A conversation with SOASTA

I met Peter Galvin at Cloud Expo West in Santa Clara. He is the Senior VP of Marketing of SOASTA (pronounced Sosta, for some reason). SOASTA Raises $30 Million to Expand Cloud Testing is headline from August 2013 in the media.

SOASTA test clouds and web architectures of any size

MIHA: How long have you been with SOASTA?

PETER GALVIN: I have been with SOASTA for the last 18 month, to run the marketing for the company

MIHA: Did SOASTA have any marketing before you joined?

PETER GALVIN: Marketing was done from Santa Barbara before. The management wanted someone local in Bay Area. I live in San Mateo.

MIHA: How many people are in SOASTA?

PETER GALVIN: We are about 140 people. We are growing. We started with our product CloudTest® in 2008. Then we had a small group of people led by Ken Gardner as Chairman and Tom Lounibos as CEO try to figure out how to leverage Cloud Computing to do large scale load and performance testing - not available before. You mentioned you did work for Sun Microsystems?

MIHA: Yes, I did

PETER GALVIN: I was then with company called Inktomi, we needed to test our caching product. We went to the Sunlabs, utilized all their computer power, to prove the scalability of our product. Unfortunately we did not have CloudTest® in those times

Miha's Note: Inktomi is the company that Google killed almost overnight. It was sold to Yahoo in 2003 and has been in use until 2009

PETER GALVIN: We could have used servers from Amazon, RackSpace and GoGrid as a service to try load and scale test. Essentially, you can do real world production testing, as well as testing behind the firewall.

MIHA: When a customer comes to you, and she knows of SOASTA's products only vaguely, what is the most common reason?

PETER GALVIN: Usually they want to test their web sites, clouds and mobile applications for scalability.

MIHA: How do you do scalability on mobiles devices?

PETER GALVIN: We test all of the back end mobile services at the same time. You simulate a browser based test of the mobile applications. For example at the Olympic Games in London 2012, we tested the ticketing system. Visitors from all over the world came bought tickets. The system worked without a glitch during the games.

MIHA: What about Obamacare web site?
PETER GALVIN: They did not test the whole environment, just pieces, and when going live the whole website misbehaved. The Obamacare exchange is now the poster child on why performance testing is so important, because it has a major effect on the Obamacare brand. People judge Obamacare based on the fragility of their web site, rather than the content of the whole program. This is not only true for the Healthcare.gov, this is true for any large commercial enterprise. If a commercial website does not perform, the consumers will look to buy somewhere else and this is why performance and scalability testing is so important.

MIHA:  At what point will a user decide to switch?

PETER GALVIN: We do have a product called mPulse. It will give information about when will a visitor leave a site. For example we can analyze all data through mPulse and user monitoring to decide, for example after 3 seconds, the percentage of users leaving increases dramatically. We correlate the web performance to these business metrics. All this data correlate to the lost revenues.

MIHA: Cool.

PETER GALVIN: CloudTest® was introduced in 2008, last year we introduced mPulse.

 MIHA: Who are your investors?

PETER GALVIN: One is Canaan Partners, They were an early investor in the company

MIHA:  Do your VC's add value, in addition to money to your company?

 PETER GALVIN: Actually we have a very good relationship. They have given us very helpful strategic advice and perspectives of what happens outside the company. Recently one of the partners of Canaan - Maha Ibrahim - was on Bloomberg TV. She talked about SOASTA as a company. It is good example how they helped us expand our brand and articulate what we do for other companies to make their web sites perform properly.

 MIHA: Where are your customer located. Mostly US?

PETER GALVIN: Yes, the majority are in US, but we have a solid presence in China, Japan, Europe (we have offices in the UK and partners in Germany and Scandinavia). We are expanding rapidly outside the US. We do a lot of business in the area of e-commerce: Internet stores, financial services. MIHA: Where do see the company one year from now?

 PETER GALVIN: In the last two years we added two new products; Mpulse and TouchTest, so we are not a one product company anymore. Our products are complementary. We expanded outside North America. There is a huge opportunity for us, based on our growth in the last two years.

MIHA: There is move from the private to public IaaS. How are you prepared to meet this challenge?

PETER GALVIN: AWS and RackSpace are our partners and refer business to us. I think the people will have in the future public, hybrid clouds architectures as matter of routine. This require a look on how applications behave into different types of architecture. Our cloud offering can be on-demand, from AWS and other public clouds providers, or you can buy a license and use it inside your own organization. As a company, we follow the best practices, on where it makes the most sense to distribute our software.

MIHA: Who is doing this analysis: the customers or you?

PETER GALVIN: The customers. We gave them the initial orientation. We  identify how many times they test their environment - four times a year, maybe.  But most of the big retailers are doing continuous testing. We learned from the Obamacare web site that this is a necessity.

MIHA: Who are your smallest customers?

PETER GALVIN: Verbalize It is startup of two smart guys who were trying to offer human, not machine translation software over the Internet. They were invited to the wildly popular show on ABC television, Shark Tank where entrepreneurs get funded live on TV. They were expecting four to six million people to watch and visit their website. As they have maybe 20 employees, a small company and they did a test - using SOASTA - to see what happens if their web site will stand 8x the traffic they usually handle. This is an example of a small company.

MIHA: This is a nice story. How did Verbalize IT found out about it?

PETER GALVIN; From our friends at Amazon. They are running on the Amazon cloud.

MIHA: Is there any question I did not ask, and I should have asked?

PETER GALVIN: (Laughs) I think we need new standards for testing high traffic web sites. We have outages like NASDAQ at the Facebook IPO, we have seen healthcare.gov. A website is the face of the company and we have to develop best practices: continuous testing, testing across environments and testing at a scale . Be sure you test your site at the speed you want to 'drive'.

MIHA: Who is your competition?

PETER GALVIN: HP is a competitor. They acquired in 2006 a company called Mercury Interactive for $4 billion plus and they are one of the leaders in enterprise quality software. The product is called HP LoadRunner  In 2006 the predominant architecture was client server. HP solves this problem well. But the new predominant architecture is the web. SOASTA has been designed for cloud from scratch

MIHA: So the customers of HP are prime prospects for SOASTA?

Gartner famous Magic Quadrant July 2013
So what is the future of SOASTA? They are in the top quadrant of Gardner Magic Quadrant. Their neighbors are Microsoft, IBM, HP. Last time HP made an acquisition in this space (Mercury Interactive)  they paid four billion plus dollars.
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