Managing a business is hard work, maintaining it is even more but all that is worth it once you find a good partner and many satisfied customers. With the seemingly ever growing competition, the industry is a hard nut to crack.
But when it comes to that there’s no other company with as much experience that can tell us more other than our guest for today! They’ve been around long enough and secured their share of the pie and they plan on keeping it that way.
Ladies and gentlemen, help me welcome Andrew Rouchotas, CEO of Cartika Inc.
Thanks for this opportunity, Andrew, I’m sure our readers also wanted to learn more about you and your company. What a great pleasure to hear it straight from you!
To start with…
We would like to know more about Cartika, the company; How did you guys came to be? Who’re the founders and how did it grow into a full-grown company after 15 years?
I’m the original founder and owner of the company. Today with 30 employees, I play a more hands-off role than the early days but I still wear a lot of hats. Aside from much of the strategic and technical vision, I also get quite involved with the sales, marketing and the finance sides of the business.
Before starting Cartika, I was working at IBM and identified a mid-market SMB opportunity to provide application services (now called SaaS) and sell hosted applications. Most of the time, these were ecommerce solutions on open source platforms where we did design, implementation, consulting, and training.
The company is quite different now than it was when it started, but our growth has been all about the customer – paying attention to what they need, building solutions to meet those needs, and treating them very well. That‘s what has gotten us to where we are now.
Wow, that really took a lot of hard work and dedication!
We see that in your earlier days, your first line of services were application hosting and becoming a support firm and now you’ve become a caterer for web hosting, what motivated the company to go beyond what it first offered?
The main issue with running those services in the early days was that we couldn’t find a good managed hosting provider. So eventually, we started co-locating our own equipment, managing the environment, and hiring our own SysAdmins. Our business ended up transitioning back then because there was demand for our managed hosting services. We stopped focusing on applications directly and started focusing on managed environments and on reseller channels.
Cartika has been providing managed hosting services since 2000 which is a long time in this industry! And with that, we’re sure you’ve dealt with competitions in the business world of providing hosting services, how did you deal with this?
Although we were early in a burgeoning market, it didn’t take long for other competitors to jump in. Today the competition is more fierce than ever as the barriers to entry are significantly lower than they were at the beginning.
We’ve been really progressive and still operate with the belief that IT as a service is where the market will continue to go. I would say it’s been our unwavering commitment to do what’s right for the customer, continual innovation in the right areas, and the development of a strong reseller and partner network that have helped us win more than our fair share in competitive situations.
Thank you for the insights Andrew. Now for an insider’s look on the products: can you tell us about your services that held firm in its market space? Why you think they are so?
Two key product areas that have been around since nearly the beginning for us are cloud services and backup/recovery solutions. We were developing cloud and IaaS long before they were even called those things.
Also, as we saw the emergence of regulation and compliancy become more important over the years, we knew that services to cost-effectively store backup data with integrity, manage it, and retrieve it when needed would be worth investing in. This continues to be a core product focus for us as well.
These services were both in their infancies when we started, so we have really grown up with them and the steadily increasing demand over the years. I don’t see the need for either of these fundamental aspects of IT going away any time soon.
One of the services Cartika provides would be IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-service) which we believe, helps the client by having Cartika handle the heavy lifting. Can you tell us how this works?
IaaS is the “cloud,” essentially. It’s providing infrastructure and resources in a service format. Our customers buy – maybe “rent” is more accurate – the infrastructure they need to meet their business requirements. SaaS is an extension of this. A SaaS provider would typically work with an IaaS provider for the infrastructure and they’d layer their application on top of that infrastructure. “Cloud” is the buzzword that drove the industry toward the utility-based model. With IaaS, we’re providing the resources, abstraction layer, networks, virtualization layer, and the IP space, and the customer deploys their internal data and services to the cloud.
We see that you offer many add-on services above and beyond pure IaaS, how does this help increase the manageability and value for your clients?
What many clients have realized since IaaS started gaining momentum is that it takes a good amount of internal skill and knowledge to do it right. If using IaaS is not planned and managed properly, it won’t live up to it’s full potential. In our experience, many smaller clients need a lot of help with this specialized area of IT so we offer a full range of services to assist them. There are also a number of larger clients who have the internal capabilities but simply don’t want to spend time worrying about the infrastructure and would rather focus on other things.
We have added virtually every service a client needs to ensure their environments are running at peak performance, highly secure, and for those who need it – compliant.Examples include: managed load-balancing, VPN, security services, domain management, CDN, and so on. Customer can pick and choose the services they need or buy them in comprehensive support packages.
