UPDATED 10:09 EDT / OCTOBER 15 2018

bunte AI

Whether farming or coding, simplicity trumps all, says COO

Standing on the Commvault Go stage this week in Nashville, Tennessee, Al Bunte (pictured), chief operating officer of Commvault Systems Inc. described how traditional scripts were no longer helpful in finding data needed to run the enterprise.

“It leads to what I call the WTF moment,” said Bunte during his keynote remarks. As the audience began to murmur, he followed up with, “Don’t worry. It stands for ‘Welcome To Farming.’”

The farming analogy was an apt one for the Commvault executive, as he is a farmer himself in addition to running a publicly traded tech company with $700 million in annual revenue. Those agricultural roots have led Bunte to appreciate simplicity, an ongoing challenge when it comes to the increasing complexity of a multicloud computing world.

“Simplicity, by the way, is the number one criteria these days,” Bunte said. “It trumps cost; it trumps risk reduction; it trumps capabilities. It’s got to be simple.”

Bunte spoke with Stu Miniman (@stu), host of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s mobile livestreaming studio, and guest host Keith Townsend (@CTOAdvisor), principal at The CTO Advisor, during the Commvault GO 2018 event in Nashville, Tennessee. They discussed Commvault’s recent product announcements, how to manage data complexity, evolving demands of the enterprise computing world, and the company’s approach in an increasingly competitive landscape. (* Disclosure below.)

This week, theCUBE features Al Bunte as its Guest of the Week.

Looking toward a simpler model

Commvault is on a quest for simplicity. The company addressed concerns about the complexity of its offerings in July by consolidating approximately 20 separate products into four.

This month’s announcements from Commvault focused on simplicity and ease-of-use for its Complete Backup and Recovery as a service portfolio. The company’s decision to expand its partnership with NetApp Inc. also focused on simple backup and recovery solutions.

“We’re focusing on getting the message across that we’ve simplified,” Bunte said. “We’re trying to drive outcomes that are better for our information technology customers.”

If “simple” is one half of the Commvault message, the other half is “smart.” The company has made significant investment in building artificial intelligence and machine learning into its products.

The recently announced Commvault Activate solution offered a portfolio of applications designed to merge data analytics with actionable use cases. It also included the Commvault 4D Index, which utilized AI to understand data context and meaning across multiple sources.

In many cases, the sheer size of today’s enterprise workloads is driving the need for smarter solutions. “Take a typical run,” Bunte said. “You have 48,000 events and logs. How the heck are you going to do that without advanced analytics and machine learning?”

Becoming data stewards

Commvault’s latest moves involving simple and smart solutions are anchored in a recognition that data drives the bus. Pundits have referred to data as the “new oil” or an essential ingredient for life, like water.

This has also forced a re-evaluation of the role played by IT staff. In remarks delivered at Commvault Go a year ago, Bunte implored attendees to cease viewing themselves as IT administrators or backup managers and consider themselves instead as “data stewards” in the enterprise.

“It’s a mountain of data; it’s using the data, and that’s been tricky in this space,” Bunte said. “People just backed it up because they’re supposed to. It didn’t even occur to them that they might need to use it.”

Moving faster than startups

As more companies recognize the need for better data management solutions, the number of vendors looking to provide answers has increased as well. As a major provider of data backup and recovery, Commvault operates in a highly competitive space, with key players such as Veritas Technologies LLC and Veeam Software Inc. battling for market share.

In addition to larger competitors, Commvault must keep a close eye on emerging startup companies in the data storage and protection arena. “We used to have to compete and change just a little faster than our competition,” Bunte explained. “Now you have to change faster than startups. We’re trying to drive change; we’re trying to drive responsiveness; we’ve moved to rapid development models.”

In a world where data has become as precious as water and machines are now doing much of the work without human intervention, Commvault’s COO still remembers the early days of the company, when meeting payroll wasn’t always a sure bet. At a celebration of the company’s founding more than 20 years ago, Bunte recalled when there was only $600,000 in the bank, which would have covered “one and a half payrolls” today.

Despite the competitive challenges and fast-moving customer demands, the north star for Bunte and the rest of Commvault’s executives remains the technology. “Back when Bob [Hammer], and I started the business, we always, always, always believed you have to have the best technology,” Bunte said. “You can’t go to sleep on that; you can’t go on autopilot. And in our space, you have to have the best support.”

The message from Commvault’s major conference this week is that the company is stepping up its game. Whether it involves marketing, packaging, pricing, messaging or positioning, the company is ambitiously plotting a course for the long haul.

Considering Bunte’s background in farming, an industry where weather and just plain bad luck can play havoc with the year’s crop, Commvault’s perseverance in the enterprise tech world can be attributed to a basic three-word philosophy: Deal with it.

“You can’t kick the can down the road,” Bunte said. “Just deal with it and start investing. Just back up, take a long view, take a broad view, get your foundations in place, and do this data thing right.”

Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of Commvault GO 2018. (* Disclosure: TheCUBE is a paid media partner for the Commvault GO event. Neither Commvault Systems Inc., the event sponsor, nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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