six years or so. They were working with the company name, the product was all the same, and then all of a sudden, suddenly the company becomes Buurst. There's a new product called Fuusion. I mean, a lot happens. I know that you came in at that, along with Vic, at the same time. I'd like to get a little history of that to help our audience understand what happened with SoftNAS, and then from there we could talk about the challenges, things like that, and lessons learned for people about it.

Garry Olah:

Yeah, it was interesting. Vic and I came in because they needed industry veterans, people who understood enterprise software, the cloud, had relationships with Microsoft and AWS, which was the primary platform for the company. The company had been around for about seven years. It just needed to get that, to get it to the next level. You don't know what you don't know when you come into a company like this, so we spent a lot of time learning in the very beginning about things. The reality was SoftNAS was a primary vehicle for the marketplaces and had a good footprint on AWS and Microsoft Azure. There was a real opportunity there, and I think Vic and I both saw that. We teamed up, and it was a great year of figuring that out.

Garry Olah:

But the thing that I found most interesting was the learnings early-on. We went to meet with Microsoft and AWS. They said to us, "Hey, we love you guys, okay. You do some amazing stuff, because you help customers with data performance, and you help them save money on cloud infrastructure. It's huge. But when you look at all your marketing, and you look at your name, and you look at everything else, you're this NAS thing, it feels very legacy. You're not legacy. You were born in the cloud. Why don't you do something about that?" I'd never had a partner tell me to change the name of the company before, but they basically said, "You do so much more."

Garry Olah:

The other thing they said was you also got this amazing technology in the product called UltraFast and these connectors to all these outside sources, but you only connect to SoftNAS as long as you connect to other properties. So we said, "You know what? This makes a lot of sense." We set out to rebuild the brand in a way that it felt different. Then we pulled out, and we went from a one-product company to a two-product company with Fuusion, again, at the request of Microsoft and AWS. Yeah, they really saw the value in that. Being able to target any data source and then target any cloud property, including NetApp, including EFS or anything else. Fuusion really, early days... It took a while to rip that out of the product and make it its own standalone thing, but UltraFast and Fuusion, we felt were the future, because the footprint, the customer footprint, was so much larger than just core NAS. Then when we talked to our customers about it, it was great. The naming-

Stephen Spector:

I'm curious about the Buurst name. To our listeners, don't know in the background, Garry and I at that time had talked about different names. I remember those discussions, but I am interested, Buurst. I took great name-

Garry Olah:

Even when Microsoft and AWS said to change the name of the company, I looked to Rick, and I was like, "Uh," because he's the founder, and he named the company. I didn't think it was fair for this guy to come in and change the name of the company, but it was Rick's idea. He said, "It's time." I said, "Great, SoftNAS can live on as a product. We're going to have a second product. It makes sense. We have a NAS product and we have this Fuusion product." But we needed a name that really talked to the fact that we were born in the cloud, that we allowed customers to burst from the cloud, from their existing infrastructure, without paying a storage tax. The rebranding of Buurst... Buurst was interesting, first of all, naming in 2020-

Stephen Spector:

It must be impossible.

Garry Olah:

... really hard. I've named-

Stephen Spector:

Every name is taken.

Garry Olah:

I've named in every decade of my life since I've been around, and it was so much easier before you had to worry about domain names. We really wanted a dot-com. We sat and we went through a lot of names. We had three or four names at the end. We actually presented them to the board, and they came to the same conclusion that we did, so it was great. Buurst was interesting, because it talked to what we do as a company, but it also was kind of cool. What's sort of amazing is since we've named the company, Buurst, when you go into meetings with people who have never been around us, they're, "Oh yeah, I've heard of you guys." Well, they know the name, Buurst, because it's a common word, but they didn't-

Stephen Spector:

Vic, is there a secret of who created the double U, the two U's in Buurst. Are you taking credit? Where did come from?

Vic Mahadevan:

No, all credit goes to Garry and the marketing team that came up with the two U's.

Garry Olah:

Yeah, it was handed to us, but then I thought about the Citrix I's. I spent 13 years at Citrix, as did Stephen, and I just thought there was something special about the way we treated the I's. The two I's just gave it... I thought the two U's gave it a hook, and there're things you could do around that, and then with the fact that we embedded the U's in the graphics. Alex and the marketing team did a great job of just pulling that all together. It was exciting. It was exciting. That part was good. At the end of the day, you still have... The messaging and positioning really mattered almost more, because coming up with the concept of being a data performance company versus being a NAS. Again, companies care about data performance. They really don't care about how you get there.

