Startup Volterra sees strong channel play for distributed cloud management solution

Volterra’s solution handles operational and security issues involving multi-cloud and edge deployments, and while their initial focus is on very large customers, the channel is already playing a key role, which will expand going forward.

Daniel Hua, Volterra’s COO

Santa Clara CA-based Volterra emerged from stealth earlier this month, announcing their cloud-native SaaS-based solution to manage very large numbers of devices across multiple clouds and at the edge. They also announced that they have secured over $50 million in funding to date. Those investors include venture capital firms Khosla Ventures, and Mayfield, M12, which is Microsoft’s venture fund), as well as strategic partner investors. Unusually for an early stage startup, especially one focused on larger business, the channel also plays a key role in Volterra’s Go-to-Market strategy.

“Volterra is a new startup, but we believe that we are uniquely positioned in the distributed cloud services market,” said Daniel Hua, Volterra’s COO. “There are other players, but we bring unique value.”

The context, Hua said, is that today an increasing number of apps need to be distributed beyond either a data centre or a single cloud, to multiple clouds, and with the growth of the Internet of Things, to many edge environments.

“This creates operational management problems, because the public cloud tools are not interoperable, and it creates security problems as well,” he said. “Our technology uses a single set of Kubernetes APIs to address this, one set of APIs and one operational model.”

Volterra’s distributed cloud platform consists of three building blocks: VoltStack, VoltMesh and Volterra Console. VoltStack deploys and manages distributed applications across multiple clouds or edge sites using Kubernetes APIs. VoltMesh provides high performance networking and zero-trust security between multiple clouds and edge sites. Volterra Console is a management console for centralized  deployment and operation of distributed applications at a global scale.

“It’s a distributed edge solution platform that provides a secure way to address the needs of both the multi-cloud market and the edge, with full application security within and between devices,” Hua said.

It is also extremely scalable.

“Volterra is effective if you want to manage many thousands of sites – and ultimately millions of sites when this is extended to cars and other IoT devices,” Hua said. “Only we have that scalability. We have been working with major Japanese OEMs to prove that 3000 cluster deployments can work.”

Their sweet spot today is larger customers, but the key is companies with large numbers of deployments, even if the deployments are not themselves large.

“We have had success in areas like retail, where they have maybe 50,000 small stores globally, and they want to manage more applications in the stores,” Hua pointed out. “For example, in Japan, they have a labour shortage, so these stores hire more foreigners who do not speak good Japanese. In order to serve customers well, the stores use translation software that delivers simultaneous translation of conversations with customers.” Internet of Things deployments are also popular, including digital signage, facial recognition, and edge use cases on the manufacturing floor where more applications are being added into robots.

Over time, Hua said that the value of Volterra’s technology makes it logical to extend this more broadly, but that’s still a little way off.

“Right now, and for the next one to two years, our main target is large enterprises and service providers,” he said. “That’s where we can establish our brand name and prove our concept, and that’s where we see the big need. So that’s the initial step. We see this extending into the midmarket, but that will take some time.”

The channel role in Volterra’s Go-to-Market will not wait for the midmarket push however. Volterra is working with channel partners today, and Hua said that even though they are a brand new company, the channel plays a key element in their strategy. They just made an announcement around one, large Tokyo, Japan-based systems integrator ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation, which will resell and integrate Volterra’s solution into IoT services associated with the introduction of 5G. ITOCHU will target 50 of their customers over the next three years with the solution. ITOCHU is also a strategic investor in Volterra, through their venture capital arm.

“We do a lot of high touch selling in this early stage, but our channel still plays a couple key roles,” Hua said. “First, we offer an infrastructure, not applications. A lot of the channel has applications, so this is a very good fit. Second, with any new company, there can be a credibility issue with customers. A big SI can have much more credibility than a smaller vendor like us.

“We have also put a lot of effort into securing bigger customers, and we then wind up working with their partners,” Hua added.

“We have three types of channel partners – systems integrators, MSPs, and those who white label us,” Hua indicated. “We already have multiple MSP partners, and we are working with some application vendors now to offer a unified platform.”

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