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Data Sheet—Monday, February 9, 2015

February 9, 2015, 12:44 PM UTC
Fortune

Good morning, Data Sheet readers. I’m up early, preparing for messy winter weather in the New York metropolitan area. Alibaba Group was up way earlier: it kicked off the week with a big investment in smartphone technology. Plus, former New York Times digital content strategist Andres Rodriguez doesn’t think data archiving should be an afterthought. So, he started a company to make it simpler. Read on for more about Nasuni, which has so far raised $53 million.

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TRENDING

Alibaba plays catch-up in smartphones, with a $590 million investment in mid-tier competitor Meizu. It will  use its e-commerce might to help grow share in China. It better get a move on: two separate reports suggest Apple’s growth is on fire in the Chinese market—after months of being a relatively minor smartphone vendor there. Let's hope it learns from Amazon's mistakes in this market.

A slap on the wrist for Symantec. It owes $17 million to Intellectual Ventures for patent infringement. But that’s way less than the $298 million the controversial licensing firm originally wanted.

Speaking of intellectual property, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering—acting on feedback from the likes of Apple, Intel and Microsoft—just passed policy changes that could limit the fees that patent holders charge. Given all the smartphone-related litigation still pending (and likely to pend), this is a major strategy shift. The Department of Justice is thrilled. Companies like Qualcomm that drive significant revenue from royalties are not. 

Frontier: Sure, we'd love your landline technology. Its latest deal to buy $10.5 billion in assets from Verizon could transform the telecommunications company into far more than a regional Internet service provider. Here's what you need to know.

It’s tax season, get ready for a rash of attempted identity theft. U.S. taxpayers can e-file state returns again using Intuit software. The software company froze the service last Friday, after noticing fraudulent claim activity. Take it from someone with firsthand experience: identity thieves love filing early. Do yourself a favor and doublecheck your PINs before you're ready to file.

And, the Anthem lawsuits begin. Policyholders in Alabama and California are filing formal complaints about the massive data breach disclosed last week.

RadioShack: Everything must go. The bankrupt electronics retailer plans to sell more than half its stores to Standard General, which will turn them into Sprint outlets. But it’s willing to listen to better offers as it liquidates assets.

SCUTTLEBUTT

Motorola on the block? No, not the smartphone company, the one that makes two-way radios and other public-safety equipment.

Why is Elon Musk’s Tesla hiring so many Apple employees? Better question, why are they leaving?

You know all those layoffs and executive departures we’re hearing about at eBay, as the company prepares for its divorce with PayPal? They’re starting at another soon-to-be-separated company, Hewlett-Packard. According to Re/code, its leaders for data storage, former 3Par CEO David Scott, is taking early retirement, as is one of his top engineering lieutenants.

Make it go away … meanwhile, there’s still no resolution to the shareholder derivative lawsuit stemming from HP’s $11 billion acquisition of software company Autonomy in 2011. The latest proposal seeks to prevent any future lawsuits related to the deal, which doesn’t sit well with Autonomy’s former CFO.

Last Friday brought title changes for five top Intel executives, but their duties remain the same. One of those promoted to senior vice president: Doug Davis, general manager of the fast-growing Internet of things division.

High-profile Cisco technology evangelist Carlos Dominguez has jumped ship. He’s now the No. 2 exec at upstart Sprinklr, which sells social media marketing automation software.

FORMER DIGITAL CONTENT STRATEGIST RETHINKS DATA MANAGEMENT

Andres Rodriguez experienced firsthand the pains of data archiving and content preservation as CTO of New York Times during the dot-com era. Since then, he has dedicated two startups to finding a better way.

The first, Archivas (acquired by Hitachi Data Systems in 2006) was a pioneer in cloud storage and backup. His latest venture, Nasuni, addresses a more specific problem—how to provide companies with near-real-time access to key files, while preserving mission-critical data for disaster-recovery purposes. Backup isn’t an afterthought, it just happens. So far, Nasuni has raised $53 million; the Natick, Massachusetts, company's most recent financing came in the form of $10 million round back in August 2014.

“Simply put, we wanted a bigger share of Nasuni,” said Sigma Partners managing director Paul Flanagan, at the time. “With their disruptive technology and approach to delivering enterprise storage as a service, Nasuni is revolutionizing the way data storage is deployed.”

