In our series with Microsoft – Hear it from the startups, we talk to Techila Technologies about their use of Microsoft Technology and business development in general. Rainer Wehkamp is the founder of Techila Technologies and in the interview below he explains what led him to start the company. Techila offers a cloud based solution to access high-performance computing for very specific use cases.
ArcticStartup (AS): What’s the story behind Techila Technologies, how did the concept get created?
Rainer Wehkamp (RW): The story about Techila goes back to 2005 when I was still working at Nokia. I had a dream to start my own software company and had had many interesting ideas. Unfortunately all my ideas were more or less technological innovations without any clear customer needs. Finally I discovered a nice customer problem where I thought I could offer something valuable and which seemed to offer also huge markets.
Business, research and product development projects rely more and more on computation in its many forms, for example, optimization, modeling, simulations, or data analysis. The nature of business-critical and technical computing is to continuously address the next most difficult problems that would require ten to thousand times more computing power than is available. It might be possible to solve these problems by using existing capacity, but instead of hours, these problems may require days or weeks to be solved, which is rarely possible or even practical. At the same time when organizations were struggling with this computing time problem they were wasting enormous amount of computing capacity in the form of unused desktop PCs, servers, clusters etc. Even 95% of the computing capacity of the PCs is wasted and in server side normally 70-95 % is wasted.
So we needed to solve the problem of how to enable end-users in the organizations to utilize the wasted computing capacity. We knew that there were other players who had tried to solve this problem in both open source and commercial side so it was important to try to understand why they hadn’t succeeded. By investigating previous market research in this area we discovered pretty soon that there were a few important problems that our competitors had not been able to solve. First of all the management and administration of this kind of systems was just too complex for the system administrators, secondly there were lots of concerns about the information security and thirdly the existing systems were too hard / difficult for the end-users to be used. End-users or even ISVs were not able to integrate their own software to the system.
In the other similar solutions the computing is performed on dummy slaves doing only what is told by the server. I saw once a nature program about ants and discovered that those tiny creatures are amazing. There can live million individuals in a colony without a single boss or commander because they have a little bit of intelligence that helps them to be autonomic/self-controlling. Ants are not slaves but intelligent workers and their ecosystem is a self-management ecosystem that includes the four main points: self-healing, self-protection, self-optimization, and self-configuration.
Techila started to design architecture that would fulfill self-management and we saw early that this kind of totally new architecture could enable us to implement key competitive advantage features that could solve the major problems our competitors had. It has not been an easy path for Techila, but as a result we got a totally different middleware solution than any other.
AS: How did you choose the technological platform and what made you choose to go with Microsoft?
RW: Techila’s whole solution is Java based making it totally platform independent. At 2005 we analyzed also the possibility to use .NET but the platform independency made us to choose Java.
Originally, at the late 2010, the first public cloud platform Techila supported was Amazon EC2. At that time Windows Azure cloud platform was not yet mature enough to support integration. We were actually quite surprised about the development speed of Windows Azure when we started the discussion about Techila integration on Azure with Microsoft evangelists at the beginning of year 2011. As our product was originally designed for heterogeneous multi-platform environment it was pretty simple to make it utilize also the homogenous single-platform Windows Azure environment. Techila is working very actively with Windows Azure, but of course, we do a lot of co-operation with other cloud vendors too.
AS: How has Microsoft helped you guys in growing your business?
RW: We are still in quite early phase on our cooperation with Microsoft. There are different kinds of world wide special programs of Microsoft where Techila has been invited. A good example of the valuable support we have got from Microsoft is the great amount of free Azure capacity that has helped us in the final integration efforts. Windows Azure cloud platform with Techila middleware makes it really easy for end-users to integrate their solutions to Azure. There has been very much noise about cloud computing but very little action and the biggest problem has been the integration. Cloud computing is wonderful idea, but if your applications can utilize the capacity then you just don’t care how wonderful the idea is. And as Techila makes it easy to utilize cloud capacity I believe that Techila fulfills nicely cloud vendors offering and we can soon publish more success stories, for example, with Microsoft.
AS: How was it like participating in the Bizspark Europe competition?
RW: First of all the timing was a little bad for us as we hadn’t yet figured out our positioning in the new situation as being the missing link between high-performance computing and cloud infrastructures. So our pitch was not as crystal clear as I would have wanted. Anyway the experiment was awesome. Our target was not so much in the actual competition but in creating valuable contacts with VCs, decision makers and with people from Microsoft. It was a tough trip but really worth of going. Hopefully many Finnish startups get the chance to do the same kind of trips in the future because those are the places where the traction for the companies is created.
AS: What are your suggestions to other startups out there thinking about going with Microsoft’s tech?
RW: For me it is nowadays clear that Microsoft really wants to support startups. Nowadays there are over 40 000 startups in BizSpark program which I really recommend to every startup. We were pretty passive members in Microsoft programs for few years and enjoyed only the free development tools offered by Microsoft offers for members. But I urge all startups to ask more from Microsoft. If your story is great and you ask more you can get a lot of more from them. But be prepared to move fast because that is what Microsoft does when they are activated.
Hear it from the startups
This series of posts is sponsored by Microsoft and produced in co-operation with ArcticStartup to share experiences from startups in using Microsoft technology as well as in participating in the many different programs Microsoft has to offer.