How Komprise Is Sifting Through The Growing Mountains Of Unstructured Data Out There

‘Increasingly, people want to run machine learning on their data. They want to get intelligence from the data. And if 90 percent of your data is unstructured and you don‘t have a way to search and extract unstructured data, then how do you use unstructured data in your analytics?’ says Krishna Subramanian, chief operating officer at Komprise.


Managing All That Data

Komprise, a developer of data management and mobility software aimed squarely at growing mountains of unstructured data, this week unveiled a new partnership with Microsoft to support migration of data to the right tier in the Azure cloud at no cost. With the new partnership, solution providers can help clients do analytics across existing NAS infrastructures from vendors such as NetApp, Dell, and Microsoft to identify which data sets to migrate and to which tier of Azure, do a high-speed migration of the data to Azure, and ensure full data integrity by migrating all file attributes and permissions.

Prior to this week’s news, CRN had the opportunity to talk with Krishna Subramanian, chief operating officer at Campbell, Calif.-based Komprise, about the role her company plays in managing unstructured data. That is an increasingly difficult, Subramanian said, as data growth far exceeds IT budgets. Data management, she said, is further complicated by the fact that 80 percent to 90 percent of the world’s data is now unstructured, making it essential to have a multi-vendor management system that spans on-premises data centers to the cloud to prevent silos of data management.

“Our product provides intelligence and data mobility for unstructured data,” Subramanian told CRN. “Basically, we analyze file and object data across your NetApps, across your Windows files, across your AWS and Azure clouds, to give you a single view into that data. We tell you how much data you have, how fast it‘s growing, who’s using it, things like that. And then you can set policies.”

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Define Komprise.

Komprise is an unstructured data management software service. Let me explain what I mean by that. Customers might have a lot of file or object data sitting in different file storage, and they lack visibility into that data. It‘s hard for them to move data around easily because unstructured data can be very long, and it’s hard for them to search and find data and use it in data analytics. Our product provides intelligence and data mobility for unstructured data. Basically, we analyze file and object data across your NetApps, across your Windows files, across your AWS and Azure clouds, to give you a single view into that data. We tell you how much data you have, how fast it‘s growing, who’s using it, things like that. And then you can set policies. You can say, ‘Hey, you know what? This data is really cold. It shouldn‘t be sitting on my expensive storage. Can you push that to the cloud and transparently secure it?’ Or, ‘I’m retiring this account. I want to migrate the data.’ Or you want to search and find some genomic data set for a test you ran in the Netherlands and you winna copy that to [somewhere else]. Komprise does all those things.

You mentioned working with unstructured data on other companies’ infrastructures, including NetApp. So just to be clear, you're not actually competing with these companies, right?

We’re not competing with them. We are basically providing a layer of abstraction and data mobility. So we bring data into these storage platforms and we move data out of those platforms when somebody doesn’t need it there anymore. We‘re giving analytics and visibility into that data. But we’re not competing with them. We‘re not a storage vendor. We’re not a backup vendor. We‘re just right-placing data into those environments.

Does that also include right placing data on the cloud as well?

Yes. It includes right-placing in the cloud. So we can put data into FSx for [NetApp] Ontap in the cloud, for example. And cold data we put into [Amazon] Glacier Instant Retrieval, which is [much] less expensive than the SSD layer on FSx for [NetApp] Ontap. But it still looks like it‘s local to FSx for [NetApp] Ontap. So we do transparent active data tiering across file and object storage in the cloud or in your data center.

Komprise is focused on managing unstructured data. Why that’s important.

Data growth is exploding. And what‘s really interesting in the last 15 years is that all that growth is in unstructured data to the point where today 80 to 90 percent of the world’s data is unstructured. But as technology vendors, we haven‘t really kept up with that because most of the technology was built years ago, and is focused on block and structured data. ... The storage vendors have caught up. Amazon has object storage with S3. And guys like NetApp and Qumulo and others are building file storage in the cloud.

But the data management layer hasn‘t caught up. There isn’t a data management solution that really makes it simple to look at unstructured data across environments and to help save cost and make money on it. And it‘s important to save costs because in most environments unstructured data is more than doubling every couple of years. IT budgets are not doubling every couple years. Storage price points are not going down by half every year. That’s not what‘s happening. So how do you make the two ends meet? How do you manage all that growth with the same limited budgets that you have? You have to become better at keeping that data and figuring out what to keep, when to keep it, and where to keep it. So that’s the cost saving side of the story. But the other side is, increasingly, people want to run machine learning on their data. They want to get intelligence from the data. And if 90 percent of your data is unstructured and you don‘t have a way to search and extract unstructured data, then how do you use unstructured data in your analytics? So there’s a huge blind spot when it comes to unstructured data management, both on the optimization of the data and in the extraction of value from that data. That‘s the problem we’re solving.

If it’s so important, why don’t storage vendors whose technology stores the data provide the management as well? Why a separate company like Komprise?

It‘s not that storage vendors are not solving it. But [are they doing it] in the best interest of the customer? If you read the website of any storage vendor, they would say they’re selling storage. Then they‘ll say they’re selling data management. They‘re saying, ‘Hey, my platform is a great place for you to put your data. I will do all these smart things for you for your data, and I’ll make your data available and all of that.’ But what is it that they didn‘t tell you? They didn’t say, ‘Hey, if you put your data anywhere else, you can still manage it.’ They make money when you put data on their platform, but is that what is good for your customers when there‘s so much choice in this market?

