Interview With Rick Clark, President and CEO, Aptare

He is:

He was:

  • CIO of Sanrise Inc. (acquired by EMC)
  • President and CEO of Aptare Inc. (1993-2000)
  • Director, professional and education services, at Plexus Software
  • Project manager, software engineering, at Plexus Software

StorageNewsletter.com: Founded in 1993, Aptare is an established profitable company, how did you start the project? Did you raise money or brought your own finance?
Rick Clark:
Aptare started as a professional services company in 1993. We were instrumental in various extremely large IT projects in the mid-1990s including the tax modernization program with the IRS. In the early 2000’s we saw a huge void in the market for providing reporting and analytics for enterprise backup products such as Veritas NetBackup and TSM. We pivoted into an enterprise software company and launched our first product in June 2003. Since then we have released six products across all aspects of data protection and storage for both on-prem and cloud IT environments.

Aptare has been organically grown from the beginning. I can remember digging into my kid’s college savings funds to be able to make payroll and purchases for some of our first development systems. We focused on addressing critical business issues for our customers and organically grew the business.

What was the compelling event you considered to start your business? Was your business in the same format as today? An ISV or a consulting firm?
I grew up in the era of Unix systems in Silicon Valley. Being from New Zealand, the entrepreneurial spirit runs deep in my blood. I worked for an early Unix pioneer called Plexus. In the early 1990s, I saw a great opportunity to build a professional services company that focused on very large database systems centered on document imaging and workflow systems. The Internet was just starting to take shape at that time. We named the company Aptare because we knew that our business model would change and evolve. Aptare is Latin for “to adapt” and that seemed appropriate growing up at the cusp of the Internet era. We developed several award-winning Internet commerce sites for very large companies including AT&T. From 2000-2002 we worked with a pioneer in the storage service provider market called Sanrise. We discovered an untapped market opportunity to provide reporting and analytics for large enterprise backup environments. There was enormous pricing pressure in the services market at that time and we knew we had to change our business model to survive. We spent the next year developing our first software product to provide an independent but dependable view of a corporation’s global data protection environment. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act was passed in 2002 and this helped propel our business model due to accountability and audit requirements, especially for public companies. Our billable hours business model was replaced with perpetual software licenses with annual support contacts by mid/late 2003.

In almost 25 years, IT has changed a lot, could you share with us your original mission and the current one?
Our original business model in the early years was centered around a services company that helped form a nucleus and DNA of software engineers with incredible depth of expertise in massively scalable database management systems and mission critical web-based architectures. The skills and expertise developed during this era set us apart from our competitors to this very day. Our vision and focus has been on developing software that is very simple and easy to use by our customers. The native tools and technologies developed by the storage and enterprise backup vendors were cryptic, very difficult to use, required professional services for any form of customization, and you needed a PHD from MIT to unlock the true value. We took the “Switzerland” view of neutrality. We knew that large corporations wanted an independent and single pane-of-glass view across their global storage and backup environments. Aptare set out to be the de facto standard by providing instrumentation for optimization. We did not have a hardware agenda and our mission to provide rich and deep reporting and analytics tools would help corporations significantly drive down their IT costs, mitigate risk, and streamline their audits and compliance. 

What were the top 3 changes in IT and how did they impact Aptare?
Over the past 20+ years we have seen three significant shifts in IT that have helped shape and scale our business. The first was the movement from traditional fat-client applications to web-based architectures and the associated UI capabilities of modern browsers. Aptare had very early exposure to developing web-based applications, without applets, in the mid-1990s. This experience and the challenges of various incompatibility issues with early browsers helped Aptare to leap ahead of our competitors with our revolutionary UI designs. The second was the adoption of a utility storage model and the movement storage out of the physical server onto the network and the associated markets that were created during this era. Aptare was well poised to deliver on the critical business issues of that era. These focused largely on capacity planning, performance root cause analysis, and risk mitigation. IT environments became a myriad of vendor technologies across the network as corporations looked to independent tools that were scalable, reliable, and easy to deploy. The third and perhaps most significant shift in IT is Cloud Computing. It workloads are moving to public clouds at an unprecedented pace. Not all workloads are optimal when hosted in the public clouds. These are driven largely by cost, performance, and regulations. We see the future of IT as the hybrid cloud where IT workloads are balanced and moved to/from public clouds and private on-prem clouds or hyperconverged infrastructures. Customers are looking for the same depth and breadth of reporting and analytics, independent of the location of their data. The Cloud has accelerated our business because CIOs and CFOs have increased pressure to drive down their overall IT costs, minimize their associated IT risk, and simplify and streamline their audits and compliance. Aptare is the only enterprise scalable technology that can deliver reporting and analytics for the hybrid cloud to meet these new world IT requirements in cloud computing.

Could you summarize what your product does?
Aptare provides enterprise software for reporting and analytics across on-prem and cloud IT environments largely focused on data protection and storage. For data protection, we help customers optimize and find the balance between over protection and under protection in cloud and on-prem IT environments. We provide compliance reports to streamline and minimum the cost/pain associated with audits. For storage, we provide optimization dashboards that illuminate the white-space or wasted storage, as well as show you how to optimize your all-flash arrays by reporting on datasets that do not compress or dedupe well. We provide highly customizable chargeback solutions with on-demand IT analytics across your on-prem and cloud IT.

