A “big data” solution needs Canadian partners

Actifio, makers of a protection and availability storage (PAS) platform aimed at solving the “big data” problem, has officially entered Canada, forging relationships with five solution providers and looking to expand within the coming year.

The Waltham, Mass.-based company’s appliance is built to manage copies of production data in a more streamlined approach than other companies’ backup and recovery products. Actifio aims to reduce backup and restore windows to make storage backup more efficient and cost-effective.

About three months ago, Actifio opened offices in Toronto and Montreal. Currently, the company has about 10 employees in Canada, along with five partners. “We’re treating all the partner community as if they’re part of our sales team,” said company president Jim Sullivan.

So far, Actifio has recruited Toronto’s Alliance Technologies and HighVail Systems, Blair Technology Solutions (BTS), which works across Quebec, Ontario and Alberta, plus MasStor Technologies and NoviPro, both based in Montreal.

In the coming year, Actifio plans to recruit other partners as well. “We’re looking to bring in partners that are in the data centre selling storage and (bring) a lot of value add to customers,” Sullivan said. “We’re going to go approach all the top managed service providers.” The MSP market will be critical to Actifio’s growth, he said.

For now, Actifio’s partner program in Canada will be the same as the U.S. program. It includes opportunity registration, demo and training programs and joint marketing events, along with sales support and demand generation.

Customers often have what Sullivan calls a “string of pearls without the string,” or several good storage and backup products without a solution to bring it all together. “They’re creating multiple copies of data, using multiple storage systems and multiple software products.”

Actifio’s PAS appliance virtualizes copies of data and manages them through a simple user interface that has a look and feel similar to using a Mac. The company calls its technology the Virtual Data Pipeline, which creates a single solution for backup, snapshots, deduplication, disaster recovery, analytics and compliance.

“We call it heterogeneous attach,” where Actifio’s product can work with other vendors’ hardware and software products already on the floor. Sullivan compares Actifio’s product to the way VMware technology changed server efficiency. “Your storage world is going to look like your server world,” Sullivan said.

“What we like about their product is the fact that you can virtualize or see through virtualization the entire data that the company is using so you don’t create silos between the production data and test and development,” said Yves Paquette, co-founder of NoviPro. “Those large cloud computing environments will need a tool like Actifio is offering simply because they need to be flexible,” Paquette said.

Any companies that are running full backups on weekends and are still not able to get it done is where the opportunity really lies, said Gerard Maynard, CEO of Alliance Technologies. “This basically takes your backup windows to zero.” There are also cost savings automatically derived from being able to eliminate snapshots.

“Everyone’s got the data management problem,” Sullivan said, so Actifio can target various markets. However, he said it is well-suited to healthcare, where fast access to data is crucial. Pricing for Actifio’s product is by appliance, with an added “managed data licence,” or software charge for every 10 terabytes under management.

“The service delivery around this product, at least initially, is very minimal,” said Bradley Brodkin, president of HighVail Systems. “It goes in and it’s fairly user-friendly.” However, there is a service opportunity around customizing the customer’s environment.

“The interesting thing about Actifio is it’s kind of a new class of product- it doesn’t really fit into any one type of product,” said Rachel Dines, an analyst with Forrester Research. “It’s really hard to predict what’s going to happen here because it’s so hard to classify this kind of solution.”

“I would expect this to really take off in industries that really have high volumes of data,” she said, such as healthcare or media and entertainment industries with many rich media files.

“I think the main barrier to adoption is actually just going to be the status quo,” Dines said. “People are really used to keeping many, many copies of data and it’s going to be somewhat of a mind shift for people to say ‘I don’t have then copies of my data anymore, I just have one.’”

Follow Harmeet Singh on Twitter: @HarmeetCDN.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Harmeet Singh
Harmeet Singh
Harmeet reports on channel partner programs, new technologies and products and other issues relevant to Canada's channel community. She also contributes as a video journalist, providing content for the site's original streaming video. Harmeet is a graduate of the Carleton University School of Journalism.

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