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VMblog's Expert Interviews: Ajay Gulati of ZeroStack Talks Zero-Touch Infrastructure for Private Clouds


On March 8th, ZeroStack announced the general availability of the ZeroStack Cloud Platform, an API-driven private cloud solution that delivers an on-premises Amazon-like experience, while removing the complexity of building and managing a private cloud. 

The company has been busy since their $16M Series B funding announcement in October 2015.  Their platform was developed on the premise that building and operating private cloud should be fast, simple and cost-effective, without sacrificing functionality.  To find out how the company has been doing, and to learn more, I recently spoke with Ajay Gulati, co-founder and CEO of ZeroStack.

VMblog:  Tell us about ZeroStack.  How was it founded, and what did you and your co-founder do prior to founding the company?

Ajay Gulati:  Ever been set up on a blind date by a mutual friend?  That's essentially how I met my co-founder and kindred spirit, Kiran.  Apparently, Kiran and I were independently using Mohit Aron, CEO of Cohesity, as a sounding board as we both mused about the difficulty most folks were having with their private cloud projects and what an elegant solution to the problem might be.  After a while, he got tired of us touching on the same points and connected us so that we can share our ideas with each other.  Fast forward a few weeks, another common connection -- Ashu Garg, General Partner at Foundation Capital -- offered us a chance to become "Entrepreneurs in Residence" and incubate what would turn out to become ZeroStack there.

Prior to ZeroStack, Kiran was a founding engineer at Bromium where he architected Bromium's security solution.  Previously, I was a senior architect and R&D lead at VMware involved with building several key technologies across VMware stack: ESX hypervisor, vCenter and vCloud. Some of the technologies include include Storage I/O control, Storage DRS and DRS.

VMblog:  What is your perspective on the state of the private cloud market today - and how has the space changed in the last 5 years, where are we now and what does the future hold?

Gulati:  A cloud by design is not a single software that one can install and manage. It typically consists of more than a dozen components to take care of various aspects like VMs, images, storage, networking etc. Private cloud adoption has been artificially stunted by the operations problem.  Given a choice, no sane person would want to integrate disparate hardware systems and software stacks then manage the many moving parts on an on-going basis.  This is the primary reason workloads are moving to the public cloud; organizations either don't have the capability or the wherewithal to manage infrastructure.  However, the public cloud isn't perfect - you must trade off control, security and performance to gain convenience.

I believe what most want is the experience the public cloud offers - rapid deployment, self-service consumption, no operational headaches - combined with the control of having the infrastructure hosted on-premises. A cloud behind their firewall that behaves like and integrates seamlessly with the public cloud.

VMblog:  Based on your expertise and background, what are the main challenges of building and operating a private cloud?

Gulati:  There are more than a dozen different functions - compute, storage, software-defined network, image library, orchestration, identity management, monitoring, high availability, etc. -- one must address in order to have a fully operational private cloud.  As mentioned previously, it's a complex and often expensive endeavor to achieve the initial deployment.  And, in many cases, the on-going challenge of patching/upgrading/maintaining this intricate system is an even more arduous task.  Finally, staff with the skillset required to manage an internal cloud is a very rare and highly sought-after commodity.  In fact, we'd love to hire any cloud-proficient folks looking for work - please drop us a line:!

VMblog:  You recently announced the GA of your flagship solution, the ZeroStack Cloud Platform.  Explain how it helps enterprises navigate those challenges.

Gulati:  The ZeroStack Cloud Platform was designed with three specific goals in mind.

  1. Anyone should be able to go from bare metal to their own cloud in under an hour and deploy applications using a single click and built-in templates.
  2. The solution should essentially self-operate to eliminate the hassles of day-to-day IT operations.
  3. For workloads running continuously and at scale, the total cost of ownership should be at least half of any alternative, including the public cloud.
VMblog:  What sets ZeroStack's solution apart from others that are available on the market?

Gulati:  The ZeroStack Cloud Platform is the only zero touch private cloud in the market today.  It's a complete, end-to-end solution that removes the complexity of building and managing a private cloud. 

  • No one else in the industry can match the ease with which we can build an on-premises cloud (in three easy steps in about 30 minutes!).
  • The built-in intelligent software creates a symmetric, self-healing environment that gracefully handles failures without requiring human intervention. 
  • Users self-provision resources through an intuitive interface that is available like SaaS. That allows us to add new features very rapidly.
  • Admins benefit from real-time monitoring and predictive analytics that helps prevent problems before they occur.

VMblog:  What types of organizations would benefit most from the ZeroStack Cloud Platform? 

Gulati:  Anyone (a) looking to increase the agility and productivity of their developers; (b) building, testing and deploying cloud-native applications; and/or (c) in-house Big Data analytics projects would be ideal use cases.

VMblog:  Can you share any customer success stories with us?

Gulati:  The College of Engineering and Computer Science at Florida Atlantic University wanted to create a self-service private cloud to serve both local and remote students as well as researchers across the world. Already using VMware Horizon View for their VDI environment, they initially looked to the VMware vCloud Suite but quickly struck it from the list due to budgetary considerations.  OpenStack was also considered but the deployment timeline and complexity wasn't a good match.  With ZeroStack, the cloud environment was deployed in less than an hour. 

Plus, as described by Mahesh Neelakanta, Director of IT: "My team does not have to do any management of the environment. We simply grant access to our students/faculty to resources and they take it from there. We already have researchers starting to use the platform to run simulations and professors planning to use it to teach their cloud applications classes."

Mr. Neelakanta added, "We were able to avoid the hassle and resource depletion associated with trying to build a private cloud ourselves.  By taking the simple-to-deploy-and-manage approach with ZeroStack, we were able to deliver the compute flexibility our users were demanding."

VMblog:  Okay, so what's next for ZeroStack? 

Gulati:  Our vision is to provide a unified cloud platform to customers on which they can deploy applications either in the form of VMs or containers and integrate that with public cloud environments for seamless application mobility for better agility, elasticity and lower costs. At the end of the day, it is all about applications!


Ajay Gulati is co-founder and chief executive officer of ZeroStack, a pioneer in self-service and scale-out private cloud, where he leads the company's team and corporate strategy. Previously, Ajay was a senior architect and R&D lead at VMware.  

ZeroStack Ajay Gulati 

Published Tuesday, March 15, 2016 6:35 AM by David Marshall
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