Hybrid Cloud Solution DivvyCloud Got Started Thanks To…Video Games
By Monika Jansen
In less than a year, Brian Johnson and Chris DeRamus have taken their startup, DivvyCloud, pretty far. They launched in May 2013, graduated from Acceleprise in early summer, landed funding from CIT just before Christmas, and launched a downloadable version of their product so their clients could run the software on-premise.
The idea for their startup came from a rather surprising place: video games. Brian and Chris worked together at Electronic Arts for 7 years, where they ran some of the world’s largest multi-player games. “During that time, we moved a lot of data and games into the cloud,” Brian explained. “And we learned a lot about the problems associated with moving services into the cloud, from a security standpoint, cost standpoint, and stability standpoint.”
Why did you decide to pursue this idea and startup?
Brian Johnson: We saw that the industry was heading towards another change when the cloud became an option for running online services. As the cloud matured and things changed, people thought, ‘We’d rather do a hybrid model. We can keep our eye on our data, but we can scale up our servers, depending on the number of users.’ We started looking at tools that would let us run in that hybrid model, but there weren’t any.
Can you explain that hybrid model?
BJ: Think of cloud computing as a light switch – turn it on when you need it, turn if off when you don’t. After a big website launch, you don’t need 300 servers, just 150. You just shut off the ones you don’t need.
In 140 characters or less, what does your startup do?
Chris DeRamus: DivvyCloud simplifies the complexities associated with managing, cost tracking, and auditing hybrid cloud environments.
Why is DivvyCloud useful?
CD: One thing we routinely saw during our time at Electronic Arts was that leveraging public cloud providers wound up being a lot more expensive than we initially calculated. Public cloud providers make it difficult to pin down all of the variable charges and easily identify ahead of time what it will cost to optimally run your product and/or service. The problem was often compounded by employees spinning up compute resources to perform tests, which they oftentimes forget to shut them down. This results in thousands of dollars in waste that you may not catch until you took a close look at the monthly bill.
We saw the opportunity to aggregate the data from all the cloud providers and provide a unified tool to provide improved management and cost tracking capabilities. Instead of hiding the costs, we make sure they are always visible to try and get employees to really think about how those resources impact their company’s bottom line. It’s really how much those costs add up, and our pilot customers love that we show them what their operational spend will look like over the course of the year.
BJ: A few years ago, someone who needed to test their product on a server would go to the IT guy, he’d look at all the servers on a spreadsheet, see that all the servers were being used by other products, and say he only had one for you. Capacity was governed by buying more servers, and it would take weeks to get that in place.
That’s changed. Now you just log into Amazon and spin up 10 servers and just leave them running. Our software can track this and say, ‘Hey, did you know these servers have been running for the past 5 days and no one is using them? Do you want to shut them down?’
What is your business model?
BJ: It’s monthly driven – you pay for what you use. We don’t do licensing or make you sign a year-long agreement. People have gotten use to the idea of the micro-transaction, like car sharing. You pay when you need it. Our software is going to follow that same module. You can turn on and off the spend through the tool.
CD: We really believe in the ‘Try before you buy’ model. It’s how we both have found software to solve complex business problems in the past. We aren’t interested in dealing with long enterprise sales cycles and would rather get the DevOps and System Administration communities to fall in love with the product and make using it a part of the their day-to-day routine. We’re looking at a 15 day trial period with all features of the software unlocked to allow interested parties to see the value-add it brings to their business. Then they can evangelize the software upwards to the CTO or CIO – whoever writes the checks – and purchase the features they need.
What do you need, and what do you want?
BJ: We are raising $500,000; we’ve raised $250,000 of that so far. We’re in talks to close out that round in the next month or two. We’ll hire an engineer or two, hire someone to help with the UI/UX, and bring someone on to help with marketing. In the long run, we would like DC to be the foremost player in hybrid managed cloud software.
Who is your biggest competitor, and why are you better?
CD: Today, it’s RightScale. They offer some similar services, but the big difference is they don’t offer a fully on-premise version of their software to properly bridge that gap between public and private cloud environments. We see ourselves carving out a niche market here and growing as more and more companies embrace the hybrid cloud concept.
Tell me something unique or interesting about you or your company that most people don’t know.
BJ: Chris and I both grew up playing video games, and it’s interesting to see how the video game industry has driven technology. My mom used to get so upset when I would play games til 2 in the morning – but it looks like that paid off.
CD: Video games have led me to each job I’ve had during my career. I was hired directly by the government, because I played video games professionally at the time. After my tenure at the Department of Energy I went to work for Electronic Arts to gain experience on what it takes to develop and support the games I’d grown to love. So, in my eyes, games are fantastic and can lead kids to exciting career opportunities. Let your kids play games.