What are the recent features you have added to your product?
Aptare just announced our version 10 Feature Pack Two (10.2) release. In this release, we revolutionized the arduous process of optimizing storage environments and risk mitigation with the introduction of pre-packed intelligent solutions built into our software. We call it the “Easy Button” for IT Analytics. On-demand dashboards now illuminate enormous inefficiencies in large enterprise storage environments (we have typically seen 25-45% of customer’s storage environment reclaimed or repurposed for higher priority projects using Aptare) or material risk and deficiencies in customer’s data protection strategies and policies. In this latest release, we continued to enhance and develop our Software Development Kit (SDK). This has allowed us to onboard new and disruptive storage technologies in a matter of days rather than months. There are over 120 software defined storage companies, all driving for market share with our customers. With the agility and speed enabled by our SDK, Aptare can easily add these new vendors/technologies to our platform and continue on our mission of providing a single pane-of-glass across the entire cloud and on-prem enterprise independent of the storage or data protection vendor.

Do you consider your product as a must have or a nice to have? In other words, when admins don’t have your solution, what is the alternative they consider?|
Aptare’s products are a must have, solely for the reason that every corporation is looking to drive down their overall IT costs, mitigate their risks, and streamline their audits and compliance to stay competitive. In the past companies could rely on mining data using native tools and spreadsheets, but the volume and velocity of data that today passes through the arteries of IT requires a new generation of on-demand reporting and analytics that Aptare delivers.

In term of business, we understand you’re 100% channel oriented, right? Is it VAR, reseller or you use a tier-2 model? What is the profile of these partners? Are you looking for new ones?
Most of our business is transacted through our valued channel partners. We have a network of OEMs (Hitachi Vantara), VAR/Resellers (companies like Sirius, Insight, OnX, Trace3, etc.) and Cloud/SaaS Partners (Datalink/Insight, Forsythe, Sungard, DXC, etc.). Our ideal target partner is a company with a strong practice in cloud and managed services.

What about OEM or other alternatives? Hitachi is one of them? What percent of your business does OEM represent? Do you wish to extend this channel?
Hitachi has been an OEM partner for over 12-years. We have a tremendous partnership globally with Hitachi Data Systems, now known as Hitachi Vantara. It is a ‘powered by’ OEM relationship. The revenue with Hitachi varies from year-to-year but averages out at around 20-25% of our global business. We are always open to developing new OEM and strategic partnerships with other software vendors to allow them to accelerate their respective roadmaps.

How do you price your product?
Aptare provides two main suites of products. Our Storage Management Suite is priced by the raw terabytes of the underlying storage systems that we collect and report on. Our Backup Manager product, that forms the core for data protection reporting and analytics, is priced per client. Aptare provides three purchasing models for our customers: Cloud/SaaS, Subscription, or Perpetual with 1-3 years of support & maintenance. We also provide ELAs for larger deals. A small deal will typically be in the $50-75K range, medium sized deals are $150-250K, and large deals are >$500K.

Could you share your revenue range, we heard something around $30 million, are we far from the reality?
We are a private company and do not disclose revenues or financial details. We can state that we are a 100% employee owned company that is highly profitable and organically grown.

How many customers do you have?
Since June 2003, Aptare has sold our software to over 1,100 corporations worldwide, many of whom have been with Aptare for 10+ years. Our customers are across all industry verticals and range from small environments all the way up to Fortune 5 enterprises. Examples include companies like Citigroup, JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, MetLife, Western Digital, Verizon, Visa, and Nielsen Media. We also partner with companies such as Insight/Datalink and Sirius/Forsythe to provide “reporting as a service” in a multi-tenancy cloud/SaaS environment.

What is your competition? Could you name competitors you have beaten during recent deals? Does it come from home grown solutions, large vendor services, large ISVs?
We see two types of competitors in our market, the first of which being native tools and homegrown utilities or spreadsheets. The second category would be traditional Storage Resource Management tools from companies such as NetApp and Dell/EMC. Our customers are very experienced and seasoned users of alternate tools and technologies to report across their storage and backup environments. These tools, typically from EMC or other storage vendors, do not scale and are very fragile resulting in unreliable reporting/metrics. Our customers will often try the native tools and products from the storage vendors first and then replace them with Aptare down the road after they have struggled with reliability, scalability, and flexibility. We are the only company that can provide in a single unified database information across all parts of a company’s IT infrastructure including data protection, virtualization, storage, applications, and public cloud. Customers want one view, one pane-of-glass and a flexible, easy to use interface to deliver analytics that drives significant cost savings. The storage hardware vendors are not going to deliver software that shows a company on how to stop buying more storage, we do. 

Did you receive some acquisition offer? Or you’re completely outside this game and wish to keep control and continue to stay independent?
My fiduciary responsibility is for our shareholders and maximizing the value of Aptare. I get emails and enquiries every month from companies very interested in investing in or acquiring Aptare. We are very unique in that we are organically grown and have no debt or external funding and naturally are extremely attractive for many investors or companies looking to flesh out their software portfolios. We continue to review and assess all legitimate enquiries, but at the same time continue on our mission of delivering high value software for our customers and partners.

More globally, how do you see the future of the company and the product? What are the next steps and new direction?
We continue to drive forward with our overall mission to become the “gold standard” for IT Analytics for hybrid clouds. Customers’ storage and backup environments are more complex and distributed than ever before in history. Datasets and IT workloads are moved in and out of private and public clouds making it extremely difficult to manage, optimize, measure, and stay compliant. Aptare has developed a software development kit (SDK) that allows us to be nimble and agile in the adoption and addition of new technologies into our IT Analytics ecosystem allowing customers to maintain control of the hybrid cloud environments. Our adaptable and flexible reporting framework continues to evolve and maintain relevancy by focusing on core customer issues around cost, risk, and compliance.

Read also
Aptare Extending Universal IT Analytics Platform
To support public cloud providers
2017.04.14 | Press Release
Aptare StorageConsole 10
High-definition analytics across heterogeneous infrastructures, with dynamic charting engine and inventory view
2016.07.27 | Press Release

 

Source: Interview With Rick Clark, President and CEO, Aptare