Friends Fábio Gomes Ferreira and Hunter Hagewood have been thinking about working together since 1990. But in 2005 they were able to found Nevoa Networks, since in the early 2000s Fábio still lived in Campinas, in the interior of São Paulo, and Hunter in Knoxville, Tennessee. In addition, in 1994, Hunter returned to the US to continue his studies and only returned to Brazil in 2003.
“It was at that point that we started talking about some business ideas based on the latest work that Hunter had developed at the Tennessee research center called Logistical Computing and Internetworking Lab, or LoCI” says Fábio Ferreira, Project and Post-Project Specialist degree in Information Technology Management.
“We still have the spirit of a startup. Decisions are quick and agile, changes are constant and difficulties are many “
Two years later, Fábio and Hunter started the company the way many entrepreneurs do, with very few employees: a programmer and an administrative assistant. “At that time, our profile was of a typical garage startup. We had our office in the basement of a church building on one of Joao Pessoa’s main avenues. Nowadays, although we are no longer in this basement, we still have the spirit of a startup. The decisions are fast and agile, the changes are constant and the difficulties are many” says Fabio.
In order to keep the new company’s accounts paid, Fábio stayed well away from Joao Pessoa, an employee of Santista Têxtil, in São Paulo, working on the implementation of an ERP system. Gradually, Fábio and Hunter were gaining space and thus increasing the need to hire new employees.
“The cost of acquisition is 40% to 60% more viable than solutions presented by current players in the storage market, usually huge multinational companies of North American origin”
Nevoa has developed its own storage virtualization technology, called NSS or Nevoa Storage System. Through it, you can meet any storage demands even with native extension with cloud storage. The technology emulates RAID operations and also features features only present on HBA boards for solutions based on proprietary fiber-optic protocols. In addition, as a software solution, the cost of acquisition is 40% to 60% more viable than solutions presented by current players in the storage market, usually huge multinational companies of North American origin. This approach quickly caught the attention of companies with huge demands for space, mainly linked to Research and Development and Government.
“At the beginning of Nevoa Networks, we maintained, in addition to our partners’ money, a service agreement with Vanderbilt University in the USA. In 2006, we participated in a project for RNP (National Research Network) in conjunction with the University of São Paulo (USP) called “Virtual National Disk” and we now have four employees. In 2007, we hired another programmer and Sun Microsystems helped us with two other fellows, increasing our number to seven. In 2008, we made our first sale to the Osvaldo Cruz Institute (IOC). Then, a project that we had submitted to FINEP was approved, and with this, our team made a jump for 12 people” says Fabio.
PROTECTION OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
Nevoa Networks has just obtained patents on two data storage techniques. “One of the patented techniques makes it possible for the same network drive to be dynamically mapped to multiple storage servers, to allow work on system management without the need to interrupt data activity in progress.
The other technique has an impact on administrators who prepare storage resources to receive data. The strategy prevents loss of information, using RAID technology, and allows access to files even when there is a disk failure. As a differential, the solution allows the RAID strategy to be associated with the user or management software, rather than the disk. So, different users can record data on the same disks with customized reliability technology” explains Fabio.
SINCERITY IN NEGOTIATIONS
Before closing the deal with the client, Nevoa Networks is concerned with analyzing whether it is really the best option for solving that project. “Normally, our projects are consultative and our commercial sector begins negotiations with the client. Given the level of innovation of our solutions, the technical team is often involved in this phase in order to present the concepts and survey needs. Most of the time, a proof-of-concept facility is scheduled for customer evaluation.
When we realize that it will not be able to take so much advantage out of our solution, especially with customers who can solve their demands with traditional storage options of up to 4 TB, we indicate the best options in the market for solutions of this size” says Fabio.
If the project can be serviced by Nevoa Networks, training the customer is one of the company’s top concerns. “Once there is synergy between our proposal and the customer’s need, our technical team conducts customer team training related to the subject of data logistics networks and explains in detail how NSS works. The NSS is installed on the client, and our support team is then available to it. “
Upon completion of a project, Nevoa Networks maintains a customer tracking policy. “Because it is a new technology and there is a strong paradigm break with our technology, there is a learning curve on the part of the internal IT staff.
