Megan Keller: Peter, can you tell me a bit about your background and Mimecastâ€™s background?
Peter Bauer: I started out life in the tech business as a Microsoft certified systems engineer focused on Microsoft Mail 3.2, which was the product before Exchange 4. I lived and worked in South Africa. Then I started a business that did a lot of application development on top of the earlier versions of Exchange and helped Microsoft in South Africa bump Lotus Notes out of a lot enterprise opportunities because our business helped [Microsoft] showcase the workflow and the forms and the application development capabilities using the Microsoft stack.
Through that experience, I saw how important email was becoming to corporate communications and corporate workflows. When I moved to the UK in 2002, I met my cofounder at Mimecast, whoâ€™s also a South African guy -- I sold my first company to a public company in South Africa in the late 90sâ€™. He and I spent a lot of time talking about how all of the point solutions that exist around an email system create a very complex environment to manage and to run. And I think that most vendors at the time had been thinking about the specific problems they were trying to solve, like long-term email archiving, either for storage or for compliance reasons, antispam and antivirus type services from a security management point of view, high availability technology to make email systems resilient or rapid to recover, disclaimers and brand management inside of email, and encryption. So each one of them was solving all of these problems individually and bringing out products to solve these problems, but in doing so creating a bigger problem, which was complexity. So we looked at it and thought â€śOkay, itâ€™s a bit of geeky idea, but could we create a single piece of software that could do all of these things and really be a one-stop shop ideal companion to a Microsoft Exchange or a corporate email system environment?â€ť
And as if picking fights with all the major point solution vendors wasnâ€™t a foolhardy idea enough, our next big idea was could we build this as a large, multi-tenant Software as a Service infrastructure. We felt that it could be a lot more accessible and easy to adopt if you didnâ€™t have to check something out and buy something new, but you could simply connect up to it and use whichever services you needed relative to whatever your own deployment or existing estate looked like. And over time, you could trend toward using more and more of our stuff as you felt you wanted to retire things.
So the combination of converging this functionality over the past nine years and ensuring that we continue to mature the functionality of the platform so that it meets or exceeds best of breed status in each of those areas. The combination of that rich functionality converged and the cloud-based delivery model, extending on-premises environments, itâ€™s become a very popular service for people running Exchange. So today we have over 5,000 companies that use it -- itâ€™s about 1.3 million end users total -- we store terabytes of data for companies, and weâ€™ve been able to expand into three regions -- North America, obviously we started in the UK and South Africa, but we really have clients all over the world.
Keller: Do you mind giving some details about what you discussed in your keynote?
Bauer: Itâ€™s interesting. I remember when I signed up for MCSE courses in 1996, the structured database, the relation database, was the core value of an enterprise environment. And I fully intended to become a SQL -- what was it, 4.3 or something at the time -- person, and through some scheduling error I ended up on the mail track quite begrudgingly. Itâ€™s funny how things work, but whatâ€™s turned out is that SQL Server and relational databases and structured data sit at the core of line-of-business applications. But the longer term value sits inside the unstructured databases that companies run. Try as we may to get unstructured data into and around lots of other types of systems in the business, from Intranet and collaborative stuff, weâ€™ve seen how all roads lead back to email because it is frictionless and ubiquitous. Although itâ€™s very unstructured, itâ€™s so convenient. So you end up using email for even the most sophisticated collaboration exercises or activities, and itâ€™s a very interesting database as a result. Itâ€™s not perfect; thereâ€™s lots of frustration and heat pointed at email in terms of information overload, but itâ€™s there and itâ€™s not going away. I think people in 2011 and 2012 are starting to realize that Intranet or the collaboration of that environment isnâ€™t going to save us. We have got to figure out how to be smarter with emails and how to take the email experience forward, as opposed to pretend itâ€™s something else and trying to move into a new collaborative paradigm in another environment.
Keller: So at the core your keynote is really about getting IT pros ready for the cloud, right?
Bauer: I think itâ€™s looking at and perhaps even dispelling some of the myths about the cloud. Iâ€™ve spent a lot of time thinking about the evolution from mainframes to client server because I turned up in IT just as that shift was happening. And I remember going in to pitch Windows NTâ€“based systems and being laughed out of the room by the UNIX crowd who said â€śThatâ€™s not secure, thatâ€™s not mature enough, thatâ€™s not enterprise ready.â€ť They were prepared to have it as a file and print server somewhere; this certainly wasnâ€™t a platform to run any applications on.
Obviously, nowadays much more of the world is computerized, so the stakes are higher; the way that change happens really matters. Itâ€™s quite interesting to see certain approaches and certain strategies playing out again. An example is, what I remember in the client server world was terminal emulation. So you have your mainframe systems and you have all of these back end things. You present inside your Windows machine a terminal emulation box and you persuade your user that theyâ€™ve got a Windows-like experience going on there. Or you write thin front ends that donâ€™t integrate into the mainframe to do stuff, to create the facade of a client server experience, and youâ€™re trying to get it to go as far as it can in that new world. But itâ€™s not client server computing.
In the same way now in the cloud world, we have a lot of client server legacy technology and a strong interest in making it seem like itâ€™s part of this brave new cloud world. The world doesnâ€™t understand yet, but itâ€™s not cloud computing at all. Itâ€™s pseudo cloud computing and no one wants to call it pseudo cloud computing, so they come up with other names for it like private cloud. But itâ€™s not part of the future; itâ€™s a temporary [solution] where people are trying to either make money or do the best with what they got. But I think people shouldnâ€™t be fooled -- the majority of mainframe systems havenâ€™t survived; they were part of the solution, they had to be replaced and rearchitected. In the same way, running virtual machines with lots of stuff built for the client server world and fronting it with cloud wrappers isnâ€™t cloud computing. You can have a cloud-like experience, but donâ€™t overestimate what you can get in terms of long-term benefit.