The man who wiped $56bn off the storage industry

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The man who wiped $56bn off the storage industry

Start up veteran Ash Ashutosh probably has to look over his shoulder a lot. This is the man who could wipe billions from the revenues of IT storage vendors.

It must be bad enough being in storage anyway, seeing how hardware is starting to become more of a commodity. But then along comes Mr Ashutosh to make things even worse for the likes of EMC, Brocade and HP, by inventing a way to create massive efficiencies. 

Ashutosh examined the process of converting data from disk to tape, and the later systems of de-duplication, and invented a more efficient way of putting data onto a storage medium. Thanks to him, and his advanced methods of management, companies no longer have to hold several copies of their database – one for each department that is carrying out any sort of IT development.

According to IDC research, 65% of company disk space is used to store copies of production data. The fact that banks, medical research institutes and manufacturers no longer have to buy storage equipment to house a database for every developer in their organization has saved them a fortune. The accumulated savings have been estimated (by Actifio) at around $56bn. 

Can you imagine how the board and partners of EMC and Brocade must feel about Ashutosh? He’s just knocked their entire industry for fifty six billion big ones. They must be particularly traumatised at HP Storageworks, because that was where Ashutosh plied his trade, as CTO, after they’d bought his first company AppIQ and right before he started Actifio.

Still, he must know what the customer wants, because Actifio gone from a startup to a global phenomenon in five years. They don’t give out revenue figures, but in May venture capitalists thought they were worthy of an advance of $100m, so you can apply your own formula to work out how much they must be raking in.

Much of that money will probably go on airfares, as Ashutosh visits all 35 of the countries that Actifio now sells into, once a month. In the last year, that means he has seen 110 CIOs of large enterprises from all parts of the globe. If there’s one thing that unifies them, it’s that they are terrified about their own futures and desperate to know where the cloud is taking us all. (It’s probably not a great time to be a traditional storage expert either).

Although all of the CTOs saw the cloud coming not many had really sat down and worked out what it would mean for them and the future of their business, he says.

They’re not the only ones. When he’s not disrupting the IT industry, Ashutosh is preparing the next generation of upstarts. He worked as a technology expert in venture capitalist Greylock Partners at one stage when he was between start ups. 

Now he lectures in IT at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston. The problem is, students keep dropping out. Not because they’re hopeless, but because they often find someone wants them badly enough to lure them out of college. In some cases they abandon their course and launch their own start up IT outfit. Like everyone else, academia struggles to keep pace with the developments in the IT industry.


This was first published in July 2014

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