SoftIron cut its cloud teeth by delivering a cloud-scale storage solution. Talking to customers, it discovered that while many wanted the benefits of public cloud, they also wanted a private environment for security. This led the company to build its own turnkey private cloud solution, HyperCloud.

More recently, it has released a new product VM Squared. The goal is to simplify the deployment of large-scale virtualised environments. Unsurprisingly it is targeting VMware customers who, it says, are dealing with increasing complexity.

Enterprise Times Editor Ian Murphy spoke to Jason Van der Schyff, SoftIron’s Chief Operating Officer, to learn more about SoftIron’s approach to simplifying virtualisation and cloud.

A quick look at SoftIron’s journey

SoftIron started out delivering storage to customers on the cloud. As part of that, Schyff said that the company saw the challenges customers faced with moving to the cloud. It helped SoftIron reinforce its position as a storage company. As Schyff points out, it doesn’t matter how or where applications are deployed or run; they always need access to data.

Part of the challenge that SoftIron saw was that companies liked the public cloud but didn’t always want to be on one. Instead, they wanted the benefits from both the cloud and on-premises, especially around security. But when trying to run locally, they suffered from the problem of their on-premises infrastructure being unfit to support a local cloud environment.

Jason Van der Schyff, COO at SoftIron (Image Credit: LinkedIn)
Jason Van der Schyff, COO at SoftIron

Schyff believes that companies need a better architecture. He said, “We’ve expanded the footprint of the company and offerings to deliver on our mission of providing a true, turnkey private cloud platform. It dramatically simplifies the entire business of on-premises infrastructure.”

That simplification is why SoftIron created HyperCloud, its own turnkey private cloud solution. Since launch, it has seen significant traction among a wide group of customers. It now has customers in finance, research, manufacturing, national security and government agencies.

Organisations want to be cloud-first

One thing that Schyff has seen is the increase in applications being developed for the cloud. He said, “most applications are being developed using cloud-native tools and methodologies wherever possible, regardless of where they ultimately run.”

But that raises a bunch of questions about what is being developed. Are these new applications to meet the demands of the business units? Are they the next version of existing applications that are being rewritten for the cloud rather than on-premises deployment? Companies need to understand the difference between on-premises deployment and cloud deployment.

Moving legacy applications is something that Schyff says SoftIron is often faced with. He said, “Where we really want to lead people is why should you have to choose? Is this going to run in a private environment? Is this going to run in a public environment based on what you have?”

Not all applications can be redesigned for the cloud, either because they are too complex or because organisations can’t rewrite them. Schyff says this plays to HyperCloud. It allows legacy applications to be placed into virtual machines and then run on top of HyperCloud.

The recent launch of VM Squared allows SoftIron to double down on that. It is targeted at VMware customers who want a simpler interface and an easier way to manage virtualisation.

Both products allow applications a longer life on a more modern infrastructure. Schyff says it also provides customers a pathway to deploy a new version of that application. In some cases that will be a rewrite and in others a migration to a different application.

How do you solve the security issue?

Another key issue for companies moving to the cloud is security. Public clouds rely on the principle of shared security, a model that has been around for several years. It means the customer is responsible for protecting their data on the cloud provider’s platform. The problem is that few companies deal with this effectively.

It presents an interesting challenge for SoftIron. HyperCloud is a private cloud, and the company has its own security model. However, the company cannot be certain that customers will use it for all their cloud needs. Multi-cloud deployment is increasingly common, so SoftIron is having to work with customers on understanding shared security for what is on HyperCloud and what isn’t.

Schyff points out that HyperCloud is based on its own experience working in high-security environments. He commented, “The software was written to meet NIST requirements for secure multi-tenancy. We’ve gone through that process of having different classifications running on a single environment, the East-West security.”

He also talked about SoftIron’s work in Australia around the government’s Essential Eight guidelines. These guidelines create a baseline to harden Microsoft-based systems, servers, and clients to reduce the risk of compromise. As a result, SoftIron has won customers in the defence industry.

SoftIron has hardened HyperCloud’s security. From a defence perspective, it adheres to several security standards, including the Australian Government’s Defence Security Principle Framework (DSPF) and Information Security Manual (ISM). It also meets the requirements of other Five Eyes nations, the NATO Federated Mission network, and other secure frameworks.

Additionally, SoftIron has FedRAMP accreditation for US customers and uses FIPS-140 compatible cryptographic modules.

Partners the key to greater sales

Cloud has given many vendors a chance to redefine their business models. Rather than direct sales teams, they rely on partner networks and marketplaces. When asked about this, Schyff said that SoftIron is a pure partner play. It allows it to focus heavily on the underlying platform and infrastructure.

With the Broadcom acquisition of VMware and the reshaping of its partner network, it has abandoned a lot of partners. SoftIron is finding a lot of those partners are receptive to it and that brings customers with it. For a company that plays as much in the SME as the enterprise space, that is a huge bonus for SoftIron.

It has also found MSPs are deploying HyperCloud and then working with it to widen the customer base. Schyff said, “It’s been an almost daily event of people knocking on the door saying, ‘we were a VMware partner over here, we’re just looking for something else.'”

He says that many are attracted by the virtualisation opportunity, which is another reason for the VM Squared launch to take it further. However, he also points out that SoftIron does not just want to be seen as a VMware replacement. He reinforces the point that HyperCloud is a true private cloud. Schyff commented, “It looks and feels exactly like a public cloud.”

It makes it easier for customers to sell once they see it has the benefits of virtualisation and of being like a public cloud. It also opens the door for consultancy and other services to rewrite applications along with training for IT teams.

Enterprise Times: What does this mean?

SoftIron has a long history of working in the cloud and virtualisation. With HyperCloud and VM Squared it is providing an alternative to public clouds and other virtualisation products. Importantly, it also allows customers to use both products on-premises or deploy to an MSP environment.

Its focus on security has allowed it to win a large government and defence customer base. That same level of security also appeals to certain industry segments, such as finance and manufacturing, where SoftIron also has a growing presence.

Being a partner-led organisation when it comes to sales allows it to focus on its own applications and platform. It also means that partners are not worrying about the company poaching very large clients. It is a model that is becoming increasingly popular among cloud vendors.

Over the next year, it will be interesting to see how quickly it expands and what that means in terms of product features. There is pressure for an alternative to VMware as a result of the Broadcom acquisition. There is also pressure from businesses who are still to move legacy apps to the cloud but are worried about the process.

While SoftIron is targeting both markets, what new features will it need to add to continue to capture customers? Also, while it relies on partners and MSPs to bring in customers, it is unclear how much input they have to meet the demands of their customer base.


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