While it doesn’t disclose sales, Nasuni last year increased new customer bookings by more than 300%. Publicly disclosed accounts include global law firm Sedgwick LLP and architectural design company Perkins+Will. In late January, it hired a dual-purpose COO and CFO to steer its next phase of operational growth. That executive, Scott Dussault, was also part of the team that orchestrated the Archivas buyout. Fortune caught up with Rodriguez to discuss Nasuni’s approach and how the company differentiates in the highly competitive enterprise storage marketplace.

Following are interview highlights, edited for length and clarity.

On what makes Nasuni's approach unique:

We are connecting appliances that are really simple and largely disposable, and feeding data centers with a master of the data, one that actually fits in with the cloud systems that we're leveraging in the backend. We're delivering the whole thing as an integrated solution for customers.

On why the onsite hardware component is important:

Because it's easier to move yourself to the mountain than the mountain to you. If you look at where the applications are, [Nasuni’s] customers all tend to run pretty high-performance file data that users need quickly; so for instance, an engineering firm doing 3D designs or a legal firm doing document review. It could be any other number of scenarios where you actually need the users and the applications very, very close to the storage.

The way we solve that problem is we say we're going to put in an appliance. That appliance is essentially accelerating the entire experience while the protection, the synchronization of data is all happening in the backend. So we're dividing the problem.

What if I need to protect data in multiple geographies? What if I want that data available actually so that multiple people can collaborate on the same files across multiple geography? Those are problems that it’s only possible to solve in a really robust way by leveraging a cloud architecture. We're blending two approaches: the traditional storage approach and the cloud services approach.

On what’s helping Nasuni win deals:

What is common with all of our customers is they have this file problem, this file growth problem. They're all growing 30-plus % year over year, compound. They're doubling their data every two to three years. So if you look across the verticals, it's the verticals that may come to this first. You look at architecture, engineering, construction, legal, manufacturing, medical. Anyone that needs to touch files to do their work benefits from this approach.

The most compelling thing that people see initially in the system, what everyone wants to get away from I think in the enterprise today, is they want to stop doing backups. Backups have become such a large part of where IT is spending its dollars. It's kind of like an insurance. Unless you have an event, backup adds no functionality to your environment. It's just a cost.

MY FORTUNE.COM BOOKMARKS

Friends Furever: Google’s subtle dig at Apple goes viral by Philip Elmer-DeWitt

Katy Perry is about to get her own mobile game like Kim Kardashian by Time

Why being tech savvy is no longer optional for employees by Juliet de Baubigny

The myths behind push salespeople by Frank Cespedes

Can Apple still be cool if its products dominate your life? by Andres Martinez

ONE MORE THING

Time to check your glucose levels. Medical sensor company DexCom is writing an app that sends readings from diabetes monitor to the Apple Watch (coming to wrists near you in April). It’s been approved by the FDA. Now, it needs to pass muster with Apple.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR

IBM Interconnect: Cloud and mobile strategy. (Feb. 22 – 26; Las Vegas)

Gartner CIO Leadership Forum: Digital business strategy. (March 1 – 3; Phoenix)

Microsoft Convergence: Dynamics solutions. (March 16 – 19; Atlanta)

IDC Directions 2015: Innovation in the 3rd Platform era. (March 18; Boston)

Cisco Leadership Council: CIO-CEO thought leadership. (March 18 - 20; Kiawah Island, South Carolina)

Gartner Business Intelligence & Analytics Summit: Crossing the divide. (March 30 – April 1; Las Vegas)

Knowledge15: Automate IT services. (April 19 – 24; Las Vegas)

RSA Conference: The world talks security. (April 20 – 24; San Francisco)

Forrester’s Forum for Technology Leaders: Win in the age of the customer. (April 27 - 28; Orlando, Fla.)

MicrosoftIgnite: Business tech extravaganza. (May 4 – 8; Chicago)

NetSuite SuiteWorld: Cloud ERP strategy. (May 4 – 7; San Jose, California)

EMC World: Data strategy. (May 4 - 7; Las Vegas)

SAPPHIRE NOW: The SAP universe. (May 5 – 7; Orlando, Florida)

Gartner Digital Marketing Conference: Reach your destination faster. (May 5 – 7; San Diego)

Annual Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference: JP Morgan’s 43rd invite-only event. (May 18 - 20; Boston)

HP Discover: Trends and technologies. (June 2 - 4; Las Vegas)