Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Interview with Jesse Rothstein, ExtraHop Networks
Enterprise IT managers don't have it easy nowadays. It used to be a world of a few servers, storage, and a fixed network, and occasional firefighting of network issues, databases, and applications. Now, you've got virtual servers popping up everywhere, cloud based storage and compute resources, migrating resources across and enterprise, mobile devices, dynamic web applications, and much more. How do you get a handle on all of that? Seattle-based ExtraHop (www.extrahop.com) thinks it has cracked the code to help enterprises gain a handle on what's going on with their applications. We caught up with Jesse Rothstein, CEO of the firm, to better understand how the company thinks it has the key to solving the application management problems of its enterprise customers.
Explain what ExtraHop's products are used for?
Jesse Rothstein:We have a very sophisticated, networking and application monitoring product that helps large enterprises, in verticals such as online travel, retail, e-commerce businesses, and financial services. We help keep business critical application srunning smoothly. If you look at the recent enterprise IT trends, one of the megatrends is around server virtualization, cloud computing, and mobility. Complexity is spiraling out of control for enterprises. Historically, IT operations used a hodgepodge of tools and technology that they'd throw at the problem to keep their operations running, and running well. But, lots of those tools were built for much older, static environments. An IT environment now is much more dynamic.
We've entered as an innovator in the space with a new technology. A lot of our team, especially the founding team, is from F5 Networks. F5 is the company behind the BigIP traffic manager. At F5, we really pioneered load balancing, innovating through application awareness to create a new product category, which catapulted F5 into the position they still enjoy today. With ExtraHop, we've brought application awareness into network monitoring, and created a whole new product category we called network-based application performance management.
You guys recently added Isilon's Sujal Patel to the board, and it looks like have also hired on Isilon's Eric Scollard in Sales. Can you talk about the connection to Isilon?
Jesse Rothstein: Actually, those are fairly unrelated. Sujal Patel founded Isilon, and is still there at EMC today, running that business. What I'll say about that, is that we'd been conducting a search for an independent board member, and Sujal brings with him experience as an operator. He founded the company, took it all the way to the IPO, and beyond. There are lots of parallels between what Isilon accomplished, and what we're trying to accomplish. Isilon also sold to a similar, enterprise IT market, although as a technical innovator in the storage space. Due to those parallels, Sujal brings experience which is going to be valuable to the board. Plus, I think board chemistry is very important, and they get along with him really well.
Eric was also at Isilon, and was head of sales from when it was at zero revenues, to over $100M in revenues. He has a skill set in sales execution and scaling, which is absolutely what we'd like to leverage. .
You're in a tough enterprise market, which it notorious for breaking into--what is driving sales and growth and adoption of your products by those customers?
Jesse Rothstein: We have lots of domain expertise in bringing enterprise products to market, especially in enterprise networking. We've built and taken products to market several times like this, and have a very experienced team in doing so. You're absolutely right, it is hard. In terms of what is driving that, I think that some IT megatrends have changed the landscape a bit. Enterprise IT has transitioned from a very static, to a very dynamic environment. It used to be that everything was fairly locked into a configuration management database, with audit logs and an audit trail. Nowadays, with server virtualization, a virtual server spins up, spins down, is moved across the data center, and people can even offload a workload to the elastic compute cloud. Mobile devices are everywhere, and there are intelligent network devices which are optimizing and slicing and dicing traffic. So much is going on, and there is so much complexity, that there are always some things that are nearly broken or degraded. That's really what is driving the need for our products, and it's accelerating. We have a very underserved market, and the legacy vendors have been on the scene since the mid 80's, which leads to a market opportunity and potential for some innovative technology to be disruptive. That's exactly what we're trying to do.
Previously, it's been difficult to get to the application level at the enterprise, due to resource constraints, reluctance of companies to impact their applications, and processing speed. What has enabled you to solve that issue?
Jesse Rothstein: That's a great question, especially when it comes to application visibility. The traditional way has been to run software performance agents on every component of a complex application that you'd like to monitor. The challenge there, is those agents consume system resources like CPU and memory, and they perturb the system they are trying to monitor. Our network approach is that we use a copy of the packets, a copy of the network traffic, which does not add any overhead at all. It's completely passive. Historically, the network approach has had limited visibility into applications. Our technology really addresses that. Due to recent gains in processing and storage capacity, we're able to perform full speed, reassembly and content analysis, and put things back together to understand what application transactions are happening in a real time transaction monitor--much the same as endpoints do. The good way to think about it, is that the applications we're monitoring tend to be multi-tier, with web front ends, middleware, and a database back end and storage, but the network really glues or binds those tiers together. By analyzing the communications traffic between those tiers, we get really detailed, transaction level visibility into how an application is performing, and its health. You're absolutely correct, that this level of visibility has only become feasible in the last couple of years.
Finally, what's next for you?
Jesse Rothstein: We're seeing tremendous traction in the marketplace. Right now, we're really focused on go-to-market and execution. We're continuing to grow out our team very rapidly. We've got open positions across pretty much all of the departments in the company. We're hiring aggressively on the sales side, on the marketing side, and on the engineering side. This is a very large, underserved market, and we're finally delivering on the promises a lot of vendors have been making for decades. Our goal is to really take advantage of that market opportunity.