Actifio, With New VC Bucks, Wants to “Virtualize” Data Management, Become the Next Data Domain

7/21/10Follow @gthuang

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how to “decouple the management of data from the underlying storage system” in a unified and efficient way. In other words, things like data backup, protection, and recovery across different computer systems are still complicated, expensive tasks for companies to deal with. (Maybe that’s why we seem to hear about a new online data management startup every week.)

Actifio isn’t giving much detail yet on how its technology works, or exactly what it does. But Ashutosh and his team have been working on the project for about a year and a half. Greylock Partners incubated the company for seven months, until last July, and the startup has been working with 40-some beta customers, mostly in the Boston area, plus strategic partners. It is shooting to release its software for the masses in the fourth quarter of 2010. Its main distribution strategy is to go through resellers—IT consultants who bundle software and services for companies.

Although the first market opportunity for Actifio is in disaster recovery, it’s clear the company is shooting for a much broader audience. “It isn’t about backup, it’s about [data] management and virtualization,” Ashutosh says. “It’s similar to what VMware has done on the compute side.”

Actifio has grown to 50 employees, and is currently hiring for sales, marketing, and business development positions. The company has assembled a top management team that also includes David Chang (a fellow founder of AppIQ), Steven Blumenau, Rick Nagengast, and James Pownell (the last three have done time at EMC and other prominent tech firms).

But enough of the practical stuff—let’s dream a little. The home run here would be to turn this company into the next Data Domain, in which Greylock was also a founding investor. So I asked Ashutosh about any particularly relevant lessons from Data Domain, which created a fundamentally new way of doing data compression and storage (something called deduplication), and is now part of the EMC machine.

“Data Domain did two key things,” Ashutosh says. “The first is it provided a very tangible value that simplified people’s life and made a difference. The second is execution, which is very, very critical—just focus on getting customers happy. We take a page from that one.”

Lastly, Ashutosh stressed again that Actifio is about more than disaster recovery and data backup. “This is about a new market,” he says. “The last thing we want is to be put in the bucket of ‘another backup company.’” Instead, he says, the ultimate goal is “to meet the needs of the new virtualized data center.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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