But that's what Redmond-based Redapt Inc. will do if it brings in $200 million in revenues this year, as CEO Rick Cantu expects. He sees a booming future serving companies that have built their businesses on Amazon's cloud but are looking to create their own data centers to save money and drive innovation.
EARLY YEARS: In 1973, my [Mexican-American] father was in the first class for the Washington State Patrol from affirmative action and was stationed in Yakima. I was born there but was raised in the Seattle area. My uncle on my mother’s side owned a business that provided replacement parts and other support for companies doing maintenance for Sun Microsystem computers. I always idolized my uncle, and when I had an opportunity partway through college to work for him, I took it. I started in customer service, then, after a year, I went into sales, then procurement. I got to understand all aspects of the business. When my uncle sold the business in 1996, my brother and I and a partner started Redapt.
FROM RECYCLING TO THE CLOUD: Originally, we resold used hardware, mostly Sun Microsystems stuff. Then we bought out our partner and pivoted to become an integrated solutions provider. We advise customers about the best options for servers, networks, computers and storage, and we bundle it with software to fit their needs. Now we are pivoting again to a cloud and services model.
MARKET: While you have guys like CDW who sell on volume and price, we’re trying to talk to the CTOs and CIOs and vice presidents of operations to understand their data center needs. That way, we’ve been able to sell a lot more than laptops and desktops.
DATA CENTER: We deal with mid-range and Fortune 1000 companies. They include telecommunications companies, banks and game companies. As they expand around the globe, we help supply them. They don’t always have a team to send everywhere to implement technology, so we deliver fully integrated cabinets. We will set up everything on a rack including servers, networking and software, and do all the necessary testing. Then we put the whole cabinet in a crate and ship it anywhere around the world, whether it’s Europe or China. The customer can remote dial in and get it started. When we deliver a system, we believe in delivering art. The cables are custom cut and custom colored. It doesn’t look like a lot of spaghetti. It’s all tied carefully to the side and looks nice. That whole approach is a differentiating factor for us.
BIG DATA: It’s such a new concept. Our position is to follow all the technology companies and be ready to recommend them to our larger customers when they are enterprise ready. Big data is so vast. It means six different things. We are partners with Splunk, Cloudera, Context Relevant and Joyent. We package their stuff with the hardware to build a solution and support that. The trick in this business is to follow these companies as they progress and know when they are enterprise ready, when you can offer their solution to your client.
GROWTH: In 2008, we did $20 million [in sales]. In 2012, we did $108 million. This year, we should track $200 million. We have 65 people and we have projects coming up that will require us to hire another 20 to 30. Also, we are expanding out of state. Last year, we opened offices in [San Jose] California, Amsterdam and Hong Kong. We just hired Mark Williams as senior vice president of technology solutions. He was Zynga’s first operations employee and helped develop a hybrid data center that included Amazon services and their private data center with 60,000 servers under management. That kind of hybrid is how companies will handle computing needs in the future.
DEVELOPERS LEAD: Amazon adds $3 million in recurring cloud revenue every month. We’ve heard of companies paying Amazon $8 million a month to handle their cloud needs. At some point, it makes a lot of sense to start moving some of that onto your own data center. We’ve seen situations where moving off Amazon might pay for itself in six to nine months. But if your developers have been writing applications for an Amazon-type platform, what is the transition plan? You need to develop something on a data center that is like Amazon so developers will be comfortable with it.
UNHOOKING FROM AMAZON: Everybody has his own reasons for making the change. Some of it is about cost, but a lot of it is around performance and reliability. There are limitations in the stack that they [Amazon] build. And there are those Amazon outages. Sometimes it makes sense to move to a private data center when you are spending $50,000 a year [on Amazon services]. When those costs get up to $200,000 a month, it really makes sense. We try to look for a customer that spends $2 million a year on infrastructure around the data center. When those customers come off Amazon services, they don’t have infrastructure experts. We act as a strategic partner to help them through that transition. We’ll turn over the keys when they are ready.
RECESSION: In 2008, our revenues plunged because we did a lot of business with banks and their IT spending went down. But after that, we have tripled revenues every year for three years.
CUSTOMERS: We play a lot in the middle market where they don’t have the budgets of the large companies and they are looking for some way to build a competitive advantage. There are some really creative products for making businesses more efficient. We let the partners present to our sales team. We talk to their sales team about the value we bring to the table. That partnership is so infectious, it drives growth.
CULTURE: We believe in creating a fair and equal opportunity for our employees, customers and partners, and creating a community where we can all work well together. We are not trying to push something out at the end of the year to reach some goal. We do reward individuals, but not for sales focuses. Usually, it’s an innovation that helps the whole company or saves money some way. I just want to make our business fun and work with people who are like-minded.— Compiled and edited by Leslie Helm