ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK: Thriving on protecting, and orchestrating, data
Technology companies face massive challenges of compliance with new privacy and data protection laws such as the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) in Europe and the Protection of Personal Information Act in SA. With the US also preparing to legislate privacy protection, companies with large user bases, such as Facebook and Google, are having to clean up their act to avoid multibillion-dollar fines.
But there is one category of business for which this spells only opportunity. This is a layer of software companies that sits between businesses generating data and the giant "hyperscale" data centre providers such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.
The in-between outfits provide cloud data management tools, and tend to be so technical, consumers never hear of them. Yet they are critical to the protection of consumer data and company backups.
With the rising complexity of data compliance, they are thriving - when they meet business needs. The leader of the pack is Veeam, a company founded in Russia, and now with a global footprint. At its annual VeeamOn conference in Miami this week, co-founder and vice-president of worldwide sales and marketing Ratmir Timashev revealed that it had passed $1bn (R14.4bn) in annual revenues.
The company thrived, Timashev told Business Times, because it correctly foresaw the shift to software-defined data centres that use "virtual machines" as opposed to hardware servers. The move was driven by cloud architecture leader VMware, now a subsidiary of Dell Technologies. Veeam emerged when Timashev saw the opportunity to simplify management of this technology. "It starts with backup, but it goes to visibility, mobility, and orchestration of data," he said.
"Boards of directors have been instructing IT people to leverage the competitive advantage of the public cloud - the hyperscale platforms - to deliver products faster to the marketplace at the most optimal cost.
"Most products now have a digital component, from cars to medicine to government. So everyone needs the agility and elasticity of the public cloud, but most want to keep their own private clouds - company-managed data centres - for compliance and cost optimisation."
This combination of public and private cloud is known as hybrid cloud, and Timashev said it will drive the next era of massive growth. Governments, he said, will be among the biggest customers.
"As with business, governments need to be agile, flexible and to optimise costs. But they also need to worry about compliance, security and data governance, even more than business. A lot needs to be done to get it right, and governments and businesses are less mature than they should be . but GDPR is pushing everyone to do a better job."
Veeam has 350,000 business customers, and is expanding in SA, seeing double-digit growth in a tough environment last year.
"SA is similar to Australia," said Timashev. "It's very advanced in terms of technology use. Because of being remote, companies there are trying to use cloud technology to the best of its capability."
• Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee