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October 9, 2012

ExaGrid Gunning For Market Share

For many tech companies, competitors are located across the country, or even the world.

That's true for Westborough-based ExaGrid Systems Inc., but its biggest competitor has an office just two miles down the road.

The situation is merely coincidence, says ExaGrid CEO Bill Andrews.

Hopkinton-based EMC Corp. bought California-based Data Domain in 2009, expanding its presence in the data recovery and backup market in which ExaGrid, founded in 2002, is trying to make its mark.

Uphill Battle

It's an uphill battle – EMC has more than 62 percent of the market, according to a second-quarter survey by Framingham-based International Data Group. Other leaders include IBM, Symantec and HP, among others.

Andrews knows how tough of a challenge it is to grab market share from a company like EMC.

"They're a big company and they've been around a long time," Andrew said. "They have a huge sales force. Basically customers don't even know other products exist."

But he thinks it can be done. Andrews said his company, which employs 154 people, recently won its 1,500th customer. And among that base, which is spread across the world, are 50 former Data Domain users, he said.

EMC declined to comment for this story.

Target Customer

While ExaGrid continues to cater to the small-to-midsized data user, Andrews said its systems have gradually grown bigger, and he hopes to eventually take a full step into the enterprise market, where EMC and other systems back up one petabyte or greater. EMC also caters to the midsized market.

ExaGrid said it has picked up some higher-level customers who are storing more than a petabyte of data using its systems. Those customers include the Connecticut State University System, Cox Communications and the Massachusetts Port Authority, among others.

Leaving Tape Behind

Many big data users still back up their data to tape, but that number has been falling as disk-based storage and recovery systems catch on.

Both ExaGrid and EMC (and various other competitors) make systems that use a data compression technique called deduplication. The systems recognize when there are duplicate sets of information and write only one set to the disk, which is faster and saves space.

Andrews says ExaGrid's system is ultimately faster than others because, even as data amounts grow, the backup takes the same amount of time. Other systems require eventual "forklift upgrades," or the purchase of new front-end servers to handle higher data loads, he said.

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Future Hopes

ExaGrid doesn't release any revenue information to the public, though it said its third quarter hit a revenue record.

It's backed by four venture firms, and as with many venture-backed firms, the plan isn't to stay private forever.

"I will say our goal is and continues to be to grow a public company," Andrews said.

Andrews said the IPO market isn't great right now, which will give his company more time to grow.

"We've got staying power," he said.

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