In storage, the one eternal truth is change. You know that one size never fits all. You know your data has different value throughout its lifecycle. And one platform, one vendor, one architecture, has never worked. You‘ve always had multiple options. Do you want to limit yourself to one option? I think that’s the question. Ninety-nine percent of enterprises have multiple storage architectures. They use multiple vendors, even within Amazon. Amazon is one cloud. Amazon itself offers over 16 tiers of file and object storage of their own. And then they offer third-party solutions. The reason there‘s so much choice is because data has different needs. Like in your house, you probably have a living room and bedrooms and bathrooms. Why isn’t it all just one room? It‘s because you have different needs at different points. And data is like that. Data has different needs. The short answer is, storage guys will try to tell you data management is a storage problem. But data management is not a storage problem. You need an independent layer separate from the storage so you can have choice.

Well then, do companies like NetApp or Clumiosee Komprise as a partner or as somebody interrupting their business?

A bit of both. I mean, they‘re all partners with us. We partner with NetApp. We sell with them, because they sell in heterogeneous environments, and they realize that customers with multiple environments need a data management solution that goes across these environments. Also, we bring data into NetApp. We don’t just take it out. So it‘s of value to them. But sometimes, they may feel, ’Well, we can sell all of our own infrastructure. Why do we need something else?’ So it‘s a bit of coopetition.

I think the bigger question is, what incremental value does the customer get? Because it‘s about the customer. And for the customer, the benefit of an independent data management solution is they have a consistent way to look at the data. Because when you look at data in different silos, and if you only manage it through the silo, then you have to manage many, many silos of data. And for the customer, that limits the benefit of that data.

Is Komprise profitable?

We are rapidly growing. We more than doubled our revenues last year. We had 150-percent year-over-year growth last year. We‘re not a profitable company. We are still investing in the company. But we are growing and scaling the business rapidly. We also doubled the rate at which we acquired new customers last year over the year before. We are growing rapidly, and we sell 100 percent through the channel, and invest in the channel. We have training, dealer registration, margins to the channel

Do your channel partners typically have relationships with storage vendors that store data that's managed by Komprise?

Yeah, they do. For example, we bring data to HPE, which resells Komprise. And so channel partners that work with HPE sell Komprise and Qumulo. [HPE storage partner] Qumulo is the storage that we bring data into. And Qumulo has two tiers of storage. They have a common tier and a capacity tier, and Komprise migrates data intelligently to use both those tiers. So a channel partner who sells HPE product is a great fit for us because they not only sell Komprise as the tip of the spear, but they also sell the infrastructure behind it. And they can even sell it all as a subscription.

How about NetApp channel partners?

It depends on the partner. We do have partners like Technologent and World Wide Technology and SHI, and most of these partners carry all the different storage products. And they sell Komprise as well. Because again, a lot of customers have heterogeneous environments. And they want a solution that works across their different environments. Or they doing a cloud transformation. So the short answer is yes. I think it depends on the which products the channel partner leads with.

How much investment has been made into Komprise?

We have raised so far about $65 million has gone.

Do you expect to need another round of funding?

We‘re getting interest from investors. We generate a lot of revenue thankfully from customers, and so we don’t exactly need it right away. But yeah, we are getting some interest.

So we are now in very early part of 2022. What are some of the challenges that you and your customers are facing for 2022?

For customers, I think it is very difficult right now. People have learned to kind of live with this ongoing pandemic. But there‘s still shortages. Shortages might get even worse. Customer are starting to stabilize, and while consolidating is still important, they are starting to think about more strategic initiatives, which is good. They’re thinking about ways to use their data. I think the biggest challenge for customers is there‘s so much [data] out there. And time is such a limited commodity. What is the easy button? How can somebody simplify their lives? How can it be easy? Because IT is increasingly asked not just to manage infrastructure, but to become kind of a service. Storage is becoming a data service, and IT’s role is changing from infrastructure management to delivering data services. How do they adapt to that? How do they become more business-oriented? How do we make it easier for generalists to do things and not require them to go to an admin to get something done? I think it‘s all of that. How do we make it simpler, more agile, and more business-oriented in terms of what technology can do for them. That’s I think the biggest challenge.

So what are some things that Komprise is working on in terms of new technology for 2022?

The big thing you’re going to see from us is, how do we make it easy for IT to deliver value to the business users for data. How do we make it easy for business users to search data. I mean, think of Komprise as sort of a data catalog across all your filers and cloud, and it‘s an active catalog. You don’t have to do anything. It‘s like a Google search. You just search across everything. You can just find the data you need. And we can move the data for you to wherever you want and execute any operation you want. And it’s always simple and easy to do. Business users can say what they need, IT can control the policies, and there‘s a simple way to do all of this. We are putting more and more into the product to enable our customers to become really data driven and using their unstructured data. And you’ll see more from us that front.

Has Komprise done any acquisitions?

We have not made any acquisitions so far.

Any plans?

We partner really closely with lots of companies. We have strong technology partnerships. I mean, there could be interesting opportunities in some kind of data extraction area. So yeah, I wouldn‘t rule it out in the future.