SoftNAS rebrands as Buurst with new pricing model and channel emphasis

Garry Olah, who took over as CEO late last year, has restructured the company’s focus and Go-to-Market strategy, so that the name change to Buurst is but a complementary aspect to the story.

Seattle-based SoftNAS is making some fundamental alterations to their business model. It begins with a name change to Buurst, reflecting their change in emphasizing the value they provide around low-priced data performance.  Customers will benefit more, however, from another change, in their pricing model. Buurst will not charge for the amount of data stored, in order to deliver the best possible economics, and to encourage customers to put more data in the cloud. Buurst is also changing its Go-to-Market model, transitioning from what had been mainly a direct model with cloud marketplaces to a mainly channel model where they will work directly with national and regional solution providers. Finally, the company is also announcing a further $5 million in Series A funding.

SoftNAS has been around for a few years – their 1.0 release was in March 2013 –  but while they do have some well-known enterprise brands as customers, they hadn’t gained the overall market traction they had been looking for.

Garry Olah, Buurst’s CEO

“Growth has been low in the last several years, and I joined the company as CEO late last year,” said Garry Olah, Buurst’s CEO. “We have several hundred customers, including some really big names, and companies like Microsoft and Azure love what we do, because we enable migration by enabling better data performance. But we had gotten pigeonholed in the NAS cloud category. We do provision a NAS-like infrastructure on cloud. But no one says ‘I want NAS in the cloud.’ They want better performance and the best possible economics.”

When he came on board, Olah determined that they needed to upgrade the team, and raise more money.

“All the investment has been from seed investors in oil and gas in Houston, who really liked our vision,” he said. “We were able to raise another $5 million during a pandemic, which is no small feat, which is now part of $26 million we have raised over multiple years.”

With the new funding comes a fundamental change in strategy.

“We believe that we are getting to breakout trajectory,” Olah said. “To get there, we couldn’t just change the name. We had to change the strategy as well, in a market where we were seeing all kinds of competition. So we spent a lot of time talking to customers about what they wanted.

What that was, Olah stated, was relief from the storage tax that they paid on their increasing volume of storage that doubled every year. Even though the cost per GB declined at the same time, net storage costs were still increasing because of the way that SoftNAS, and the market generally, charged for storage.

“Customers paid a storage tax, where the more data they put into the cloud, the more they paid,” he said. “We decided that changing the pricing model was the best way to give them the best economic return, and make us a data performance company rather than a cloud storage company.”

Olah said that with the relaunch and the new brand, the company is focusing on three things: their ability to deliver data performance in the cloud; delivering that performance with the best possible economics; and providing tools to enable cloud migration. SoftNAS will remain a core product offering from Buurst, and will be sold on the AWS and Azure marketplaces, but the emphasis is no longer on storage but on cost-effective performance.

“In repackaging and positioning from SoftNAS storage pricing to performance pricing, we will save customers between 40-80% off cloud native pricing,” he stressed. “For example, with NetApp ONTAP on a 10 TB deal, we can save the customer 60%. The more data, the bigger the savings.”

“We have a built-in tool that does migration but we have been developing rapid technology to get migration protocols faster and more efficiently,” Olah stated. “With this launch we are announcing Fusion, which is now in private beta. It creates plug-ins where you can point it at any data source, structured or unstructured, and create connectors to data sources like a Hadoop database.

“It’s a very strong channel play, particularly as we are developing channel kits that will let partners build their own connectors,” he added. “We will build the big ones, but enable the channel to build other specialized ones.”

That channel enablement focus is new, because the channel is now front and centre in the company’s strategy for the first time.

“We have been direct sales in the past, but this is the year that we transition from more of a direct sales model to a channel model,” Olah said. “I brought in Marc Palombo [as Chief Revenue Officer], who helped build the channel for Citrix.

Marc Palombo, Buurst’s CRO

“We had relationships with strong resellers like DXC, Presidio and InfoSys because we were being sold through both the AWS and Azure marketplaces,” Palombo said. “Now we are building out a channel sales team to work with them.”

The Buurst channel won’t be limited to the big national resellers.

“We are signing strong regional partners as well,” Palombo said. “Carahsoft will also be our first public sector partner, and we are really excited about that.”

Palombo said that several attractive opportunities for partners exist on top of Buurst’s offering.

“There is a growing professional services opportunity there,” he said. “We want partners to do the level one support, and we are in the process of training partners to do that work.”

“For ERP partners, we haven’t built out all the toolkits for vendors like Sage,” Palombo added. “With our toolkit, they can build their own ERP business apps. We also drag 4-10x AWS consumption revenue. It’s an add-on service to drive consumption.”

The channel is critical for Buurst’s expansion given the way that they are typically sold into larger accounts, Olah emphasized.

“100% of our customers had on-prem data, wanted to move to Azure or AWS economically, and had failed,” he said. “We gave them the best possible economics, and that’s the story we needed to move around. We have also been very departmental in getting into these larger accounts. It’s very much a ‘land and expand’ strategy. It’s why the channel is important, because they have the relationships in these accounts. They can save customers money, and also get good margins, so it’s the gift that keeps on giving. And they can start small with a few TB and grow that over time.”

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