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Mimecast leads in Information Banking


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SC Magazine editor Paul Fisher interview of Mimecast CEO Peter Bauer and CTO Neil Murray

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Mimecast leads in Information Banking

  1. 1. 1 crazo for cloud Don‘! rain on Group lost: computing P26 my panda P28 anti-malwaro P32 The service introduces Howtiohandle growing Nine devices designed new security threats threats to the database to fght threats ' ‘ ' ‘ ll‘? THIS ISSUE , ~5~: .._. {;~. , I ? *.r: ='r C75,‘ 1 If Ls; 1 g I ~» , “'3 7_ { '(. ~.. r,~»‘. ‘3*-¢-- JANUARY 200_9_ WWW. SCMAGAZ| NE. COM/ UK VA A : A 7 A . ix LI ran IT si-zcumrv PITOFESSIONIILS Mimecast's Peter Bauer on its vision of information as an emerging currency rm
  2. 2. Interview Peter Bauer and Neil Murray I/ Iimecast’s bread and butter may be email management, but its foundersvision ofan information bank is alluring. By Paul Fisher e live in a time of exponential data creation, a mechanism that can only be switched off by the catastrophic failure of all the world's IT systems — an unlikely event. Welcome to the digital age. Too much data doesn't sound much of a problem alongside global warming or the current financial crisis, but it is still a problem Creating data is easy. Storing it is harder. Storing and using it efficiently and intelligently is harder still. It's a concept that informs much of X(. "s conversation with the tvo founders of email management specialist, Mimecast: CEO Peter Batter and (ITO Neil Mur» ray. These South African expats have set up shop in the rapidly gentrifying area around Kings (iross St Pancras in London. The interview with Mimecast proves interesting not so much because ofwhat they do now — manage their clients‘ email, hardly a unique proposition — but more for their conceptual thinking and for where the company may be headed. 'll1ey say they can already produce remarkable efficiencies with their grid approach to computing — just 500 machines doing the work of 7,’-I()(I. When I comment that 500 seems a small number, they produce the maths to prove that this is possible. “We're achieving a result that arguably is better and more robust. It ‘s greater than the sum of the parts for applications we've converged, " says Bauer. “l(’hen we started the company. we set otit with a technological ideology to see if we cottld take a broad set of standalone email applications and build a unified software platform that could perform all of these functions. When you're virtualising for a very specific function and ptttting that on a grid format you get a great efficiency and you get great scale-out capability as wdl. So thats been the hard work that's gone on for the past six years, " Bauer adds. The use of the word “ideology" is no mere throwaway. As the interview We can be effective in the data-at-rest, data-in-use piece, which lots of security companies don’t need to think about” Peter Bauer progresses, its apparent that these two founders are intellectually smart, as well as technologically on the ball. Murray steps in for his (IICO and expands on the theory. "It's not trivial, because you have to have something that doesn’t have boundaries, doesn't have limits, that can just grow. Google kind of showed us a few clues, but it has a different problem to solve. Our problem is profoundly different. Its in the application — and that's where you have to engineer it, from bottom up. " Coming back to earth for a second, in credit-crunch Britain, IT managers could be forgiven for saying they can do most of the email management themselves, despite the efficiencies that may well be on offer in the future from Mimecast and its ilk. So what makes it special? Batter picks up the thread: “Yes, there are other areas companies need to think about — you know, web security and the providers that focus on that. “It's something we've chosen not to go and get involved in, so that we can really be extremely effective in the email and data—-at-rest, data-in—use piece, which lots of security companies don 'I need to think about — they're just thinking about the data-in-motion thing. And the web piece is largely a data-in-motion discipline. " So, finally, we get to the heart and soul of the Mimecast mission. It seems to be Jareaiy 2009 - www. scn‘agaztre. con‘/ uk
  3. 3. Interview run by two deep thinkers who want to be more than the guys who securely manage email for their clients. Suddenly, a fresh concept is bandied about, around the table in one of the Mimecast meeting rooms. Batter casually says: "Well, Neil would refer to us as an information bank. " ’l'hat's exciting, I say. 