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The Magic Behind Model9’s Technology and the Customer Problems It Solves: A Conversation with Model9’s Eddy Ciliendo
by Steven Dickens | May 22, 2023

In this episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast Interview Series, I’m joined by Eddy Ciliendo, Chief Strategy Officer for Model9 for a conversation about the magic behind Model9’s technology and how that translates to solving customer challenges.

So what is the “secret sauce” behind Model 9’s solutions? That’s exactly what Eddy and I covered in this conversation. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Eddy opens the conversation by telling us about his role with Model9 and the company itself.
  • We discuss Model9’s core technology and its three main products, offering flexible solutions for customers.
  • We explore how the threat landscape is driving demand for the solutions Model9 offers, and how Model9 Shield addresses the critical security needs of their customers.
  • We also discuss how Model9 Manager simplifies infrastructure, yet offers flexibility between cloud and on-prem object storage.
  • Eddy shares the benefits of Model9 Gravity, a product that transforms siloed mainframe data for use in open-system formats.
  • And finally, we discuss how the modular nature of Model9’s products allow customers a variety of entry-points, customized to the needs of their organization.

Learn more at model9.io.

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Transcript:

Steven Dickens: Hello and welcome to the Futurum Tech Webcast in collaboration with Model9. I’m joined by Eddy Ciliendo. Welcome to the show.

Eddy Ciliendo: Thank you, Steven.

Steven Dickens: So Eddy, we’re here to talk a little bit about Model9, still a relatively new name in the mainframe space. First off, let’s position your role. What do you do for Model9 and then we’ll dive into what the company does?

Eddy Ciliendo: Yeah, sure. So I’m the chief strategy officer at Model9. I’m responsible for all things long-term strategy, whether it’s go-to-market, marketing strategy, partner strategy, or even kind of our long-term technology outlook.

Steven Dickens: Tell our watchers and listeners a little bit about Model9. As I say, still a relatively new company in the mainframe space. I’ve been tracking you guys pretty closely over the last few years, but let’s just spend some time unpacking Model9. Just give us an overview.

Eddy Ciliendo: Yeah, no, you’re right. I mean, again, for a software company in the mainframe market, we are indeed still fairly new, when most other companies have been around for decades, right? We were founded in 2016 in Tel Aviv, Israel now have offices here in the U.S., still a large development office in Tel Aviv in Israel. So been around now for a couple of years and have seen fantastic growth over the past couple of years.

Steven Dickens: Well, I think I’ve spent some time digging in and I think it’s really interesting you describe a little bit about that company and the growth and the sort of expansion. You touched on it, a lot of the people in the mainframe space and your competition or sort of vendors have been in this space for decades. You’ve told me a really good story in the past about the development, the amount of expertise you’ve got, coupling that with the ability to be nimble and agile, maybe just unpack that for the listeners a little.

Eddy Ciliendo: Yeah. That’s a very good point. One of the things we’re really proud of at Model9 is our development team, our R&D team. People are still relatively young for a mainframe world, but everybody has two decades of really in-depth z/OS systems programming, application development expertise. So I think that’s really the foundation of the great products that we have developed over the years.

Steven Dickens: So that gives me a great segue. Let’s dive straight in. Explain to us what Model9 does.

Eddy Ciliendo: So on a most basic level, our secret sauce, our technology, is that we provide a native S3 compatible object storage interface to IBM mainframes running as the z/OS operating system, right? So now you open up the mainframe to all the innovation that is happening both on-prem with object storage, vendors on-prem, as well as in the cloud, giving customers a lot of flexibility and choice when it comes to storage technology.

Steven Dickens: So that’s a really good overview, Eddy. Tell us a little bit about what customers are doing and the use cases. I know there’s various different ways you can use that technology stack, but what are the customers doing with the technology?

Eddy Ciliendo: Yeah. So with that core technology, we enable three use cases or three products, right? The first one is what we call Model9 Shield. Model9 Shield is a third data copy solution that customers can use to, A, protect themselves from logical corruption, things like ransomware attack, or I mean, we’ve also seen application errors causing logical corruption of data, right? So a lot of customers these days want to have a third data copy that is air-gapped and immutable, and again, that can be on object storage on-prem, or even in the cloud where you have even more separation.

Steven Dickens: Are you seeing the demand for that more and more? I mean, we understand the threat landscape right now. Is that what’s driving adoption there?

Eddy Ciliendo: Absolutely. So I think first of all, the threat landscape is one of the drivers. I think we see now much more regulatory pressure for sure in the U.S., in Europe for several industries where they now have to implement those kinds of data vaults or third data locations. So yes, definitely a lot of traction in that space.

Steven Dickens: Is that because the mainframes are typically deployed into highly regulated industries? We’re talking banks, telcos, retailers, we’re talking government institutions. Is that really what’s driving that adoption?

