If you are confused about the cloud file storing and sharing space, this interview with Vineet Jain should throw some light on the dynamics of the industry.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start with introducing our audience to yourself as well as to Egnyte.
Vineet Jain: I’m the CEO and co-founder of Egnyte – a company that I started in 2008 with three others. We started Egnyte with a very simple idea. We were trying to replace a physical file server with something that was multi-tenanted and hosted without realizing that we were actually building a cloud play. We actually called the product an on-demand file server. Of course, once we realized that the word cloud is hot, we replaced on-demand with cloud. That was the idea from which Egnyte was born. Here we are today with 42,000 enterprise customers. We are around 300 employees headquartered in Mountain View. We were funded by Google, Seagate, and Polaris among others. We have raised $62.5 million so far.
Sramana Mitra: Maybe that would be the most perfect starting point for this discussion. Give us an ecosystem map. How do you see this ecosystem playing out? Who are the players? How do you differentiate and what are the trends of the ecosystem?
Vineet Jain: To be precise, we are playing in this file sharing, file serving, storage-being-an-enabler space around mobile device or any device accessed from anywhere. As I mentioned earlier, we were trying to replace a physical file server. The idea here is that you have employees who need to access their information whether they’re in the office or outside. Empirically stating, for every one employee, you end up having six external touch points – your business partners, your customers, and vendors. So you need a platform which is not just for internal file sharing but also for external file sharing. Then there’s a whole sort of collaboration workflow specific to each industry. But it’s a platform that pervades your enterprise from an internal as well as an external perspective.
The way this space has evolved is that there have been multiple approaches, starting with the incumbents. On one hand, there are the public cloud players – companies which say that everything is going to go to the cloud. You have some notable names there. On the consumer side, you have companies like Dropbox with a huge amount of users. You have other companies coming in with guns blazing. There’s now Google with Google Drive. There’s also Microsoft. The whole idea is that these are cloud-based solutions with a huge focus on device-to-device sync and content being shared with other business partners. That category is now being called enterprise file sharing and sync or at least file sharing and sync, whether it’s consumer or enterprise aspect.
Then, if you look at non-public entities, there is private cloud storage and therefore sharing, which has been the incumbent. These are the EMCs and NetApps. The core storage providers are coming in with different flavors. Then you have on-premise information silos or file repositories like the old SharePoint or other ECM solutions like FileNet.
This is still an immature space. That is a very important point to make. The players are taking different approaches. One is saying everything in the public cloud. The other one is saying private is where you have the security, control, and compliance needs met. We are saying, “The world will be hybrid wherein, based on the use cases, there’s absolutely a use case for business that files can be moved in to the cloud.” But especially in the context of a mid-market company or enterprise, it’s not going to be a cloud-only deployment. You would still need to address the needs of remote offices and back offices where connectivity is poor. You will still need to deal with very large files that people are working on whether it’s Adobe Illustrator files or CAD drawings. You need fast local access on-premise. You also have data sets where you’re so concerned about security and privacy added based on which part of the world you are that you absolutely cannot move that data to the cloud.
If you look at the overall problem, cloud is a part of giving people a solution, which is also called the core file-sharing problem. Rather than it’s an either-or, we’re saying that the world will be hybrid and the cloud and on-premise will be two fungible entities. Based on workload efficiencies and team distribution, the data could be kept in multiple places with the users getting a single pane of glass view. That’s how the space is going to be, especially in the context of the enterprise. Just to give you a simple corollary, this reminds me of the mythical paperless office. We heard about this term back in 1975. The reality is that a lot of paper is still printed today. The reason I’m saying that is because I see unstructured data and files going the same way. Most are going to the cloud, but on-premise is not going away.