Panzura didn’t become the fastest 🚀 and most secure 🔐 global cloud file system on the planet by accident. We spent 5 minutes with Panzura’s founder and CTO John Taylor to tap into his inspiration (and find out what he thinks of the competition 😉).
Q: Taylor – tell us about your background, before you founded Panzura?
A: Before Panzura, I worked in Engineering for three successful companies focusing on the latest technology of the time. These were Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) Networking at FORE Systems, Gigabit Ethernet and Web Server Load Balance at Alteon, and WiFi Networking at Aruba.
Q: What’s the nicest thing anybody has ever said to you about Panzura?
A: Many customers have said they simply could not function without us, because we allow any employee to efficiently access the same data from anywhere. That’s exactly what’s enabling our new reality now, where people will primarily work remotely.
The AEC industry was ahead of the curve here. Designers and architects were already spread across the world. It was far easier and more cost-effective to bring the data to them than to fly them to the data.
One customer told me they saved over $1M in travel expenses each year because of us. Another told me each of their designers was much more productive with Panzura, allowing them to bill more hours to the tune of over $30K more per designer per year. Regardless, our customers most always reserve their very best comments for (our head of customer support) Caeli Collins and her team. An NPS score of 88 speaks volumes about the quality of her support team and our products in general.
Q: What’s been your guiding philosophy, right from the start?
A: I try to always build the best product from the start, focusing on stability, performance and scale. Whatever you do, even if you think it is a prototype, it will find its way to a customer. Build it so that you don’t have to rebuild it.
Q: What inspired you to create Panzura and what were the biggest challenges you faced?
A: After Aruba I thought the next logical challenge for me was to start a company. I knew enough investors and was comfortable building a product from scratch. Panzura was founded with an entirely different idea, but pivots in early stage startups are not uncommon. Investors are primarily investing in the team. These days, pivots are actually planned!
Our friends, who were also our customers at previous companies, told us what challenges they were currently facing. Lehman Brothers had just filed for bankruptcy so most companies were looking to save money everywhere. One large expense that our friends at Chevron felt was inflated was the cost of backups. At that time tape was primarily used and trucks arrived weekly to carry the tapes offsite for an added layer of protection. AWS was just beginning then. Some quick math and knowing costs for technology always drop, it was easy to see that S3 was going to replace tape while also providing superior availability and durability and limitless possibilities for the future.
Another colleague at a financial firm in NY wanted to be able to collaborate across sites using SMB. SMB version 1 was the most common file protocol at the time, but it was terrible across a WAN. SMB2 was better, but still too chatty. We thought both ideas merited investigation and started work on both. Soon, we realized we could bring them together to make each much, much better, resulting in our Global Cloud Filesystem.
The biggest challenge was integrating a filesystem with AWS. We had to efficiently transfer the data to and from S3, handle the constant churn of what was on disk, and refactor a lot of the filesystem to be able to handle multi-second or even minute latencies of cloud storage. The second and ongoing challenge was making our Global Filesystem reliable, consistent, and performant. It has to act and perform like a local NetApp Filer.
Q: Is there such a thing as a typical day and if so, what does that look like?
A: My typical day is Slack, Meetings, and Escalations. Thankfully escalations occur much less frequently now, and I have only lost sleep one night in the last couple of months because of one.
Q: What achievement are you most proud of in your time here so far?
A: I am most proud of the product. No other product in the space comes close to the responsiveness, performance, and scale of Panzura. I often wonder why our competitor ever wins against us.
Q: What’s next for Panzura?
A: More sales and marketing. This is where our competitor used to kick our butt. We have barely tapped our markets, even the ENR100.
Q: What do you wish you would have known before starting Panzura?
A: I wish I had known that storage is freaking hard. I started building the product thinking storage cannot be difficult, even after a pitch at Sequoia went South when the partner asked how we could possibly succeed when the storage market was over 20 years old and we had zero storage experience. I’ve since learned that companies can replace everything but their data. It is their single most valuable asset, like it or not. In storage you cannot lose a single byte, or you will lose your customers or at the very least delay an order by a year. Every technical decision, every line of code, must take this into account.
Q: What’s your superpower?
A: Eleven 9’s of durability and six 9’s of availability!
Q: Tell us a bit about John Taylor the person.
A: Unlike Caeli, I stopped riding horses after I was kicked in the stomach chasing one! I stopped riding motorcycles after a car failed to see me when crossing an intersection. I stopped riding mountain bikes after I completed only half of a flip. And did I mention I also once fell off of a stationary bike? Needless to say, I prefer to keep my feet on the ground these days 😊. I find solace in the outdoors, while hiking or enjoying the sunset with a glass of cabernet.