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CloudCasa Is Redefining How Kubernetes Data Protection Is Delivered


Guest: Sathya Sankaran (LinkedIn, Twitter)
Company: CloudCasa by Catalogic (Twitter)
Show: Let’s Talk
Keywords: Kubernetes, Data Protection

CloudCasa, the Kubernetes backup-as-a-service for cluster resources, persistent volumes, and cloud database, aims to offer a solution for data protection as more organizations move to the cloud. As Kubernetes has established itself as the default cloud operating system, with it has come a new set of challenges with protecting data and effectively backing it up.

In this episode of TFiR Let’s Talk, Swapnil Bhartiya sat down with Sathya Sankaran, Chief Operating Officer at CloudCasa by Catalogic, to discuss how the Kubernetes ecosystem is shifting and how CloudCasa is helping organizations address the data protection weaknesses in Kubernetes and cloud-native infrastructure and adopt these new technologies.

Sankaran says, “We don’t want backup to be another complex workload that you have to manage when you’re provisioning infrastructure. So we are taking that as a service and making that available to DevOps engineers and developer teams.”

Kubernetes is also creating changes in company culture with developers and DevOps engineers playing a bigger role in setting up the infrastructure and working with it. Whereas historically this responsibility would have fallen into IT teams’ hands, developers and DevOps engineers do not always know backup best practices. CloudCasa aims to democratize backups for a workload, making them easier for developers and DevOps engineers to manage.

CloudCasa offers a free basic service for snapshots on an unlimited number of clusters, which can be used if users are keeping it in their own infrastructure, where they are not moving it out to another storage vendor or cloud provider. Users can also upgrade to the paid service if they are moving it offsite to another cloud provider storage.

With 70% of Kubernetes installations running on cloud, users need to be aware where the data is sitting when you protect them. Without that knowledge, restoring the data in the same form as it was previously is not possible. Kubernetes configurations are still complex and while best practices are emerging, running CloudCasa’s vulnerability assessment on the data set can help users understand if they have configured Kubernetes correctly and where vulnerabilities may lie.

About Sathya Sankaran: Sathya is the founder and General Manager of the CloudCasa business within Catalogic Software where he provides operational and strategic oversight across R&D, marketing, sales and partner alliances. Sathya was an early enthusiast of the potential for containers and cloud technologies to transform how we innovate and deliver solutions to businesses. He is responsible for Catalogic’s strategic pivot to focus on addressing Day 2 challenges in Kubernetes and cloud native ecosystems, including data protection, cyber-resilience and cloud mobility. As the COO of Catalogic Software, Sathya leads engineering, sales and alliance teams at Catalogic and was instrumental in the strategic sale of Catalogic Software’s copy data management portfolio to IBM Storage in 2021. Apart from work and a young family, Sathya is passionate about Cricket, F1, electric cars and world politics.

About CloudCasa by Catalogic: CloudCasa by Catalogic is a powerful, cyber-resilient, backup service for protecting Kubernetes workloads, cloud databases, and cloud-native applications, that is free to start using.

The summary of the show is written by Emily Nicholls.

Here is the unedited transcript of the show:

  • Swapnil Bhartiya: Hi, this is your host Swapnil Bhartiya and welcome to TFiR Let’s Talk. And today we have with us Sathya Sankaran, Chief Operating Officer at CloudCasa by Catalogic. Sathya, it’s great to have you on the show.

Sathya Sankaran: Thank you, Swapnil. Thank you for having me.

  • Swapnil Bhartiya: The story of CloudCasa is a bit unique as it was incubated within Catalogic Software. So I want to understand how you decided to start CloudCasa within Catalogic. Why was it created and what problems were you trying to solve?

Sathya Sankaran: Catalogic has been in the data protection industry for over 20 years at this point. I think our roots go all the way back to protecting mainframes. So we’ve been in the industry for data protection for a long time, and it’s our job to kind of follow where the data is going, right? And you saw from mainframe open systems became a big thing and people are hosting a lot of their data. We started protecting that and we saw Enterprise Storage RAS becoming a bigger player. We started integrating with them and protecting that. So we definitely have a DNA of following where the customer data is heading towards. When it comes to CloudCasa, it was very much the same concept. Like we saw that it was a shift in the ecosystem where customer data is starting to move to the cloud at a very rapid pace.

