Object First Exits Stealth, Focuses Exclusively On Veeam Environments
Joseph F. Kovar
‘We have this opportunity to develop the next-generation storage appliance for Veeam based on object storage, which provides much better cost and scalability as well as ransomware protection. Object First inherently is better for ransomware protection. And that‘s one of the biggest problems today, the biggest problem: finding a simple solution that has immutable ransomware protection,’ says Ratmir Timashev, co-founder of both Object First and Veeam.
Object First, a startup developer of purpose-build data protection appliances, has exited stealth with $12.5 million in investment and a simple focus on providing a high-performance tier of protection for data managed by Veeam.
The tie to Veeam is no accident given that the co-founders of Object First, Ratmir Timashev and Andrei Baronov, were also co-founders of Veeam, and continued to support Veeam after it was acquired in early 2020 by Insight Partners.
Beverly, Mass.-based Object First also introduced as its company president David Bennett, who until this month served as CEO of Denver-based MSP-centric data protection technology developer Axcient.
The data backup industry has been doing things the same for years, and it has been some time since anyone has done something revolutionary, Bennett told CRN.
“And that was exactly why I joined,” he said. “There‘s an opportunity here with joining two of the most successful founders in an industry. And I like to join companies that have the opportunity to go and change an industry. ... This is a really exciting opportunity for us to go and shape shift the backup appliance marketplace. And it’s all that much more easier when it‘s connected specifically to the Veeam ecosphere.”
Object First was built to provide the best backup storage for Veeam customers, Bennett said.
“That is the simplest message,” he said. “How we do it is very different from our competitors. The easiest way to think about this is the public cloud--AWS, Azure, etc.,--has been built on object-based storage for quite some time. But that was designed for big mass distributed enterprises with hundreds of thousands of small pieces of information spread across huge networks and things like that. Like it or not, the public cloud is going to continue eating the data world.”
Today, businesses operate in two different environments, the backup world which operates on block and file storage, and the public cloud where everything resides in object storage-based infrastructures, Bennett said. That, he said, is why Object First remains focused on Veeam data protection environments.
“Veeam is the biggest and best data management software provider in the marketplace,” he said. “And if you want to intrinsically connect the Veeam backup management technology with a local on-prem device, you need to have that tight integration between the two. So whilst we‘re completely separate organizations, over the last couple of years, both teams have been working together.”
Veeam has always had the best technology for data management, and relies on the largest partner ecosystem for storage management innovation, Timashev told CRN.
“We have this opportunity to develop the next-generation storage appliance for Veeam based on object storage, which provides much better cost and scalability as well as ransomware protection,” he said. “Object First inherently is better for ransomware protection. And that‘s one of the biggest problems today, the biggest problem: finding a simple solution that has immutable ransomware protection.”
Object First is developing a turnkey hardware appliance based on its proprietary software designed to reside in an end customer’s on-premises environment. But unlike purpose-built backup appliances from competitors like Dell Technologies or Veritas, Object First’s appliance is tied specifically to Veeam environments, Timashev said.
“Customers that have Veeam, we think, would prefer us over Dell or any other option,” he said.
Bennett admitted that Object First could go to market with a software-only model, but said integrating the software with the hardware simplifies issues around which hardware target to use, how to configure and setup the system, and how to ensure it is hardened against attack.
“We decided the best way of doing this is, let‘s make sure Object First creates this integrated appliance tightly connected to Veeam, and then make it so easy to use that even I could set it up,” he said. “It’s literally, you can take it out of the box, put it in a rack, switch it on, and in about five clicks, you can have this product up and running and connected to your Veeam instance.”
The Object First appliances make protected data immutable out of the box, Bennett said.
“So there‘s no opportunity for you to accidentally misconfigure something and miss one little setting around security or something like that,” he said. “And then it’s really designed so that if you want to plug another box in, it‘s as simple as that. You plug another box in, plug it in a rack connected together, it doubles the speed, but it doesn’t require you to do any load balancing. Everything just scales automatically and really, really easily. So if we didn‘t own that end to end ourselves, the customer experience wouldn’t be as good as what we believe it can be.”
Despite all the talk of working exclusively within Veeam environments and the fact that the co-founders of the two companies are the same, Veeam does not have an equity stake in Object First, Timashev said.
He also said Object First is an unlikely potential acquisition for Veeam.
“Veeam’s approach is to be hardware-agnostic,” he said. “Veeam always said we have the largest ecosystem of partners for backup storage as well as primary storage. So Veeam is unlikely to acquire us. Veeam wants to be a kind of an operating system for backup. Veeam also wants other object storage vendors to optimize their object storage devices to work with Veeam.”
Because of its tie to the Veeam data protection environment, Object First will work exclusively through Veeam channel partners, Bennett said. The company already has already signed TD Synnex and Arrow as distributors, he said.
“Everything will be sold through a partner network,” he said. “So there‘ll be no direct sales whatsoever. We will match exactly Veeam’s partner-centric go-to-market.”
Since leaving Veeam, Timashev has been working with Veeam on a consulting basis, which he said has kept him busy.
“I’ve been transitioning my knowledge to the new CEO and to the new marketing person who we actually we haven‘t announced yet,” he said. “There will be a new CMO (chief marketing officer) coming next week to him. So I will be transitioning some of my marketing expertise and knowledge to that person.”
Timashev said Object First has been a side project for him and Baranov since they left Veeam.
“We’ve been working on it for the last few years, mostly on the product side,” he said. “So what you will see is the product has been in the making for the last two-and-a-half, three years.”
Bennett said he and Object First have been talking for a year about his taking a role in the company.
“I think we first started talking about this last year sometime,” he said. “And when Ratmir calls you and Andrei calls, you take notice. These are two of the cleverest people in the data storage world. And then we started talking through these things. And on the outset, I was first, ‘Well, why would I go and join a hardware company?’ And then I started listening to Ratmir and Andrei, and Andrei is gonna be way cleverer than I will ever be in technology my whole life ever.”