Getting to Know Vexata with CEO Zahid Hussain

Zahid Hussain

Vexata is emerging as the leader in active data storage and management. Its Active Data Fabric solutions, based on the groundbreaking VX-OS software, bring transformative simplification and data performance at scale to the applications powering our digital economy.

We sat down for a Q & A with Vexata Co-Founder and CEO Zahid Hussain for an introduction to the company, its technology, culture, and future.

Tell us a bit about the origins of Vexata and how the company was created.

 In early 2014, when Surya Varanasi (Co-Founder and CTO) and I started Vexata, we knew that virtually every business was starting to rely on a new wave of data-intensive applications to analyze markets and customers, respond in real-time to web, mobile and IoT events, and automate business operations. To be effective, these applications needed to operate on large active data sets.

But these new applications were constrained by complex, costly, and inefficient data infrastructures – more data tiers, data sharing issues, consistency versus performance trade-offs, and poorly utilized hardware. So, we decided to radically simplify data infrastructure for applications driving modern business.

We knew that solid state media like NAND Flash were highly performant and getting very dense and cheap. However, even the leading all-flash storage systems weren’t close to realizing the latency and throughput capabilities of an array of Flash SSDs. The architectural focus of these systems was to improve IT operational efficiencies for legacy workloads compared to hard disk arrays. We wanted to focus on the demands of the data-intensive applications at the core of modern business. That meant taking a fresh look at solid-state storage architecture.

So, we saw a clear business need and we realized that the technology building blocks existed to solve the problem cost-effectively. The Vexata team’s approach was to create a new software and system architecture to realize the full performance of the latest solid state media, both Flash as well as the new generation storage class memories on the horizon (e.g. 3D XPoint™). The solution had to deploy seamlessly into existing enterprise storage environments and demonstrate rock-solid stability and resilience.

It took us three years, a lot of late nights, barrels of coffee and the usual twists and turns that real innovation requires. Out of this was born the VX-OS software and what we’re now calling the VX-100 Scalable Storage System. We started trials in mid 2016 and released the product in early 2017. The customer response has been amazing.

What type of company or customer benefits most from Vexata?

 We target both enterprise and cloud data centers. We often start with the database and analytics teams, since they’re most directly facing the performance and scale challenges of modern business applications. Oracle, SAS, SQL, emerging data platforms for AI and ML are under enormous pressure to perform at scale.

We also engage closely with the IT storage teams. They must be convinced our system is worthy of being deployed in their environment and does what we claim. The storage teams put our product through the paces – they’re very thorough and tough.

We want to help the data platform and storage teams succeed, while making their jobs easier and minimizing risk. Our product delivers incredible performance at scale, but our goal has always been simplicity.

What’s the company culture like at Vexata?

Vexata is full of people with great ideas who like to move fast. We don’t let hierarchy get in the way of making sure the best idea wins. We’ve done a lot right but when we make a mistake we course-correct quickly and move forward as a team.

Surya [Varanasi, Co-Founder/CTO] and I agreed from the start that we needed to solve an important and difficult business problem. Doing that will attract smart, talented, driven people who energize us and are key to building a great company.

Tell us a story of a company that used Vexata’s solution

We’ve been working with the analytics team of large bank, a Wall Street firm that does a lot of machine learning and predictive analytics on large data sets. In a recent conversation with them they told us they’ve “thrown everything at it but they can’t break it.” They’re excited by the performance and stability of the product.

This isn’t a one-off experience. We’ve had many customers who are just stunned by the performance, simplicity, and results they’re getting for their applications from the VX-100 system.

What’s next for Vexata?

We’re taking our core IP, VX-OS software, and offering it as software-defined infrastructure running on standard servers and switches. This is often a preferable consumption model for hyperscale and cloud data centers. We would offer this in addition to the dense, efficient, and turnkey VX-100 Scalable Storage System we’re already shipping.

We also want to expand our Active Data Fabric solutions by tightly integrating VX-OS systems with big data analytics and stream processing frameworks such as Hadoop, Kafka, and Spark. We’ll work closely with software and hardware partners to deliver a broad range of Active Data Fabric solutions to customers and help them solve their most important and difficult problems – simply and cost-effectively.

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