A Former Yahoo CTO Just Became CEO Of This Big Data Startup

August 9, 2016, 3:00 PM UTC
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A former CTO of Yahoo and long-time Silicon Valley veteran is taking over as CEO of big data startup Pepperdata.

Ashfaq Munshi, who worked at Yahoo for a little under a year right before Marissa Mayer became CEO, succeeds Pepperdata co-founder Sean Suchter, who will become the startup’s CTO.

Suchter and Pepperdata co-founder Chad Carson both held management positions at Microsoft (MSFT) and Yahoo (YHOO) before creating the startup in 2012. At Yahoo, Suchter helped the company’s search business unit successfully use the open-source Hadoop big data framework not just for testing or research projects, but also in production.

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Yahoo, like other big tech companies, once maintained a separate business unit dedicated to research called Yahoo Labs. However, in February, Yahoo shuttered the research arm and absorbed it into its overall business amid Mayer’s attempts to streamline the embattled company.

During Munshi’s brief stint at Yahoo, he oversaw 350 researchers, Munshi said in an interview with Fortune.

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Yahoo’s research arm generated a lot of attention from technology analysts and software engineers at the time for its work on cutting-edge technologies, including Hadoop. In 2011, Yahoo spun out a new company called Hortonworks, aimed at creating a business around Hadoop. Hortonworks (HDP) went public in late 2014.

Since leaving Yahoo, Munshi has held CEO and executive chairman positions at several startups, including online advertising technology company Cognitive Match, storage hardware startup Graphite Systems, and data science company Marianas Labs. Munshi helped sell those startups to bigger companies under his watch, including selling Graphite Systems to EMC (EMC) in 2015 for an undisclosed amount.

Munshi said that Pepperdata is not looking to sell to a bigger company at this point in time, and that the company has enough cash in the bank that it is “in no rush to raise money.”

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However, Munshi added, “At the end of the day, every company is at sale for the right price.”

Pepperdata’s technology is essentially a sort-of real-time analytics tool intended to help a company’s IT operations staff better track and improve the performance of modern-day software apps so they more efficiently consume computer hardware resources, like CPU and RAM usage, explained Suchter.

Because these modern-day apps, like Uber’s ride-sharing platform for example, contain many different moving parts, require many resources, and must not easily overload under heavy use, they need to be powered by numerous computers, tethered together in what’s known as distributed computing.

Pepperdata’s software can help fix a company’s application issues on the fly upon discovery—relevant because “things change way too fast for a human operator to react,” Suchter said.

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The startup’s specialty lies in improving the performance of apps that use Hadoop for their data storage and processing needs. But Suchter said that it can also be applied to other new, cutting-edge technologies like containers, as popularized by startups like Docker.

Still, with big data companies like Hortonworks, MapR, and Cloudera that also specialize in Hadoop now steadily rolling out new features to lure customers, it seems likely that these bigger companies will one day release competing products.

Munshi said that Pepperdata is a partner of these companies, though he conceded that eventually, they may release similar tools. In this case, Pepperdata’s proprietary technology is “highly protective,” Munshi said.

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“I don’t mind using them as a channel,” said Munshi, in reference to working with Cloudera, MapR, and Hortonworks to boost Pepperdata’s own sales.

Pepperdata has raised a little over $20 million in funding from investors including Wing Venture Capital, Signia Venture Partners, and Citi Ventures.

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