And that also means people were replatforming their data sets to be able to optimize that cloud usage. And we were doing a lot of that internally for our own infrastructure in-house. And that allowed us to spot a gap with Kubernetes and that ecosystem. It was also obvious that the people that we are doing backups have changed in this ecosystem. So it’s a new user group that we were targeting and both of these together told us that we should be building one, a backup service, not a backup product and targeted a completely new user group. And because it was a new user group, new delivery model, just aligning our branding to be closer to that certainly made sense to us when we built CloudCasa.

  • Swapnil Bhartiya: What exactly is CloudCasa within Catalogic? Is it an independent business you need, or just a department? And also what is the structure of CloudCasa and what’s your funding model?

Sathya Sankaran: Today CloudCasa is very much operating as a standalone business within Catalogic. It is funded by Catalogic. It is funded by proceeds of our sales of all our products. So it is a unit within Catalogic, but it pretty much operates as a standalone business. And we certainly see it that way as we move forward. And part of it is also because, as you were aware in May 2021, we had a part of our business acquired by IBM. And this also implied that we needed to maintain separate business units to go after different problems that we were solving in the marketplace. So fully funded by Catalogic. We don’t have any debt funding. We were cash flow positive for about three years before the pandemic struck and the acquisition happened. So we were in a healthy spot as a company leading up to this R&D investment and certainly looking at it as future proofing the company with CloudCasa.

  • Swapnil Bhartiya: What is your long-term vision and goal for CloudCasa?

Sathya Sankaran: From a long-term perspective, our job is always an essential service provider. We are an essential service provider when it comes to IT data sets. If something is important to you, we are protecting that data set and it’s our job to follow where your important data sets are going. That could have been a Hadoop in the past, but that is Kubernetes now. And it’s certainly cloud in a lot of organizations. So our vision is to always be there for you when you decide that this is the platform I want to use and host my critical data sets in. We don’t want to be behind you in terms of adapting to these technologies. These are there for good reasons. Kubernetes, for example, is becoming the cloud operating system.

And if you are putting your data sets in that ecosystem, we want to be there to protect that dataset for you. In a way, that makes the most sense and I mean, that’s why we’ve built many backup products in the past. We changed our delivery model to be a service-oriented product this time around, like we are offering a service instead of a product, but our job is always to be there for you. When you host your important data set somewhere, we want to be there to protect that data.

  • Swapnil Bhartiya: Let’s talk about your products and services. What do they look like?

Sathya Sankaran: We talked about Kubernetes being the default cloud operating system. It’s also an ecosystem where a developer and DevOps engineers are playing a bigger role in setting up the infrastructure and working with it. Gone are the days where you have to go to an IT team and ask for something to be set up and wait three months before a workload becomes available for you to start running and so on. People are going to the cloud. They’re getting provisions very quickly. So this is bringing in a new set of users to the world of [inaudible 00:05:39], DevOps engineers and developers. These are people that don’t necessarily know the best practices of backups. If you ask them, what is the 3-to-1 rule? They’ll have questions around it, right? So what we are doing is effectively democratizing backups for a workload that has historically been a very complex workload to manage.

So we don’t want backup to be another complex workload that you have to manage when you’re provisioning infrastructure. And so we are taking that as a service and making that available to DevOps engineers and developer teams. The service itself is available to them as a free service to begin with. If you simply want snapshots, you can actually get that solution for free in our service. And if you want backups, it’s something that is available for you to upgrade to and protect. So, you get the basic form of protection available to you for free. We want you to use that with your non-prod workloads. So when you go prod, you have a choice to make whether to use something that’s already been working with non-prod or you go to an incumbent workload that’s backing up your VMware workloads, a physical server workload. We will at least be in that conversation when you start using us for snapshots.

  • Swapnil Bhartiya: Tell me more about what you get with your free service plan and why you are offering so much for free.

Sathya Sankaran: Yeah, snapshots are free. Backups are paid, right? So if you’re just taking a snapshot and keeping it in your own infrastructure, you’re not moving it out to another storage vendor or region or a cloud provider that would be free on an unlimited number of clusters. But if you’re moving it offsite to another cloud provider storage, then we would charge the users for it.

  • Swapnil Bhartiya: We live in a multi cloud, hybrid cloud world, where people are running their workloads wherever they want. How does CloudCasa serve this space?

