Axcient was founded way back in 2009 with the aim of bringing business continuity and disaster recovery services (BC and DR as they are known in the acronym-mad tech industry) to small and mid-sized businesses.
They are services that have traditionally been problematic for small businesses -- standing up secondary and tertiary data centers, building in redundancy of networks and systems and ensuring that organizations' IT systems are as resilient as possible is a fraught process, full of complexity and expense.
Which is where Axcient came in -- it aimed to consolidate all of the business continuity stuff into a single platform that it could offer SMB customers. The idea was enterprise functionality at an SMB price point. And since then, Axcient has done pretty well. They regularly feature at the pointy end of analyst reports from the like of Gartner and Forrester and they have, over the years, amassed 500 active partners and 5000 customers.
But those years spent building useful tools for SMB customers started Axcient's CEO, Justin Moore, thinking about how applicable the platform was to other market segments. According to Moore, mid-market organizations started asking for a similar sort of offering.
At the same time, the rise and rise of the public cloud gave Axcient an opportunity to leverage cloud economics to work on a bigger scale. And the opportunity is very real -- Moore likes to point out that analyst estimates suggest that around 70% of IT spend is wasted on non-productive workloads and infrastructure to support them.
For these reasons, Axcient is today announcing Fusion, a platform that leverages Axcient's own technology, alongside the public cloud, to allow customers to consolidate all the disparate workloads which are involved with creating redundancy for their various production applications.
It feels like Axcient sees Fusion as the essence of their future, and Moore seems particularly excited about it (well, OK, Moore isn't the sort of guy to get particularly excited about anything, but in his own software engineer-like way, he sees this as a big deal). The company says it has spent nearly 300,000 development hours on the platform and has secured 23 patents to cover their technology. Fusion is all about covering off five critical, but non-production, IT workloads -- data protection, business continuity and disaster recovery, testing and development, archiving and compliance, data warehousing and analytics -- into a single on-demand platform.
The utility of what Axcient is promising is unquestionable, as the company itself points out:
“Until now, IT departments have been caught in a vicious cycle of buying more hardware and software and building more data centers to ensure IT availability, adhere to regulatory compliance and improve agility,” said Moore. “Axcient Fusion solves the problem by replacing all non-production IT infrastructure with one elastic, cloud-converged platform. From one copy of production data, with unlimited on-demand networking and compute, we enable every business to run with the resilience and agility of the world’s largest enterprises at one-tenth the cost.”
Focusing on core business
Disaster recovery is far from the core business. And in this day and age, with IT departments challenged to deliver higher levels of agility, the idea of shifting responsibility for non-core parts of the IT footprint away to a third party is attractive. After all, that's pretty much how cloud computing came about.
Sure, there are other benefits (scalability and the like) but the thing that really drove the value of the cloud home for businesses is the ability to forget about hardware, about infrastructure and about managing systems. Of course, it is arguable just how many of those benefits have actually accrued to organizations but, like I said, the allure of abstracting away menial tasks is an enticing one.
But doesn't the cloud on its own deliver those benefits
This is where it gets interesting. We've all heard of how a vendor like Netflix drives innovation and creates a highly redundant system by leveraging the public cloud, but to do so, Netflix has a huge team of highly skilled developers and operations staff. Indeed, on the rare occasions that there have been outages on AWS, Netflix has famously stayed up because of the hard work of these practitioners building highly redundant systems.
According to Axcient, this isn't plausible for regular businesses. In fact, Moore suggests that Axcient can do business continuity better than any customer smaller than the Fortune 500 could do it for themselves.
It's hard to argue against the contention that Axcient provides an easy way for organizations to forget all their business continuity needs. But unfortunately, commercial success is less about technological reality and more about the markets belief in the product and willingness to adopt.
If we look at the growth of the three biggest public clouds -- AWS, Google Compute Platform and Microsoft Azure -- over the years, we can see that despite these organizations massive scale and market awareness, it still took vast amounts of time for organizations to actually trust them with critical workloads. Given that Axcient is a relative unknown, not a publicly traded company and without the huge scale of one of those vendors, it's hard to see their move up the food chain being an overnight success. It kind of feels like the conundrum faced by file sharing vendor Box when it moved away from SMB and tried to grow its enterprise business -- things just take an incredibly long time.
Axcient has the additional issue that what it does absolutely is a critical function for organizations. Axcient is adamant that the organizations that don't do business continuity fail to ensure they're covered because of the complexity and costs around actually doing what is required. Axcient thinks it can simply go in with a packaged product and convert those prospective customers.
Similarly, it assumes that those mid-market customers that are already doing business continuity will simply move to Axcient. But if you're doing BC because you realize how critical it is, and that our organization's well-being relies upon it, are you really going to trust a tiny, known company?
Sure we can say that about any company in the startup world, but what Axcient does is absolutely critical -- it's a big ask to expect customers to just trust that Axcient will do right by them.
Axcient would seem to have strong technology behind its platform. But technology alone isn't enough and I'm not yet convinced that Axcient has the answer to cracking the mid-market opportunity. Axcient points to the analyst firms that regard them as a market leader in the space -- we'll see how far that takes them.
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