Stephen Spector:

Vic, I'm interested. Garry tells the story, how the switch and stuff, but I don't have a lot of experience with board of directors. We all forget. We think the CEOs are in charge of everything, but there's actually a board behind the scenes that's a lot more powerful than I think most people realize. I'm curious, from the board perspective at the time, you were the chairman of the board when Garry comes and says, "I think we need to rename this. This is what our customers say." Is this kind of a standard thing you'd expect with the board, or did this require more board input and board engagement than usual? How does the board react?

Vic Mahadevan:

It's definitely not a standard thing, but you've got to remember, this company has been around for eight years prior to the name chain. I had to do a lot of behind-the-scenes chatting with the board members and saying, "Prep them for that board meeting." As Garry would remember, that is a pretty dynamic board meeting. Some people, look, it's an individual interest. Some people liked some names; some people didn't. But, ultimately, Garry was pushing and marketing, and I put my foot down and said, "Buurst is the name. It's the right thing to do." Garry correctly said it was the birth of the new generation. It's a cool name. It is absolutely not usual for a board to get involved with name changes for a company. It was a new experience for me, as well. I thought Garry and the team did a really great job.

Garry Olah:

I knew I just had to get Vic on board, and then we would get the rest on board.

Stephen Spector:

That's the secret?

Garry Olah:

Yeah, so that was it. But they, in their defense, we had a healthy discussion. I mean, there were people who were like, "Don't fix something that's not broken." I'm like, "Well, yeah, it's not that it's broken, but it's not a help. It doesn't help us. It hinders us from, especially once you start thinking about Fuusion, and how that can develop." Yeah, it's, yeah.

Vic Mahadevan:

I also wanted to add that I had a very, very good working relation with Garry. Any chairman of the board and CEO equation has to be tight. I would call him weekdays, weekends, discussing stuff, but whether top line, revenue growth. As Garry can remember, a lot of time we spent on raising the next round of funding for the company. That was a lot of work, as well. He was extremely responsive, always got back to me. We had healthy discussions. Really, the goal was to move the ball forward for Buurst. It was not about Garry and me. Now do you make Buurst successful?

Garry Olah:

Yeah, I appreciate that, Vic. It was always great engaging with you, because we've both seen a lot, but you've seen a little bit more than me. I just have so much respect for people in our industry. SoftNAS and Buurst were a great team of people who just have a lot of experience-

Vic Mahadevan:

Right.

Garry Olah:

... and just being able to leverage that is so, so key. But I think the other thing that's interesting is... and I think the company needed this transformation... it wasn't as customer-centric as it is now. We kind of didn't have relationships. Because of the marketplace, we really didn't know who our people were. We set out to say, "Look, we're going to pick the top customers, and then really build those relationships and develop them." Fuusion helped with that, because it gave us something else to have a conversation with them about that was broader in the company than usually the app or the thing that they were running on SoftNAS. Now, I think the relationships that the company has with its biggest customers is much, much stronger. When you're in marketplace land, and you don't really have a channel, and you have a handful of enterprise sales people, you do things a little differently than when you start to engage, really engage with the customers.

Stephen Spector:

I would agree. Vic, I think at the beginning of the year, we had the customer... I forget. Is it customer advisory council? We have partner advisory councils. It is quite something when you get seven or eight customers, and they come for two-thirds of a day, companies like Halliburton, for example, or Modus, some of these other big companies. These are busy people, and they came and spent time and talked to us, and I think-

Garry Olah:

What's interesting about the partnerships is the partnerships that were there when Vic and I joined, outside of Microsoft and AWS, were really not partnerships. They were just names on slides. The partners you have today are real partnerships, because we said, "Look, these have got to be real. They've got to be revenue-generating. They have to tie quota. They have to have commitment." The three Cs of the channel have to be followed.

Stephen Spector:

Well, I'm interested. I know we talked about Buurst, but one thing I don't know, and I am interested about the name Fuusion. Where did... Again, the double, the U's again. I love it. From a marketing perspective, it's fantastic. Is it simply, you're just fusing connections? Is there a story behind that? I'm curious.

Garry Olah:

Yeah. It was a little harder, because you always want something that is a little bit more descriptive, so that's what we went for. We always felt like it was going to be Buurst Fuusion, no matter how you slice it. This would be Buurst SoftNAS, Buurst Fuusion. I think that was the case. But it was probably a little easier naming Fuusion than it was naming Buurst, but once we had Buurst, it kind of came along. We sat down, and really, we wrote down. This exercise is really simple. What are all the things that this product does, and what's the vision?

Stephen Spector:

Were there any other names that got close? I'd be curious.

