Viewpoints

The Portworx Journey: Serial Entrepreneurs Elevate IT/ DevOps Community To Build the Leading Kubernetes Data Services Platform for Cloud Native Applications


September 16, 2020 –

Today Pure Storage has announced its intent to acquire Portworx to jointly realize their vision to provide customers with a Kubernetes data services platform for cloud native applications. As enterprises accelerate their digital transformation journeys, the need for dynamic applications running on a modern data framework has become critical. For a view on other enterprise tech trends that we are tracking, please see our POV.  

Portworx has built an enviable position as the Kubernetes storage company enterprises trust to run mission-critical data services on Kubernetes in production. By enabling data availability, data security, cloud migrations, backup and disaster recovery for applications running on-prem or across clouds, Portworx is the #1 most used Kubernetes storage platform by Global 2000 companies, including Carrefour, Comcast, Ford Motor Company, GE Digital, Lufthansa, and T-Mobile. Portworx partners with Amazon, Cisco, Google, HPE, IBM, Red Hat, VMware, Rancher and other leading enterprise software companies to accelerate container adoption. Industry accolades include being named the Leader in the 2020 GigaOm Radar for Data Storage for Kubernetes report and as one of CRN’s 20 Coolest Data Management companies. Portworx just closed a record-breaking quarter that marked a 61% increase in average annual recurring revenue over the last three quarters, with dozens of customers now having purchased $250,000 or more worth of licenses. Additional notable momentum milestones include a $1 million+ license sale in the most recent quarter as well as a customer running Portworx Enterprise in production on over 1,500 nodes and 90 Kubernetes clusters – a scale unmatched in the industry.  As I reflect on our 5 year journey with co-founders Murli Thirumale, Goutham (Gou) Rao, Vinod Jayaraman and the rest of the Portworx team, here are some learnings that come to mind.

People make products, products don’t make people

We partnered with Murli, Gou, and Vinod by leading their Series A in March 2015.  Murli and Gou were serial entrepreneurs who had worked together at their prior company, Ocarina Networks, which had a successful outcome.  At Portworx, Murli led the team as CEO, with Gou as CTO and Vinod as Chief Architect.  We brainstormed the possibilities of building a storage company for the container era, and as a former serial entrepreneur who has co-founded three companies myself, I left that whiteboard session very energized and thinking, “here is a founding group that will think creatively, motivate a great team, and build the platform for the digital economy.”

Sell painkillers, not vitamins

New platforms like Kuberenetes cannot deliver value unless a majority of enterprise apps can run on them. Data management is indispensable to deploying and running apps. This requires functionality for data security, high availability, disaster recovery and backup. The overall move to Kubernetes was hindered until data requirements were solved as a full-stack solution. Portworx delivered the reliability, security and speed customers were used to in the cloud or on-prem world. Today, using Portworx as their storage solution, any enterprise app can run on Kubernetes – even those in highly regulated industries with performance SLAs and compliance regulations.  

Dinosaurs never survive

Portworx is an application-aware storage company that focuses on an application-first vs infrastructure-first view – a breakthrough in how storage solutions are built. This nimbleness in thinking powered the company’s rise. When Kubernetes came along as an automation platform, it also had an application-centric view, which matched Portworx’s approach and enabled it to thrive. Today containers and Kubernetes have emerged as a powerful way to manage enterprise data and resources, with 87% of businesses already running container technologies and nearly half of businesses already running apps on Kubernetes in production. 

Another insight that contributed to Portworx’s success was to not ignore on-prem and view it as just another place to manage data in a multi-cloud environment. This decision to support data services on-prem in addition to public clouds expanded their customer appeal. In this way, Portworx served the existing on-prem market, but continued to benefit from enterprises moving to public clouds.

Powering the Rise of the Individual

The onus of digital transformation rests on the success of DevOps, which is the engine for speed and agility in applications development and operations. Being an IT/DevOps professional is tough & monotonous – the cost of failure is high, but some of the tasks are manual and repetitive. Tasks are managed through Jira or other ticketing systems, which can become overwhelming especially as the number of applications increases. When Gou was the CTO of the data protection division of Dell (post the Ocarina acquisition), he had the insight about making storage programmable and ensuring success for the IT/DevOps practitioner. Portworx targeted the IT/DevOps person who hadn’t benefited directly from the software-driven automation that was revolutionizing application development. The Portworx platform  allowed them to focus on strategic tasks by automating the manual and repetitive daily tasks. Today, IT/DevOps practitioners at leading companies such as gaming platform Roblox, which serves 150 million monthly users, are able to leverage Portworx to scale and put Kubernetes in production. 

Mission and values are critical

As a company scales, it is not always easy to stay focused on your true North. Murli and the team baked foundational values into their DNA, which served them well as they grew in employees, customers, partners, revenue and processes. The key pillars that guide them include: being customer first, thinking big, owning it (especially tough problems), winning as a team, and showing caring and humility.

Portworx marks our fourth infrastructure software company in the last year to align with a leader which will lead to a successful financial outcome. We are honored to have partnered with all those founders – Guru Pangal of CloudSimple (acquired by Google), Kumar Ramachandran of CloudGenix (acquired by Palo Alto Networks), Sheng Liang and Shannon Williams of Rancher (pending acquisition by SUSE) and are excited to watch the Portworx team embark on the next phase of their journey with Pure Storage.