Monday, March 27, 2006
Interview with Mark Davis, Creekpath
Our interview this morning is with Mark Davis and Ed Chopskie of Longmont-based Creekpath Systems (www.creekpath.com), a company in the storage management software market. Mark is CEO of the firm, and Ed is the new Vice President of Marketing. We caught up with Mark and Ed recently to get insight into where the firm is going, and the new developments at the company.
Techrockies: What are Creekpath’s products, and how do you fit into the storage area networking market?
Mark Davis: Creekpath is a company that is really in the business of helping IT organizations integrate into a business. Historically, there has been a disconnect between the technical geeks and the businesses they are supposed to be serving. There’s a huge amount of focus inside the C-levels of an organization to have IT become an integral part of the business. One of the things that makes that impossible is that IT people did not have, have not have, and still don’t have systems that help them speak business language to business people about what’s happening in the IT infrastructure, how it contributes to ROI, and if an organization is running efficiently or not. The IT industry—and specifically the storage industry—have been building storage products –hardware, software, appliances—that are solving technical problems for technical people—but not products for business people. Creekpath was traditionally an SRM vendor in the past—it had storage tools, and automated things, however it did not enable the VP of IT infrastructure or CTO to have good business conversations with the Controller or VP of Finance or CFO or line of business people they have to work with when delivering services. This enormous gap is what Creekpath needs to solve now. What we’re doing here is taking a very big, robust piece of storage management software that discovers and correlates what’s happening in the storage infrastructure, and relates that to how it impact applications. The software discovers all of the dependencies from an application—through hardware, software, to the actual storage devices and down to the rotating disk drives—and tells you how that infrastructure is impacting the business and your applications. This is software which we’ve built over the last give years. What we’re now doing is adding business analytics and service management layers, so that people in the higher level in an organization can better understand what is happening in their infrastructure at a high level. We’re enabling them to understand how their storage infrastructure is or is not supporting their businss goals. We are looking at things like how effectively capacity is being delivered, how performance is being delivered, and giving IT managers the tools to make this transparent to their customers—the people who give the money for that infrastructure. We’re now much more of an IT service management and ROI software company than a storage company.
Techrockies: So it sounds you are moving beyond your SRM (Storage Resource Management) roots?
MD: Creekpath was traditionally an SRM vendor. SRM is a good tactical tool for people who have to make stuff run—there’s nothing wrong with that. But business people actually need different questions answered, different kinds of info, and business issues to deal with. The underlying data is quite similar, but it’s the same information presented differently to different type of users. What we’ve discovered with our customers—and these are large customers, with thousands of nodes and petabytes of storage—is that solving tactical problems is a nice thing, but the real value of our software is business level information on how operations are running—which users, which applications, which business lines. We’re connecting economics and applications. We think of this as the next phase of IT management software. It’s an evolution beyond SRM into something more strategic—multimillion dollar problems. A short hand analogy is that SRM is software that solves $100,000 problems—that is, an administrator costs around $100,000 a year, and software can make that person more efficient. If there are 10 people running storage, and you grow 80%, you don’t have to hire 8 people—and you save hundreds of dollars. The bigger problem, however, is that they’re actually buying enormous amounts of infrastructure they don’t need. The dollars spent on administration is pale and insignificant compared to those millions.
Techrockies: However the product is still focused on storage?
MD: Yes, we’re still dealing with the storage part of the problem. Other companies deal with servers, PDAs, etc—but no one else is doing this in the storage world, where we see a big gap in the marketplace. IT managers have realized asset management and service delivery management is as important to their business as other parts of the business. That big elephant in the room called storage is more than 30% of the cost of running an IT organization, and is not being managed effectively by those pieces of software. That software does not understand how to discover and penetrate complex layers in storage networks, and it’s very difficult to understand what’s really happening in that infrastructure. That’s what Creekpath has built over the last five years—a way to discover at a very granular level, hardware, virtualization, filesystems, and databases that connect applications to the underlying infrastructure—and on top of that business analytics and much more business reporting and chargeback capability on top of that software.
Techrockies: I know you’ve fairly new to Creepath--what’s your prior experience, and what are your goals at the company?
MD: I joined this company in June, and am now almost nine months into this. Creekpath has done some very good stuff. We’ve found in the market that traditional SRM is not as interesting, and is becoming commoditized. It’s interesting, but not super super important if it’s just helping administrators get more sleep. My task here is to leverage the assets here. We’ve got many hundreds of man years of technology developed here—real stuff, fully deployed in corporations. We’re trying to add higher value, and we’ve went through some energy to restructure the company, and product planning to build these kinds of applications—that’s what we’ve been doing for nine months. Our new product is Creekpath Acuity, which Ed and the marketing team will be launching in the next couple of weeks. It’s a different value proposition and different users. I am leveraging our customers, technology, and investors to build a company that will take it to the next level.
Techrockies: How much VC has Creekpath raised so far, and where are you in terms of company lifecycle and new funding?
MD: We’re funded both from San Hill and local venture firms, including Sequel Partners here in Boulder. The first institution investor, Tom Washing, remains an investor. We also have investors from NEA, Telesoft, and from Lehman Venture Partners on Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park. We have enough mo ney in the bank to take us through this product launch and a bit beyond, and we will be raising mo ney shortly. We’re not raising money right now, but will be out of product launch, when we have new revenues and customer validation later this year.
Techrockies: It looks like Ed’s also new here?
Ed Chospkie: I’ve been here six weeks.
Techrockies: And what’s your background?
EC: I was working at a small Bay Area startup, BDNA, and prior to that I was at Peregrine Systems in San Diego for nine years.
Techrockies: That’s interesting—how did you end up in Colorado?
EC: That’s a long story—Mark and the team had a retained search for a VP of marketing, and that was for someone not necessarily from storage but someone with more of an IT asset management/service management background. I had that prior experience at Peregrine Systems, and also went through some rough times and ups and downs, and understand both sides of the business.
Mark Davis: Storage people generally do not understand business analytics software. We’re trying to marry the great storage expertise and intellectual property base we have here with people who don’t know much about storage. Ed knows a lot about business analytics, broader IT issues, and business management. We’ve brought in product managers who understand how business analytics software and business applications work—different from the IT infrastructure management experience we have. To solve issues for customers, we have to have both kinds of expertise. It’s been a fantastic transformation, but the feedback we’re getting from customers is that we have a very unique, laser focused view of the problem, and the right kind of software to bear on that problem, at a time when IT organizations are trying to get integrated into the business of larger corporations. Traditional storage resource management is not dealing with the business management issues.
Techrockies: Thanks, and good luck on your launch!