Eddy Ciliendo: You, you’re spot on, right? I think then the other reason why we’re seeing so much traction on our side is that all the other technologies that achieve similar outcomes as it relates to air gapped, immutable data copies, they’re pretty hardware intense. So you need a lot of on-prem infrastructure to be able to replicate the same thing that we can do, again with object storage, either on-premise or fully in the cloud, right? We have some customers, actually a large financial services entity here in the U.S., what they’re now doing is they can recover their whole mainframe bare metal and recover their whole mainframe from the data copy they’ve stored in the cloud. We have another customer in Europe that is now creating, by the way, in the banking sector, it is now creating a data copy outside of the country because they’re concerned with a lot of the geopolitical tension. They’re closer to the border to Russia. So they are now creating a data copy in a cloud data center in Germany.

Steven Dickens: So you mentioned the word immutable there. I think there’s a lot in that word. So maybe just unpack what that means.

Eddy Ciliendo:Yeah, it means that once you have your data on object storage, again, what it is on-premise or in a cloud, sorry to sound like a broken record here, but once you have your data on object storage, the idea is that nobody inside your organization or outside your organization can tamper with that data anymore, right? So that in case everything goes wrong and then your primary data copies are corrupted, your secondary data copies, which is usually your backup data is corrupted, you still have that one golden copy, that you can recover your data, that you can recover your enterprise from.

Steven Dickens: The one source of the truth if everything else is sort of going wrong.

Eddy Ciliendo: Exactly.

Steven Dickens: You can go back to this one golden copy of data.

Eddy Ciliendo: Exactly.

Steven Dickens: And you’re good. I mean, I asked you that question. It’s kind of something, a phrase you probably say all the time, but I think that’s absolutely crucial. What we see with the threat landscape as it is at the moment, hacking and sort of cyber terrorism, whether that’s state actors or for profit, it’s really impacting the landscape. Some of the customers I can imagine get a lot of comfort from that technology and that approach.

Eddy Ciliendo: Yeah. I mean one other area of comfort, so to speak, is just how quickly they can protect themselves using our technology as opposed to some on-prem infrastructure solution where, again, you first need to evaluate the technology, then procure it, get it into the data center, get it set up. We’re talking weeks, months very likely to implement such a protection architecture. Whereas here we have seen customers go live within weeks.

Steven Dickens: I think that’s a key point. I’m glad you brought it up. I mean, those threats are a here and now problem, they’re not a three or three, four, five, six months from now problem.

Eddy Ciliendo: Spot on, yeah.

Steven Dickens: They’re a today problem. So I hadn’t realized that that was one of the key differentiators. So that was the first technology and sort of key solution area. Maybe talk to me about the next as we go through the portfolio here.

Eddy Ciliendo: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So the second solution that we have is what we call Model9 Manager. And Model9 Manager kind of takes the Shield concept to the next level, in that you now can use that same underlying technology, our super fast, highly secure, low overhead transport to object storage, but now use that technology to back up and restore your mainframe data, right? So you can now replace your on-premise tape or virtual tape infrastructure, your current mainframe backup software with my online manager and use object storage as a target, right? We hear from a lot of especially larger enterprises that they want to simplify their architecture, not just in the mainframe environment but across the organization and standardize on object storage. We now allow you to use the same object storage platform that you’re using for your x86 infrastructure, for your cloud infrastructure, now also for your mainframe.

Steven Dickens: So is that a simplicity play? Is that a TCO play? Sort of maybe unpack what’s driving that customer adoption.

Eddy Ciliendo: No, no, spot on. I think it’s all of the above, right? So I mean, TCO, we usually see customers save somewhere around 50% going to our solution versus the incumbent technologies that are out there. Simplification, very important. Again, you standardize to one storage architecture for both mainframe and open systems. Also, simplification plays just kind of from a software perspective. I think our software, again, since we’re a younger company, I think has far less legacy in it. I know it’s easier to manage and especially it’s easier to manage for kind of the next generation of mainframe especially. That’s something that I know that you and I both care a lot about. So it’s just clearly simplification from that perspective.

Steven Dickens: Is that collapsing the silos? You and I have worked in this space for a while. You’ve got the mainframe storage team, you’ve got the distributed storage team, you’ve probably now got a cloud storage team. Are you seeing this just a collapsing of those silos and now it’s a storage team looking after storage? There’s not that unique kind of mainframe-ness to storage. Is that really what you’re seeing?

Eddy Ciliendo: Absolutely, right? We both know it’s a bit of a journey, right? So oftentimes it’s also kind of the biggest challenges that we have to overcome during one of our projects is just to get those currently very siloed infrastructures play nicely together. But I think organizations can just gain so much by, again, by simplifying their stack, reducing their stack, and the amount of vendors that they have in there. So I think there’s a great play there.

Steven Dickens: We’ve talked a lot about it off camera around hybrid and that sort of desire to be able to not only leverage object storage on-prem, but also leverage object storage in the cloud.

