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50 Innovative Companies to Watch 2019

Leveraging the power of Big Data to drive growth: DataDirect Networks


Cloud computing is one aspect of technology that, unbeknownst to us, affects our everyday life. Whether it is email, social media, banking, online streaming, or if it is e-commerce, cloud computing is everywhere, processing humongous amounts of data that we generate daily through our use of internet-based services. This data, usually in the order of millions of Terabytes has come to be known as Big Data. Analysis of all this data yields useful information about customer behaviors as well as industry dynamics that enable corporations to make informed decisions and customize their services to suit the needs of users.

With Big Data being closely associated with every aspect of online services, it should come as no surprise that companies have been investing hundreds of millions of dollars into the acquisition, storage, and analysis of Big Data. DataDirect Networks (DDN) is one of the world’s leading players when it comes to large data sets.

DDN is the world’s leading provider for Artificial Intelligence and Big Data storage to organizations with data-intensive needs. For more than 20 years, DDN has been designing and deploying systems that enable companies, universities, and government agencies to derive more value from their data, and accelerate their time to insight, both on their premises and in the cloud. Today thousands of the world’s leading organizations leverage the power of DDN technology and the deep expertise of its team to capture, store, analyze and distribute data at unprecedented speeds.

In conversation with the founder of DDN, Alex Bouzari

What was the motivation to launch the company?

In the late 90’s we foresaw the impact that the internet would have on creating demand for large scale data storage. We, therefore, decided to build technology which would handle these massive amounts of data, reliably and at very high speed. Since nothing like this existed at the time, we had to invent it all, including software, complex artificial intelligence algorithms, sophisticated data management technology, silicon, and hardware.

Could you talk about your company’s first product?

DDN’s first product was aimed at early adopters of large-scale data storage. Movie studios with sophisticated special effect needs, TV stations who wanted to broadcast digitally, government agencies who were tackling very complex problems like weather forecasting, investigating the origins of the universe, nuclear explosion simulations, and anti-terrorism.

The product we invented hit a sweet spot with these customers, and within a few years, we became a standard in these markets. Thanks to DDN, these organizations were now able to do things they had only dreamed of before, and better yet at the touch of a finger. Later on, our markets expanded to many other industries, such as banking and finance, car and airplane manufacturers, healthcare, oil & gas and ultimately the web and cloud economy. We now see opportunities in almost every industry as companies realize the value that innovative approaches to utilizing data can unlock new opportunities for them.

What were the challenges that you faced in your initial years?

The early days were tremendously exciting but also challenging. With rapid growth came the need for capital to fuel our growth and the need to find great talent to expand our team. We also had to establish offices in various countries, adapt to the different ways of doing business in each one of those countries, and built up the infrastructure necessary to operate on a global scale. We looked into outside investment to aid our expansion plans, but we quickly found that outside investors didn’t understand our business model and pressed us to expand into more competitive markets where we didn’t have differentiation. In the end, we trusted our vision, that a fixation on the needs of the truly data-intensive customer would position us best for the emergence of high-end big data processing into the enterprise, rather than diluting our message and losing what made DDN unique. What keeps us growing successfully throughout the years was a razor-sharp focus on meeting and exceeding our customers’ needs.

What do you feel are the reasons behind your company’s success?

People – We have the most amazingly dedicated, passionate, innovative, customer-focused employees – many of whom have been with DDN for well over a decade.

Customers – Our customers demand the best from us – the fastest, most far-reaching technology. They help us create the best products to solve their business and IT challenges.

Technology – We have brilliant engineers who design amazing technology which helps solve some of today’s pressing issues: global warming, world hunger, international terrorism, but also creating better and safer cars, streaming higher-resolution movies into homes, and increasing quality of life.

Can you talk about your company’s expansion?

Our customers’ requirements continuously drive us to invent and innovate, which is the best thing you could wish for. The more we give them, the more interesting things they come up with to put our products to great use. Additionally, use cases continue to emerge as more and more companies embrace AI initiatives. At the same time, we have gone from selling mostly to US customers to becoming a global company, serving the needs of customers in more than 50 countries. More recently, DDN has also used acquisitions, specifically the purchases of Tintri and Nexenta to broaden the portfolio and deliver wider data management services. This broadened portfolio will allow us to address the needs of customers as new technologies, like 5G and the expansion of IoT drive requirements from the edge, to core data center services and into multi-cloud environments.

Meet the brains behind DDN’s continued success, Alex Bouzari.

Alex Bouzari, CEO and Co-founder, is a visionary IT leader with over 25 years of experience in founding and managing profitable, high growth technology companies. Before co-founding DataDirect Networks – which is now the world’s largest, privately-held Storage Company, with thousands of customers and 600 employees in 20 countries. Alex holds Bachelor of Science degrees in Engineering and Economics Caltech, with graduate studies in Engineering at MIT and Stanford University.

"DDN storage helps you manage at scale data better, faster and safer."