'lhis is more than email management. This is, possibly, very new. “I. ook, " Batter says, “email is a fairly complicated part of data management, but it's not the only part and it certainly isn't the part we want to stop at. We buy literally hundreds of terabytes a month. X’e have cttstomers signing deals with its where they give us their data for an extended period of time. We have to think like a bank in terms of security. We don't charge them to put money in or take money out, but we charge for things that we provide as an additional service. It sounds like money, but it's data. " Murray elaborates: “If I said to you, ‘where do you bank your data? ', you don't have at hand a list of companies that do that. But we are becoming one of those companies and our thottght processes are being guided differently about what it is that we do. " Where Mimecast now sees its opportunity is in adding services on top of the data it banks for its clients — services such as document management, Our problem is profoundly different. lt’s in the application — and that’s where you have to engineer it, from bottom up” Neil Murray World city: why Mimecast set up in London Why did two South African entrepreneurs choose to start up in London — and has it proved a good decision? Tie answer is reassuring and pleasing. '’It's a fantastic place to have set this company up. The commercial opportunity. the ability to access capital, the talent pool that's available to us in this market is just mind-blowingly empowering for a company like ours, " says CEO Peter Bauer. But it's also London's world city status that has helped, he says, its ability to draw In talent from around the world. Mimecast has a truly international staff — with. not surprisingly. more than a handful of South Africans. “Having this international culture, it's been very good for us to build out our global operations from here. because we've got people who genuinely understand these parts of the world. " Bauer adds. "We also knewa lot of really smart people who moved Into the UK. so over time we've kind of chenry-picked them . ' ' he says. knowledge management, file archiving and backup services. “I'd say 85 per cent of the companies that come to tts have problems with their email systems. They're either under attack, they add too much volume or they are spewing blowback spam, because they don't know what to tum on or off, " says Murray. “But when it comes to ingestion, we get a company that says, ‘here’s my 40 terabytes of data; please absorb that in some useful way'. Phewl" I sttggest that this analogy with money and banks is fine and sottnds sexy, but only as far as it goes. After all, money flow by comparison is controlled and limited, especially now. How will the Mimecast bankers manage all that data? "People aren't going to store less, but what they need to be able to do is find that information — particularly businesses and end-users. Businesses are going to have to retain metadata about stuff that describes this information, so that it can be retrieved and used in context, " says Murray. But, I ask the duo, isn't data management all about search algorithms in the end? Google has proved that. How good are Mimecast’s search tools? Batter insists that search is only as good as the index of the content and the metadata that describe that content, both of which www. scmagazine. com/ uk - January 2009
  4. 4. JULIAN DODD Interview can then be referenced through a search engine. He says that / mu‘ you aggregate is what enables a better ttser experience. “But if yott look at entail, " Bauer COnIinU(: S_. “anything that's moved through email, it‘ you’ve tracked all the email behaviour and you’ve indexed all the content, you’ve got a lot more context tor everything. “Because yott can take a document. And you know this document moved, in this email, it moved from this person to that person, at this time, and then on to that other person. So yott can start to identify user commttnities ol Sllllili. "You can then relate back and say, okay, well, this person is in this active directory group, because we've got all . Jan. .a-ty 2009 - www scn*agaztne. corr/ '.. k of that information as well, we integrate with that. Say we know something, that this person happens to be in marketing, that's interesting. 'lhis went to this person ottt there, whats the domain? Okay, well, it's wpp. com, you know, investigate that and go and pull back some information oil’ that website potentially. “It's not loolprool, but it all helps to say, okay, that thing probably went ottt to somebody in the advertising industry from somebody in your marketing department. You're building a lot more context. You've got access to a lot more metadata, because you’ve seen the usage behaviours. It's not simply a lile that sits on a hard drive and gets opened and closed, " Batter says. Murray adds that this has changed his whole approach to search. He now thinks about “the document he sent to Glenn So hov does this add up to being the world's first contextual information bank? The conversation turns to the thcory oli calculating the risk and value oi‘ data — concepts Batter is very keen on. “One does need to deal with it like a currency, but with even more care than one would money. People don '1 look at money and say ‘that's less risky than information‘. They look at money and say ‘let's put it in a metal box or in a vault somewhere’. People are more casttal about information, and that’s diflicttlt to lix, because people can’t see information. “Our role as a broker oi‘ ttnstructttrecl data has the best perspective on security, the best perspective on that value, and the context oi‘ that information, " Batter continues. “We are able to service information requirements oli other application contexts. such as where the end-user wants to consume that information. Thais very much the work that we're doing. " End oi‘ conversation. Plenty oi‘ theory, bttt plenty oli potential too. X"hether you believe in information banks and intelligent storage or not, this duo's dynzunism is such that you leel a fresh way oi‘ managing data overload may be emerging from the heart of Kings Cross.