Eddy Ciliendo: That’s another thing, once you use object storage for any of the three use cases by the way that we enable, but once you use S3 compatible object storage, it’s now very easy for you as an organization to switch from one storage platform to the other, right? You can go first on-prem, which is something that we see frequently, right? People start on-prem because they still have some concerns about the cloud or they have some data sovereignty issues going on. But once you have implemented our technology, it’s going to be very easy for you to either switch object storage platforms or go from on-prem to the cloud or implement a full hybrid model where you have some infrastructure on-prem, again, perhaps for fast restore and then leverage the cloud for more archival type of data.

Steven Dickens: I think that’s the type of flexibility that customers are looking for. That’s certainly what I’m hearing when I engage with clients. They’re looking for that flexibility. They want to be able to work with storage vendors on-prem, they want to have the flexibility to be able to switch out particular vendors, or ultimately they might want to explore the cloud. So that’s the second area. Maybe go one more and go into that final use case for us, Eddy.

Eddy Ciliendo: Yeah, no, absolutely. So again, the first two use cases were more in a data protection space, right? Model9 Shield for the third data copy, Model9 Manager to replace backup restore completely. Now our third product or use case will be called Model9 Gravity, takes those two use cases and adds transformation of the mainframe data to open systems formats, right? Because with the first two use cases, we still move the mainframe data in its proprietary format, right? It’s Big-endian, EBCDIC, whatever you have, so that we can recover exactly the same data from the cloud or from object storage.

But the shortfall of that is you’re not able to use the data for anything other than to restore it to the mainframe. We have a lot of customers say, “Hey look, once I have the data and object storage, once I have the data in the cloud, I would like to do more with it. I like to feed my data lake. I would like to feed my cloud native applications. I would like to perhaps inspect the data.” If we talk about the Model9 Shield use case, perhaps you want to do some cyber forensics in the cloud. So you need to be able to understand the mainframe data.

What Model9 Gravity does is two things. First of all, you can use it as a transport mechanism to move data very, very efficiently from the mainframe to the cloud, right? Think about moving petabytes to the cloud. FTP is not going to cut it, right? So we are very efficient, blow overhead. We can move huge amounts of data, of mainframe data to the cloud, right? So that’s the first use case of Model9 Gravity. Then once your data is landed in the cloud, now we have an easy two instance that cannot be used to transform that proprietary mainframe data into any open systems formats, JSON, CSV, whatever you want to feed your data lake, your AI applications.

Steven Dickens: ETL in the mainframe space has always been an issue for clients. Are you really saying there that you’re sort of collapsing down that overhead and maybe transferring the overhead from what used to be consuming mainframe MIPS and now doing it in a different way? Is that what I’m hearing?

Eddy Ciliendo: Absolutely, right. So I think we kind of take the ETL paradigm, the extract, transform, load paradigm and turn it upside down. So we extract, we load, but then do the heavy transformation in the cloud where resources are usually more abundant and cheaper for organizations.

Steven Dickens: So that’s why it’s not consuming those mainframe MIPS to do that sort of transformation piece. You’re able to do that off-prem in the cloud effectively.

Eddy Ciliendo: Exactly. I think ETL has been around now for decades. There’s a gazillion ETL products out there and ETL absolutely has its place, right? But what we see more and more is that ETL reaches its limitations because it only moves small amounts of records, small amounts of data to your target platform, right? If you just want to have some reference data, whatever it is, bank account information, customer information, that is fine. But think about some of the large mainframe shops that have perhaps petabytes, decades of historical data that they now want to feed into an AI or machine learning environment to find new insights, then ETL has its limitations, right?

Whereas again, we at Model9, because we have those other two use cases, Shield and Manager, where we already used to move petabytes of data efficiently to the cloud, you can now use that same technology and move data again very, very efficiently, securely, low overhead to the cloud and then do the transformation out there in the cloud.

Steven Dickens: So we’ve covered a lot of ground, Eddy. We’ve gone through the entire Model9 portfolio. How would you summarize that up for your sort of potential clients as they’re looking to explore Model9 and find out more?

Eddy Ciliendo: Yeah, I think the important thing to know with Model9 is we have a very modular architecture. So you can start at any entry point, whatever makes most sense for your organization. We had customers that started with cyber resiliency with the Shield product and then went full Manager. We had customers that started with Manager and replaced their on-prem backup environment and then went to Gravity because now they wanted to get more insights out of their data. So I think the flexibility of our portfolio makes it very easy for customers to choose the starting point that is best for them, that aligns best with their organization’s priorities.

Steven Dickens: So as customers look to start their journey, where would you suggest they go first to find out more about Model9?

Eddy Ciliendo: Yeah, no, absolutely. I think that the best place to start is always visit us at model9.io. We now have a content management platform on our website where customers or prospective customers can log in and learn much more about our technology and even set up custom briefings, custom demos if they really want to dig deeper.

Steven Dickens: Fantastic. You’ve been watching The Futurum Tech webcast. Please check out the rest of our shows. Thank you very much for listening.

About the Author

Steven Dickens is Vice President of Growth and Business Development and Senior Analyst at Futurum Research. Operating at the crossroads of technology and disruption, Steven engages with the world’s largest technology brands exploring new operating models and how they drive innovation and competitive edge for the enterprise.  Read Full Bio.