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Panzura CEO: Avoid tech that's shiny instead of performant

Dan Waldschmidt takes over as Panzura CEO after a year of refinement, aiming for a deliberate path to develop and introduce GenAI capabilities into its data management platform.

File collaboration and NAS replacement vendor Panzura has taken its time refining its products and message over the past year, according to newly anointed CEO Dan Waldschmidt.

The move has enabled Panzura, founded in 2008, to avoid any "shiny" distractions such as those created by the early marketing of generative AI (GenAI) in storage. Instead, he sees the company developing its products at the pace and scope that its 400 enterprise customers demand -- without bloat and focused on data management.

Dan Waldschmidt, CEO, PanzuraDan Waldschmidt

Waldschmidt took the reins of Panzura last week after previously serving as chief revenue officer and other roles. He and former CEO Jill Stelfox were two of Panzura's "refounders" following its purchase by Profile Management Capital in 2020.

Waldschmidt sat down with TechTarget Editorial to discuss his vision of Panzura and how GenAI could affect the product, as well as the departure of Stelfox.

Editor's note: This Q&A has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

What do you consider the next phase for Panzura after the last two years?

Dan Waldschmidt: We're not a new, fresh, bouncing-around-Silicon Valley startup. We've been doing this for a hot minute. We've asked ourselves, 'If we are going to disrupt ourselves, what would we be doing?'

We were rolling out edge products and then we completely rebuilt them. We were rolling out a cacheless edge product that would enable us to provide more flexibility to enterprise customers. We paused it and rebuilt it. The same thing with our ransomware [capabilities].

How is Panzura's catalog going to benefit or change from generative AI?

Waldschmidt: A mature company is pacing our timelines with our customers' [timelines]. What we heard from our customers was, 'Yes, let's figure out a GenAI strategy together.' But, more importantly, what they're looking for are two things: stability and performance.

We're doubling down on those things, knowing that as soon as you introduce GenAI capabilities, [they come with their] own security issues, privacy challenges and performance [challenges]. Something that might have been performant is no longer performant [for GenAI].

Any specific GenAI or other capabilities in mind?

Waldschmidt: We have our ideas for GenAI, [but] we're not in the SaaS business like many of our competitors. A lot of AI [functionality] is around how to write descriptions for files or auto-tag a file.

What we're hearing from our enterprise customers is that's not good enough. And for us, [that means] being able to put a unique thumbprint on what an organization is doing, enabling CIOs to make decisions that they've never had the ability to make before with clarity of mind and a defensibility they've not had before.

There's a ransomware detect and rescue [feature], as we're calling it. We have some customers already [using the feature], and in early February, we're going to launch at a much bigger scale.

[Hackers] use behavioral mechanics to try to find their way inside any gaps in security. Using AI and our own behavioral monitoring, we're able to not only prevent the bad guy from doing obviously bad things, but we're able to look at what's good and then deny or flag access.

We're able to deliver [intelligence] across your risk profile, [identifying] things you should be aware of and then providing interpretation. [That] interpretation might just be a normal [activity] burst that happens weekly, or it could be something that's a little more sinister.

We're seeing from enterprise customers [that this] is exactly what they're looking for from us.

What do you consider the major challenges facing Panzura in the next few years?

The danger for us, like a lot of other companies, is that we chase what is shiny instead of what is stable and performant.
Dan WaldschmidtCEO, Panzura

Waldschmidt: When you come to the enterprise [market], there's legacy technology. They're running legacy workflows as they buy companies and scale verticals. There are not many technologies that empower organizations to shift to the next level of computing.

That next level isn't just data management. It's data enablement. And we believe we've not only figured that out, but we've got a path to deliver data enablement at scale. You just point Panzura at the data silos, and it comes back and tells you what are those files and how long they've been sitting there. [Panzura] then provides analysis, not just from metadata, but from patterns -- and those connections that aren't clearly visible.

The danger for us, like a lot of other companies, is that we chase what is shiny instead of what is stable and performant.

Any comment on the departure of former CEO Jill Stelfox?

Waldschmidt: Jill and I were 'co-refounders.' We achieved significant success together, and Jill moved on from the company. I am hoping that when she looks back at what we're going to do now, she's super proud of it.

Tim McCarthy is a journalist from the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts. He covers cloud and data storage news.

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