Sathya Sankaran: Yeah, I think the Kubernetes community has done a great job standardizing snapshots for us. Catalogic has historically been known as a snapshot company. We often joke that snapshots are like gym memberships. Everybody’s got access to them doesn’t mean everybody uses them. And what this Kubernetes community has done is really standardized snapshots across multiple storage providers and cloud providers. So whether you are hosting your Kubernetes workloads on top of NetApp or Dell EMC, or AWS or Azure or Google Cloud, it really doesn’t matter in the sense that there is a layer called CSI that has standardized how we take snapshots across all of these providers. So we do work with that CSI layer. So we do work with Kubernetes data sets that are hosted on premises, as well as in cloud providers and hosted solutions that are out there like EKS and AKS and GKE. All of these workloads are also protected with our service.

  • Swapnil Bhartiya: Are you creating a new category or working within an existing category of backup? Where do you fit?

Sathya Sankaran: I think backup is an essential service. It’s just like you carrying health insurance. It’s just like you carrying life insurance. It’s that layer of protection for you when things go wrong. You can host data in Kubernetes, you can host data in the cloud, you can host data on-prem. But wherever you host, if it’s important to you, you want to have a backup option. It’s just standard business logic. So here, I think when it comes to operating in a category, we are in very much a sweet spot. Nobody questions why you need backups. Everybody understands why you need them. Some may accept the risks of not having one, but most people, if it is important data, would figure out a way to do a backup of their data sets.

So in terms of defining a category, that’s certainly out there for us. So where we have to do is really define how we deliver that service to the user. At the end of the day, we have to provide backup service, which means we are protecting your data somewhere. And when you need access to the data set, we bring it back. Whenever you need your airbags deployed, the airbags must deploy. I think it’s the same thing with this use case as well. So we really look at it as how do you differentiate in terms of delivery service, and also in terms of what more can you offer, just the frontal airbags are enough, or do you need passenger airbags for on the side as well? I mean, those are all things you think about with safety, the same way we think about it.

One, we deliver it as a service. You don’t need to have any infrastructure in-house. Two, we protect your adjacent workloads as well. Kubernetes doesn’t just sit in some random place. Almost 70% of Kubernetes installations are running on cloud. So you need to be aware of where that data is sitting when you protect them. If you don’t know that awareness, you won’t be able to restore that data in the same form it was previously. Number three, I think we talked about how backup touches everything that is important to a user. So Kubernetes is a world where configurations are still very complex, best practices are still emerging, and we are looking at it as okay, if you’re protecting something that’s important to you, we also want to do vulnerability assessments on the data set and tell you, “Have you configured your Kubernetes correctly?”

So think of us as a very cyber resilient backup service that is also cloud aware. And I think that’s how we add value in a category. I don’t think anybody needs to define backup as a category at this point in the startup ecosystem. It’s really about how you add value to a very well defined category.

  • Swapnil Bhartiya: What is the importance of backup in the cloud-native world, and why should companies care about it?

Sathya Sankaran: The value of something that you have is most realized when you no longer have it, right. That is really what is true about a lot of things in life. A lot of things we cherish in life, we really realize the value when you no longer have access to it. It’s not very different for data sets. There is an asymmetrical value to data when you don’t have it, not when you actually have it. When everything’s working fine, you don’t care about it. It’s in the back of your mind. Yes, it’s not sexy, but when you don’t have the data that is really important for you, the value of the data set just becomes very, very high. That is why the cost of downtime is extremely high for organizations. It has reputational implications for organizations.

So that’s why I think backup and having a good recovery strategy is very important. And it’s just something that everyone does, if you value what you are running and hosting and carrying in your infrastructure, you will have a good backup strategy and you will have a good recovery strategy, or at least you will try to have a good backup strategy and a recovery strategy.

  • Swapnil Bhartiya: Can you share an example to illustrate the need or importance of having a backup strategy?

Sathya Sankaran: So talking about a place where you need backups, right? Let’s talk about Kubernetes as the example ecosystem we plan. A lot of Kubernetes players will tell you, “Hey, I don’t really need backups because I have all of my config data sitting and get. I can just republish that cluster anytime and I can spin up the cluster anytime.” But what happens to persistent workloads? And there is a group of people that will tell you, “Hey, I host everything in the cloud. And that means I don’t have to do anything. The cloud guys are extremely fault tolerant. They will take care of it”. So there are these attitudes that imply a backup is not needed. But I would really just ask people to test their theory on when or whether I need my backups. Imagine an AWS east coast downtime. Would you be able to bring back your data set? So when do you need backups is it really about looking at the scenarios where you could be down and could you recover from such an instance and are you protecting against that failure possibilities?

