June 14, 2017

Engineering Spotlight: Actifio

Founded in 2009, Actifio is a venture capital backed company which created the first, and only, enterprise class copy data virtualization platform. Actifio’s Enterprise Data-as-a-Service (EDaaS) platform can be used for enterprise-class backup modernization, self-serve instant data access, or service provider business transformation.

Actifio has customers in 37 countries worldwide with its headquarters based in Waltham Massachusetts, which is also the home for the engineering team.

VentureFizz connected with Co-Founder and Senior Vice President of Solutions Development, David Chang, to chat about the inner workings of the company’s engineers. In the interview, we learned more about how their platform works and who some of the end users are for this unique service.

We also learned about their appreciation for the local microbreweries.

Quick Hit Details

  • Year Founded: 2009

  • Number of employees: 350

  • Number of engineers: 125

Can you share the details on what Actifio does?

Actifio is a leading Enterprise Data-as-a-Service (EDaaS) platform. It enables thousands of users around the world to deliver their data just as they deliver their applications and infrastructure as a service available instantly, anywhere. An enterprise-class software platform powered by patented Virtual Data Pipeline™ technology, Actifio frees data from traditional infrastructure to accelerate adoption of hybrid cloud, build higher quality applications faster, and improve business resiliency and availability.

What is Enterprise Data-as-a-Service (EDaaS)?

Data-as-a-Service boils down to letting users access data the same way they’re used to accessing applications and infrastructure: as a service, available instantly, anywhere, on demand. Enterprise customers use Actifio’s Enterprise Data-as-a-Service solution to build higher quality applications faster by making high fidelity test data instantly available to authorized developers, to improve business resiliency and availability by rendering traditional backup and disaster recovery point tools obsolete, and to accelerate adoption of hybrid cloud architectures in service to those and many other enterprise use cases.

Who are your customers and who is typically the end user for your product?

Our customers are organizations looking to transform the way they manage data. Our enterprise customers use Actifio to help them break free of the bonds of siloed systems and legacy infrastructure, while slashing costs, time, complexity, and stress. Our service provider customers find Actifio helps them to power new services that are changing the underlying economics of their businesses. In Fiscal Year 2017, Actifio added more than 90 new global enterprise customers, including multiple Fortune 500 corporations across key verticals including air travel, financial services, healthcare, consulting, manufacturing, retail, and consumer goods. Our patented Virtual Data Pipeline™ technology is now deployed in over 2,200 enterprises and cloud service providers worldwide.

What are some of the different technologies that the engineering team gets to work with and at what scale?

Our teams have very different stacks depending on the portion of the product that they are working on. Even though all the developers have their favorite technologies, we try to use the right tool for the job. For example, our back-end storage team works in C trying to squeeze maximum performance out of commodity hardware. Our analytics team uses Perl, R, and PostgreSQL to understand the behavior of our product in the lab and in the field. Our platform team uses Java, Scala, and Python to create numerous services for the rest of the teams, including REST APIs which are used in the UI as well as by our published API that customers can integrate with. As you can see, it's quite a diverse bunch!

What are some of the interesting projects that the engineering team is tackling?

As the world is moving to cloud, Actifio’s engineering team is helping our customers to leverage the cloud without retrofitting the entire application stack. This is a very interesting problem to solve as it involves optimizing workflow, using the least capacity and network bandwidth, and providing the simplest solution to our customers.

Can you describe the type of background or experience that you generally look for when hiring for the engineering team?

Our work is fairly specialized, and so it is always nice to see previous experience in some of the areas we work in (storage, big data, etc), but this is not the most important thing. Rather, we try to identify candidates that have a passion for identifying problems and coming up with realistic solutions. When we interview in-person, one of our major goals is to talk through a candidate's’ previous experiences and understand how they've solved problems. Depending on the role we're interviewing for, this discussion can get very detailed; we think it is critical to be able to explain decision-making around software design.

How would you best describe the culture and working environment for the engineering team at Actifio?

Right from the start of the first few engineers building the MVP, the culture has been customer focused. Making our customers happy is the priority for every team, and engineering is no exception. Even though the company has grown up and scaled from the early days when each engineer would be working closely with customers to understand their needs, we are lucky to still have lots of those engineers around. They have helped set the culture for the newer hires. You can still see this effect today; a large percentage of our development projects are influenced directly by customer requests. This keeps the team involved and motivated, as we can all see the results of our hard work!

Of course, every hard-working organization needs a balance. For Actifio, that balance often comes from bonding over food, drink, and exercise. Our team has some incredible chefs that love to share with everyone, so when we built our new office, we installed a full professional kitchen! You'll often see engineers taking a break from mental work in the kitchen; we find that it's a great way to break through getting stuck on a problem. Plus, the resulting food is always appreciated! And all that food has to be balanced somehow, so we have regular group runs at lunchtime, an Actifio soccer team, and the Engineering team has a yearly bike trip on Martha's Vineyard.

What can someone expect during the interview process?

Our typical on-site interview is a series of one-on-one interviews. We try to have at least one engineer from outside the team being interviewed for, and we tend to focus on past projects, problem solving, and software design.

What does your team do for fun outside of work?  

We have a wide range of interests! Just to name a few, we have an artist (painting and photography), someone working on an open-source robotics platform, and a food blogger writing about the best New England foodie destinations!

Are there any other random fun facts that you’d like to share?

Actifio Engineering does a summer bicycle trip to Martha’s Vineyard every year. We all park our cars in Woods Hole and bike to the Martha’s Vineyard ferry to do a day long bicycle ride, visiting a number of restaurants and ice cream shops along the way. The day ends with many engineers jumping off a bridge into sea along the coast for a short swim.  

To read more, visit:  https://venturefizz.com/blog/engineering-spotlight-actifio