You mention proprietary disaster recovery and backup services that you offer. Please tell me a bit about this.
Seeing a big gap in the market, we went out and utilized the open sourced backend bacula.org to build our own product. We’re like RedHat to Linux for this open source product. We built a whole suite of automation tools that let you backup and recover servers, databases, and VMs. It’s a fully automated and integrated platform.
We have this system integrated within our platform. As long as you have the proper management level and/or the backups and DR services on top of the IaaS, you can granularly restore whatever you want and set retentions as needed. It’s a pretty cool solution and currently we’re focused on offering this tool for other service providers.
In the near future, we’ll have the ability to backup and recover from any cloud. Whether it’s on Amazon, private or hybrid. We’ll provide it as a SaaS or on-premise licensed model. Right now, we charge by the number of VMs and servers being backed up; there is a cost per gig to backup data to our cloud or per device locally and there’s no charge per gigabyte if you utilize your own storage devices. If you already have a server somewhere, you can backup all your data and there’s no charge per GB.
What evolutions do you see coming in the next few years and how do you plan to address these needs?
We used to sell everything bundled by the server or VM. We evolved by separating our portfolio into the pure infrastructure with the associated services in a modular format.
The next evolution is the continued automation of our management services to the point where we can layer our management platform on infrastructure anywhere. We only manage backups and disaster recovery for FISMA/HIPAA but we’ll be transposing services on other infrastructures soon, such as Amazon and Google. These platforms are pure IaaS and we’ll effectively offer “IT management as a service.” They have a partner community layering value on top of the infrastructure so we’re building a similar model. I can really see our management and our disaster recovery (DR) services being another layer on top of different infrastructures.
Now Infrastructure-as-a-Service, along with added managed services and customer support really form the direction of where our company is quickly headed.
Together with the services you provide, Cartika is also open for partnerships! May we ask what things we would expect if clients choose to partner with Cartika?
I decided early on that a channel distribution model was an important fit in building our business because we had what partner wanted but didn’t want to build themselves. We have partners in various adjacent lines of business selling our services – SaaS companies, Ecommerce, IT services, ERP/accounting, and CMS to name a few.
It’s a given that partners will be able to increase their revenues and strengthen relationships with their respective customers. But, I think it’s our flexibility, innovation and support that really make the difference. Cartika partners can simply resell our offering and let us worry about everything else. Or, they can fully manage their customers themselves.Either way, we’ll build a customized solution that makes sense for them.Another thing our partners appreciate is the fact that we keep improving our services and nearly all of the enhancements we make are based on direct feedback from them,their customers and end-users.
I see you your offering has a heavy emphasis on APIs. What made you take that direction, and what applications have you seen evolve from that offering?
APIs are absolutely critical as we move forward in IaaS and cloud computing. They let IT people manage things centrally and far more easily. What we’re finding is that customers and partners may have resources elsewhere but still want to use our services. Therefore, we allow them to use the systems internally within their organization to manage resources and other account functions on our side. We can manage things like contracts/invoicing, but they can deploy and reclaim VMs and associated services/resources to support their business processes. It’s a really important capability in the infrastructure space.
We have a pretty good sized SaaS provider who has their own portal for managing their customers. When a new customer comes, they need a new VM. So when their customer signs up, they programmatically (via the API) make a call to us, create the VM, and they present the VM with their specific template that they’ve created and they present that to their customer and their client API with various functions like reboot/resize/snapshot/assign IPs, etc. Via the API, they can deploy a new customer and have the customer programmatically manage the resources of the VM. This is interesting because the customer might not know Cartika is in the background and yet the SaaS provider is able to deploy the product seamlessly without touching our platform.
As a parting question, are there any announcements or offers you’d like to share to our viewers?
There are two areas we are particularly focused on at the moment. We made an announcement earlier this year about further increasing the capabilities and flexibility of our IaaS APIs. We also made significant enhancements to our CDN video and live-streaming platform a few months ago. Both of these solutions are very solid today but we think there is further work we can do to make them even better.
Another important initiative we have underway is one involving our support of clients on other cloud platforms such as AWS, Google, and Azure – as well as our own platform of course. Our vision is to provide specific layers of infrastructure support and management clients need, independent of the underlying infrastructure. We really excel at the IT service and management layers and believe this area represents a sizable gap in the market and a big opportunity for us to help close it.
That’s a wrap!
Thank you once again Andrew for having this interview with us. Good luck and We do wish you all the best with your future ventures!
For all you readers, how did you find the interview? Let us know your opinions and your insights in the comments below!