A lot of people in Kubernetes ecosystems say, “Well, do I really need backups?” Yes. You really need backups. Maybe not because your discs are not failing left right and center, but because people are hacking into your cloud accounts left, right and center and deleting stuff. And that logical corruption is something that you want to protect against, even if you feel that five nines of availability on your disc eco, disc array is good enough as a risk profile for you.

  • Swapnil Bhartiya: Now, the fact is that there are a lot of players in this space. We have traditional players, and then we have players that were born in the cloud-native world. How do you compete with some of these players like tested by IBM?

Sathya Sankaran: Yeah. Look, backup is a sticky market and there is a huge incumbency advantage. So if you’re already the provider providing backups, you are already in a position of strength. So with any new workload, the first choice is going to be my current backup provider able to solve the same problems. So I get that, right. But traditional workloads, traditional applications, and traditional architectures really suffer when you put them and make them operate in the world of Kubernetes as well as cloud-native workloads. If you are not a cloud native to be able to deal with cloud scale, cloud security, cloud performance, these workloads come in and out all the time. And these are not something that the traditional applications do a really great job of thriving at your com walls and the semantics of the world are really, really good at protecting your servers, Linux server and a Windows server, that’s just always there.

But in Kubernetes world, you have containers coming up and down all the time. And that means you need to have a level of native integration to be able to understand that workload  can’t size an appliance because you could be running a lot of data sets at some point and nothing the other times. So you need to be able to scale alongside these workloads. And there are certainly solutions in the Kubernetes ecosystem that are built for Kubernetes. I think you mentioned Kasten is an example. Kasten is kind of early on in this marketplace and certainly a pioneer in this ecosystem, but it is still not delivered as a service. It’s a K8 application that runs within the Kubernetes. And the problem with such an architecture is when your backup system is sitting in the same cluster as your production data, you lose your cluster, you lose your backup system as well.

And there is an opportunity in the market for us because we wouldn’t want to deliver a backup as a service offering because they have 40,000 partners. And they wouldn’t want to jeopardize the business from 40,000 MSPs and deliver a competing service. So here is a world where software as a service makes sense because this new user base here is a world where Kubernetes integration makes sense because the incumbents can’t really deal with it. So we see a clear gap in the market in why we are going full steam ahead in trying to fill that space in that marketplace.

  • Swapnil Bhartiya: Now let’s talk about what’s new and exciting, and new features functionality that you folks recently added to CloudCasa.

Sathya Sankaran: Yeah. So we add features to CloudCasa service with two things in mind. One, how do we attract a bigger user base? Kubernetes is a community-driven ecosystem. So it’s about how do we add more users to the service and have them actually use the service for free. We get a lot of value out of developing that community in that ecosystem. So we either add feature sets because we want to add more and more free users, or we add feature sets where we want to convert some of those free users and enterprise customers into paid offerings we deliver within that solution. So that’s typically our motivation to add any new feature set. So let’s talk about features we’ve added for free usage. This year, we actually delivered free vulnerability assessments for both Kubernetes clusters as well as cloud accounts, AWS accounts to start with.

So you, as a user running, say for example, EKS cluster on AWS, you can come into a service today, sign up and add your cloud account and add your Kubernetes clusters. And we’ll be able to run a vulnerability assessment and tell you what are all the things that you are potentially vulnerable to. And that goes breadth of about 20 AWS services and a lot of configuration scan, network scan and image scan within Kubernetes as well. Let’s talk about the features we’ve added for paid users. If you are using our solution today, but want to actually upgrade to a bigger level, we talked about how it is used across multiple clouds. So for our paid users, we are actually providing the ability to restore your Kubernetes cluster from one cloud provider to another cloud provider. Two, from one cloud account to another cloud account.

So this cross region, cross account, cross cluster, cloud provider recovery capabilities, we’ve built a lot of functionality around that in terms of being able to map IAM security groups, storage classes, and all of these differ between these and we are able to map them in a policy way and provide you with that kind of enterprise level feature sets. For CubeCon, I would say stay tuned, but our goal is certainly to provide the same kind of capabilities across multiple cloud platforms. Today, we do a lot of really good stuff around AWS. Can we expand that to other cloud providers? That’s certainly going to be our focus for the remaining year.

  • Swapnil Bhartiya: Sathya, thank you so much for joining me today and sharing the story of CloudCasa and the role it’s playing in a much bigger cloud-native ecosystem. Thanks for those insights and I would love to have you back on the show. Thank you.

Sathya Sankaran: Look forward to it, Swapnil. It was a pleasure talking to you.