Clearing the cloud: Paola Moretto discusses some of the hazards of operating in the cloud and the solutions her startup is bringing to marketYou wouldn’t build a bridge and let thousands of cars drive across without first testing its ability to withstand the weight. But companies take the same sort of risk in virtual environments all the time when they deploy applications to the cloud without testing scalability. Paola Moretto, Nouvola co-founder and CEO talks about the growing challenge of scalability and how Nouvola can help businesses address potential challenges before they arise.
Nouvola means cloud in Italian. What are some of the challenges of doing business in a cloud environment that have yet to be addressed?
Businesses that launch applications in the cloud need to know that they will operate reliably and scale successfully. This is the central challenge of cloud computing today and it needs to be addressed before you launch your apps. If they don’t work reliably, even the most well designed and useful applications will fail.
It’s a big problem that is only getting bigger as more and more applications move to cloud environments, resulting in a staggering volume of traffic moving across the cloud.
There is no time for a business to slowly adjust to the cloud.
You need to be ready to scale from Day 1. Your ability to do so impacts your bottom line and it also impacts your reputation. If you encounter a problem related to scale in the cloud, it’s too late, because everyone sees it.
What happens when apps don’t perform in the cloud as designed? How might a business be disrupted and are there any recent examples you can describe?
There are many examples across many industries. If you are a retailer and your site does not perform on Black Friday, or Cyber Monday you are, of course, shooting yourself in the foot. Shoppers have a ton of options and if your site is slow they can just leave and shop somewhere else. Another example is online gaming, where performance in real time is absolutely critical and even a minor slowdown leads to major revenue loss. And all industries are affected by performance degradation. Keep in mind that software changes and is upgraded all the time and that can inadvertently lead to performance degradation. Say you are a bank or a financial services business. The next software change can greatly interfere with the way you work with customers, and these are business critical applications.
Of course, we have all heard about the problematic launch of Healthcare.gov. With a site like that that is going to have so much traffic, you really have to act proactively to make sure reliability and performance are top.
Nouvola helps customers deploy with confidence. Our solution allows you to run traffic scenarios ahead of time so you can know in advance what will happen in peak traffic. We provide the information on what you need to do to address the issue. This is actionable data, provided on a proactive basis.
So give us your elevator pitch: What can Nouvola do for businesses facing these challenges?
You would be crazy not to want to know ahead of time how your website is going to behave with millions of users. Think about a bridge in the physical world. Would you let 100,000 cars on the new bridge without first testing it? Probably not. Why do we do it with software?
Who is your target customer? Are there certain sectors, or is there a certain size business that stands to benefit most?
Any company that transacts its business over the Web is a potential customer. Any company that has a Web presence and cares about user satisfaction, is a potential customer. Nouvola’s solution is scalable and addresses in a cost effective manner the needs of large enterprises as well as small companies. Enterprises using cloud services internally could also benefit. It is important to keep in mind that with the cloud, there is an element of losing visibility and control over your infrastructure so it is crucial to be proactive.
You’ve said that Nouvola’s solutions were designed with a specific problem in mind. Is the typical business aware that this problem exists or do they only discover it when they encounter it?
I think the year 2013 really highlighted for everybody that scale is not something that can be taken lightly. Even if you spend millions of dollars on major applications, if you do not conduct sufficient testing, you can have huge issues when your users show up. The rollout of the Affordable Care Act website is a good example. So, yes, awareness of this problem is growing. But there are still a lot of companies getting caught by surprise. I call them the OMG customers: “OMG we sent out 600,000 newsletters. What if people respond?” “OMG, we were featured in the Journal. What if it generates a lot of interest?” And a lot of companies don’t know there is a good solution out there, or they think the only solutions are too expensive and too complicated.
What motivated you to take on the launch of this business?
My passion is working on technologies that change the world. I’ve done two startups with two successful exits. I love creating something entirely new and solving something for the industry. It is a creative, exhilarating process.
My most recent gig was at Intel, where I was the director of software and I was exposed to the early days of the cloud. One day we shipped our software to Facebook and I got a call a couple of days later notifying us that they had loaded the software onto a test bed of 16,000 servers and it was not working as expected. We needed to address this right away but clearly we didn’t have that many servers to play with. I started thinking there must be a way to use the cloud to generate these scenarios. None of the solutions I found adequately addressed the need. It’s a problem I know well and I realized this is a huge opportunity. Just like cell phones and Wi-Fi and other technologies I was involved with before, the cloud is a revolution. It is changing business in significant ways.
And, why Portland? Are there challenges and/or advantages of locating a software startup outside of Silicon Valley?
I believe Portland represents a competitive advantage for one simple reason: access to great engineering talent at reasonable costs. That being said, there is no place like Silicon Valley. Nouvola’s development team is in Portland, but we have an office in San Francisco where our marketing and business development team is based. It is the best of both worlds.
Portland offers an unbeatable quality of life that has already attracted a number of engineers to make the move from all over the world. It also offers the usual amenities of a big city with a cost of living and work-of-life balance that is unheard of in major metropolitan areas.
It’s still relatively early in the year and Nouvola had great momentum in 2013. What can we expect in 2014?
Many of the challenges related to cloud adoptions will become more and more pervasive. Traffic is increasing exponentially and it is increasingly spikey. Many companies have not put the resources in to proactively address this.
These problems will become more and more serious and companies will be willing to pay more and more money to address these issues proactively.
Don’t hesitate to contact me directly with your comments and inputs via paola dot moretto at nouvola dot com. You can find me on Twitter at @paolamoretto3 or @nouvolatech.