Interview with founder and CEO Paula Long
Date: 6 October 2014
DataGravity Profile

Paula Long founded EqualLogic, which was acquired by Dell in 2007. She was only interested to get back in business with a truly game changing idea, which she did: Data-aware storage.

paula_long640x474DataGravity won the ‘best of show’ award at VMworld 2014 in the category new technology, definitely a good start. I had the pleasure to speak with Paula Long last week and learn about DataGravity’s plans and current status.

Data-aware storage

DataGravity is a mid-market hybrid storage solution, it is sold as an appliance and as such competes with the likes of Nimble Storage, Tintri and Tegile Systems.

DataGravity sets itself apart from the competition by it’s data-awareness. Through an intuitive GUI, the IT administrator is able to see what type of data is on the array, who has access, who is reading / writing the data. User activity can be tracked and managed. This transparency offers IT departments a means to monitor and manage data usage, security and data governance.

Impact on data management and data governance

Paula was surprised at how little her customers knew about their data and how deeply this impacted data management. Not knowing what data is on the array inevitably leads to storage sprawl with no means to clean it up.

Data governance was another great concern to address. Without naming specific companies, Paula told me her customers had astonishing privacy issues. Her product offers a solution by providing insights about which files are sensitive and what users have access to it.

Privacy and data governance completely changes the game. “In my EqualLogic days, no customer ever talked about privacy. Now, there is not one customer that doesn’t talk to me about it.”

In this light, data-aware storage seem so compelling that it begs the question why this game changer took so long to arrive.

Moore’s law

Paula explains that in the EqualLogic era, she simply did not have the hardware to build a data-aware array. “We did not have the compute power we need now. We did not have the memory either, the most memory you could get into an array back then was 1GB, now we’re in the Terabytes. Thirdly, SSDs really changed the game. There was no flash technology you could use for acceleration 10 years ago.”

Completely new storage architecture

DataGravity’s engineering team had to build a completely new storage architecture to record and store the meta-data that provide context to your data. Paula adds: “We had to find a way to do that, without sacrificing performance and without costing more”

DataGravity has many features that are unusual for a storage company, such as reporting, security and analytics. This required Paula to hire an impressive engineering team; to date DataGravity employs 80 people.

First US deployments in October, Europe in 2016

DataGravity has started shipping products to US customers since last week and GA was announced today. They will be 100% channel focused and have worked intensively with channel partners in the beta-program to find their first beta sites.

Though the product now ships in the US, expansion to Europe will not be likely to happen before 2016.

Founded in Nashua, Dell’s backyard

DataGravity has its offices in Nashua, New Hampshire. “Nashua is 35 minutes away from Boston, has a great downtown area and the town is home to many interesting companies. Of course Dell is here too.”

Battle-hardened board of directors

There are three VCs behind DataGravity, Charles River Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and General Catalyst Partners. Paula describes her board as a battle-hardened team she can rely on: “Our board are all operational guys that have sat in my chair. When they see the movie they know when the scary stuff is coming.”

“I love it when they love our products”

When asked about her life outside the office, Paula explains that right now DataGravity is her life. She has put her heart and soul into her company and hopes to sell her products to 10’s of thousands of customers across the world.

More important than commercial succes, is the satisfaction of winning her customers hearts and building a game changing product. “If you’re not building something that is not completely game changing, it is no fun.”

I look forward to the first technical reviews of DataGravity and will stay in touch with Paula for market and tech updates. Stay tuned!

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