Garry Olah:

Yeah, there were a few, questions even, but they were like anything else, when you're an enterprise software and you're naming things, you either go with a single word that means not too much or you go with a really long descriptive name, like data connector for cloud and on-prem. That would have been awful, right? We really thought that it was good to go with kind of a cooler name that talked to what it did. It takes your data from A to B, and fuses them together. Basically, it fuses the cloud with on-premise. We really liked the fact that it had some unique elements, and the key, most unique, element was UltraFast, but also, we were going to build this big library of connectors on both sides. I think that's still the vision.

Stephen Spector:

Yeah, still the plan, yeah.

Garry Olah:

Yeah, I think Fuusion was always, turned out to be a good choice.

Vic Mahadevan:

I think the beauty of that word is that it connects everything, whether you're a factory floor robot, sensors on oil drilling rigs, any mobile device that the sensor on it is smart [inaudible 00:13:47], fusing anything from any edge to on-premise or to the cloud. Fuusion is kind of as an all-encompassing umbrella term. It's easy for people to grasp. As you're talking to customers, just like Garry said, whether it's customers, partners, very easy for them to grasp the concept.

Garry Olah:

The only negative that we ever heard about Fuusion was, "Well, there's a lot of other products called, Fusion, out there," and there really are. There's probably-

Stephen Spector:

Yeah, it's called Oracle Fusion. I recently got-

Garry Olah:

Yeah, Google Apps and things.

Stephen Spector:

It's just a name. It's not a trademarkable name.

Garry Olah:

Ours, actually, the two U's makes it unique.

Stephen Spector:

Again, connecting to Buurst with the two U's, with Fuusion, it gives the company, guess I use the word, style, diverse color scheme, the logo and everything, and then having that product attached to it is really good. SoftNAS, I mean, it's a storage solution. It's a great product and everything, but you're not going to get too excited and run around balloons. But Fuusion is really cool. Buurst is cool. It's much more, I like the term you used Garry, born in the cloud. These are born in the cloud terms [crosstalk 00:14:56].

Garry Olah:

SoftNAS got interesting with the no storage tax, repositioning, focusing on data performance, messaging because it really resonated with customers. Everybody else was trying to, basically, make a nickel on every dollar of storage. Well, we never sold a dollar worth of storage, so why would I charge on that? Still, we deliver compute. We deliver network. We deliver storage, as one thing under SoftNAS, but customers saw the value. Our prices didn't change all that much, but what changed was, we're not going to charge you a tax as you add more data, bring more data to the cloud. That's where we just started to crush every other solution, including Cloud Native, which is pretty unusual to be able to crush Cloud Native pricing.

Stephen Spector:

Again, because now we're talking petabytes of data, which continues to blow my mind, but when you tell someone you're going to have to pay X amount of dollars per byte, petabytes, and we say, "No, you're going to pay for the performance you need, independent of the size of the data." At petabyte scale, it matters. That's why we have huge enterprise companies like Halliburton work with us.

Garry Olah:

It's the difference between a deal happening and people just staying on-prem. That's why the cloud vendors love it, love Buurst for that, because at the end of the day, even though you're undercutting their pricing, you're enabling the migration. It's huge.

Stephen Spector:

I'll just add one more thing for Fuusion. The greatness of Fuusion that is unique is, you put all your data in the cloud, but sometimes you want to pull it back out and use it, whether it's at the edge or in your data center, and then Fuusion lets you take that data, switch it back out to the end. You can't do that with Cloud Native applications, because they're about the cloud. We've given you that ability to be multichannel. Look at us throwing the marketing terms around, Vic.

Vic Mahadevan:

I think it's good. The one thing I want to add, as well, the reason I like Fuusion, it actually helps fuse the men and women who work at Buurst as a tight team. [crosstalk 00:16:53] better as a team.

Stephen Spector:

Well, Vic has his culture. For those of you, I would encourage you, on our About Us page, we have a nice culture video that Vic did. I would encourage you to check that out. Well, Vic and Garry, this has been great. It's like taking a snapshot of the history of what happened. I think for Buurst, that switch, the two of you in that year, year and a half working together, it was a major switch to the company. It's nice to have the two of you talking about it, have it recorded and shared. I really appreciate both of you joining us today. Garry, you are always welcome to come back. We are certainly [inaudible 00:17:32] about other technologies that you're working on. As long as they don't compete with us, Vic will be okay with me having you on. If they compete, then I may still do it, but I'll just get a nasty email from Vic. Thanks to both of you for joining us today.

Garry Olah:

I'll always be a big fan of Buurst, and Vic and I are lifelong friends.

Vic Mahadevan:

Yes, absolutely.

Garry Olah:

It's great.

Vic Mahadevan:

Garry's been a total friend, a well-wisher, and just a great guy to hang out with, just like you are, Steve.

Stephen Spector:

Right, thanks.