France's Cloud Startups (series): Meet Hedera Technology

Aug 3, 2012
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This series of articles exploring the various innovations going on in the Cloud by French startups. In our last installment, Quentin Adam, co-founder of Clever Cloud took us through the innovation he’s looking to bring to the cloud space with his company.  This week, we look to do the same with French cloud management software provider, Hedera Technology.

Hedera Technology was launched in 2009 by Jérémie Bourdoncle and Antoine Castaing in an effort to “improve how IT is run and stop wasting IT resources”. As the focus of IT has shifted prominently to cloud-computing, the types of services and solutions offered by Hedera Technology, namely those that enable automation, orchestration and scalability of cloud infrastructures, are rapidly becoming an integral part of effective private and public cloud management.  I caught up with Jérémie Bourdoncle to discuss Hedera’s current positioning and offers as well as their plans for the future.

Tell me about your background and where the idea for Hedera came from?

Jérémie BourdoncleBoth my co-founder and I are engineers and have backgrounds in IT consulting. We both actually spent two years in Senegal working in a startup developing innovative text, mobile and internet services for local farmers and fishermen. While working at the startup, we had a lot of problems in terms of infrastructure as in Senegal there are no big data centers and they often have issues with their power supply. So, it was during this experience that I started thinking about how we could have more flexibility in web hosting infrastructure as well as automate things on various types of hardware.

Antoine Castaing.jpgSo what is Hedera Technology’s focus.

Our primary focus is delivering the software (and services) required to provide cloud infrastructure management. Our goal is to easily manage and automate cloud infrastructures, both in private and public cloud systems. We are currently 12 people at Hedera of which 70% are engineers and 30% are focused on marketing and sales.

Our primary software offer, Kanopya, does three main things. The first is automation – we automate the provisioning of their hardware layer which includes activities such as storage management and compute management. We also deploy dynamically different types of virtualization layers such as VMware or Open Source (generally, OpenStack or OpenNebula the European competitor of OpenStack). The second thing we offer is orchestration, which means is that our orchestration engine defines in the right order all the production activities that need to be done in order to provide scalability and automation within the infrastructure.  Finally, we also have a performance engine module which takes information from the different layers of the infrastructure and has the intelligence to tell you if you need to add resources or remove resources from the infrastructure. It also orders the right action in the infrastructure to resize the resources, which includes activities such as removing a server, enlarging or downsizeing VM, or moving VM from one physical host to another.  So basically we can deliver automated infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) or next generation IaaS, meaning full automation and orchestration of infrastructures.

How are you looking to expand your offer and your business more generally?

We are planning to expand further in the platform-as-a-service (PaaS) direction because we can also automate the OS and middle-ware layer. We already have a solution as we have full automation and scalability until the middleware layer, but we want to add other middleware (services) to offer polyglot PaaS.  As for expanding our business, we been able to get to where we are today based on €800k in funding coming from angel investment, some OSEO subsidies, and bank loans.  However, we plan to expand throughout Europe and, so, are working currently on raising a Series-A round.

Who would you say are your primary competitors?

Our main competitors are American startups Gale Technologies and Cloupia because they provide automation and orchestration on the IaaS layer as we do. So we do not compete with virtualization companies such as VMware or Red Hat. We are a complementary service to these types of providers and so we want to collaborate with them to provide automation and provisioning (for their customers).

What is your working relationship like with virtualization or other IT providers?

We develop the connection between the API of the virtualization provider and Kanopya. If we have a business case (for specific technical requirements/changes) we work directly with the parnternship manager within VMware, RedHat, etc. However, we tend to work more closely with NetApp and Cisco in terms of partnership because we automate their hardware layer. So we are a validated automation solution on their hardware.

Who are your main customers?

We essentially have two types of customers. Firstly, there’s large customers, of which one example is Bouygues Telecom where we work on their internal IT systems.  The next are smaller open-source hosting companies, such as AlterWay, where we strive to deliver innovative cloud infrastructure services that they can offer their customers.  In terms of location, for the moment all of our customers are in France, but we’re currently expanding elsewhere in Europe such as the UK and Belgium.  Within a year, our goal is to be present across Europe (as mentioned earlier). Our strategy is to expand as a reseller or integrator, rather than via direct sales.

What has been the most difficult thing for your company?

We are a little bit early in the French market. Some (potential) customers feel that what we’re offering is too advanced for them at this point. They feel they need to do a lot of things in terms of their own internal Cloud infrastructure before (they have a need for a service such as ours). This is particularly the case with large companies as they also take a long time to make decisions. Unfortunately, the sales cycle is very long. This is why we have a strong focus on cloud hosting providers as they take decisions much quicker, their teams are smaller, and we can do proof-of-concept testing in a much smaller area of their IT systems to prove what we can do. We work with them to help them launch an innovative offer that their competitors can’t. This is a big advantage for these providers.

As a startup, do you find that it’s a challenge to work with large partners such as Cisco or NetApp?

Technically it’s easy to work with them because they have open APIs. However, we see that although it’s easy to discuss and interact with the locally based team, we quickly discover that it’s not at that level that we need to engage.  We find that it’s often with the US based partners team we have to engage with if we want to get validation, make modifications, or get certification. In some ways it would be easier if we were present in the Bay Area as we’d be physically closer to these teams. We often find that we have to interact with several people before we can get to the decision makers which can take a lot of time.

Do you think that in Europe a cloud provider of the magnitude and size that we see in US can emerge?

Maybe…OVH (a French hosting provider) can be a big competitor in terms of infrastructure. With Andromede, I’m not sure exactly what it will be (in the end), but in fact there are a few companies (participating) that should be able to compete a little bit with larger providers such as Amazon or Rackspace. In software (SaaS), I think it’s less likely there will be a company from here that’s as big as VMware for example. I think smaller SaaS companies will likely get bought by big software editors or integrators such as CapGemini that ultimately will need their own cloud management software. In France, in fact, we have a strong ecosystem here around integrators with two of the biggest being CapGemini and Atos. They don’t have a public offer such as Amazon or Rackspace, so they are often forgotten by the Cloud ecosystem.

Hedera Technology is well-positioned to capitalize on the dramatic shift to Cloud solutions and services.  In addition, they definitely have a keen sense of how to clearly and simply convey to potential customers what they do and the value they can provide as evidenced in a great marketing video from them shown below.  Given the ever-expanding scope of activities and services related to the Cloud, having a simple, clear and concise sales story is a real advantage.