For the end user of IT services, nothing changes from what he is already accustomed to on a daily basis. Usually this IT staff learning curve brings more benefits than ‘pain’. This is especially interesting to note early in the pre-sales phase. The potential customer’s IT team, in a short time, can ‘take’ the gains that technology brings to business and ends up being our main sales partner within companies. Once the deal is completed, this team is accompanied by Nevoa support. There have already been cases of changes in our products that were the result of feedback from our customers, “he explains.
When demand for services exceeds Nevoa Networks’ supply capacity, the company contacts partners. “Nevoa has restructured the sales approach by partnering with companies that already have data center services such as hosting or co-location. These partners have a larger support team and conditions to offer a better end-customer support service than the Nevoa team could offer.
Currently, Nevoa would not be able to serve more than ten customers at the same time, since the team is lean. We did not have a case where this would be a problem since the customer profile for our products is not that small company that needs a small backup system, but the medium or large company, or even a small company that has large needs to migrate, transform and access content dispersed in large quantity. For the other cases that we do not serve directly, our partners are able to serve customers according to contracted SLAs” he says.
CHALLENGES AND OVERCOMINGS
Nevoa has clients such as the Vanderbilt University in the USA, the National Research Network (RNP) and the Osvaldo Cruz Institute (IOC). In addition to these, there are other major clients, such as Sebrae-PB, the University Center of João Pessoa (UNIPÊ), the REDDNET Consortium (Research and Education Data Depot Network) in the US, and CODATA (Data Processing Company of Paraíba), for which he developed very challenging projects.
“Eleven institutions geographically dispersed throughout the globe are participating in the project and are used, among other applications, as one of the data warehouses of the LHC experiment of the CERN laboratories located between France and Switzerland”
“Without a doubt, the most challenging project for Nevoa is our participation in the REDDNET Consortium, in which we are one of the main institutions that support the project. In Brazil, the Consortium still has institutions such as USP and UERJ. It is challenging because it uses the Nevoa StorCore and, in some places, the Nevoa StorPort to manage an international network for research and education with 700 million megabytes (700 terabytes) used by hundreds of users for video transmission, strategic replication and data storage.
We actively participate since, from time to time, new versions of our software support new system features. For this, experts, doctors in their areas, make up the team in the USA. So far, 2.4 more petabytes have been moved by the system in four years after its creation.”, says Fabio.
The system created by the Consortium includes a storage infrastructure spread across five continents. “Eleven institutions geographically dispersed across the globe are participating in the project and are used, among other applications, as one of the data warehouses of the LHC experiment of the CERN laboratories located between France and Switzerland.”
A SMALL TEAM, BUT COMPLETE
Currently, the Nevoa Networks team consists of nine people, five in Recife in Porto Digital, three in France and two in São Paulo. They are software engineers and programmers trained in Computer Science, two researchers in the field of distributed systems with a special focus on data storage, and two Ph.D. in the French team, as well as a project manager and a computer master.
“We chose the team based on few criteria: computer training, humility, and commitment to results. Of all, in my opinion, the most important thing is humility, because the person will have to learn. If she believes she already knows everything about topics such as data storage, distributed computing, and parallel computing, it’s hard to come up with the concepts we’ve come up with and it turns out to be a big drag on the team. Our experience has shown that it takes six to twelve months for a professional to be able to absorb the basics of network logistics, the basis of our storage technology” says Fabio.
“We chose the team based on few criteria: computer training, humility and commitment to results. Of all, in my opinion, the most important thing is humility, because one will have to learn “
For him, in addition to having a computer training, commitment to results, which in the technical field means focusing on problem solving, and humility, candidates should mainly like challenges and what they do. “We want people not to just come to work on the Fog, we want them to be challenged and have fun solving the challenges.”
Nevoa holds monthly meetings in which employees evaluate the company, including superiors. “We call this ‘Open House’ meeting. The superiors evaluate the performance of the employees in a questionnaire prepared by the area of Human Resources. The employee receives this evaluation in a private meeting with the supervisors, in which each one has the opportunity to ‘sharpen’ “, says Fabio.
According to Fábio Ferreira, Nevoa bets on its employees to grow inside the company, and invests in them, so that they specialize. “Nevoa is a small company, practically a startup. The advantages in small companies, in terms of growth, are enormous. Just remember that the founder of the company has the table next to yours, and employees are required to participate not only in the technical part, but also in topics such as sales and marketing. Therefore, commitment to results is very important to us. If the company grows, all employees grow with it, at least that’s the policy of the Nevoa. In addition to the growth potential given to employees, the company participates in part of the costs of regular courses and internally trains its employees. “