Awnix Inc.

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February 20, 2017 Issue



Turnkey Engineered Systems for OpenStack with Software Defined Networking providing Backup, Restore and Disaster Recovery and Secure Private Cloud for Government Agencies



Rick Kundiger

Chief Executive Officer & Founder


Awnix Inc.



Jamie Parker



Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – February 20, 2017


CEOCFO: Mr. Kundiger, what is the focus at Awnix?

Mr. Kundiger: We are a solutions and innovations company offering a cloud solutions, products and services to our clients that reduce costs and get them to cloud securely and faster than they could on their own or with other competitive approaches.


CEOCFO: How are you able to do it in a more effective manner; what is the key?

Mr. Kundiger: It’s all about our culture. We set our company up with a culture that revolves around a simple question, ‘Would we want to buy from us if we were the buyer?’ There are a lot of large companies out there that do various things that are similar to what we do, but they are too expensive or too proprietary or they lack important features. We take all of the components—focusing on open source technologies—and package those into turnkey platforms that our clients can use to immediately benefit from our products and services. This is compared with trying to develop a solution themselves, which can take a year or more. Or, maybe they could go to a systems integrator or professional services company and pay hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in a never-ending professional services move. We just give them what they want and we do it in a couple of months. It includes all the hardware, software and configurations, done to spec and delivered and installed for one price. This all happens in about two months. This works well for most companies because they are not IT companies. Rather, they do other things and they need IT services to support those businesses. IT is a major cost factor, including hiring IT professional for whom cloud design and operations is not a core skill. Also, cloud design is not in these companies’ missions, goal, or business focus. We do that for them and they can just get back to making money.


CEOCFO: Do you have solutions sitting around and then you are able to configure them on a customized basis for each of your clients or do you have to develop for each engagement?

Mr. Kundiger: It is 80/20, 80% of what we do is something that we have already created. It is a baseline product or design based on decades of experience building systems for large companies and datacenters. This is customizable to a great degree because not all companies are exactly alike. We can take this core design and tweak it to meet their needs and deliver it within the timeframe required. However, IT is always changing and because we are grounded in innovative solutions, we will do something new and custom when the client needs a new solution or technology.


CEOCFO: Often when a service is less expensive and less complicated, people are skeptical. Do you find that is a problem and how do you overcome that?

Mr. Kundiger: It takes a while. The hardest thing to do in any technology shift is to work with the existing concepts around what is technically viable and how it must be valued. Offering the market something that’s less expensive is complicated because there’s an assumption, in some cases, that if it costs less it must not be built as well, or maybe it does not have the features or performance needed. Of course, this is not the case. Awnix is less expensive because we approach things differently. We use almost entirely open source technology and we are good negotiators and have great supplier and partner contracts to keep prices down. We also do not take a ton of margin and that is why we are less expensive. Our main mission is to evangelize these new technologies because they are, in our opinion, better than the legacy alternatives from a cost and feature perspective. Some clients are reluctant to move to a new technology because they are comfortable with whatever they are doing today, even though it costs more, and because they do not fully understand the new technology they are wary of migrating to it. Then there is the cost barrier; if we were to deploy a new technology and make it equally as expensive as the thing they already have, then there is no incentive to change. If the old way of doing things costs a dollar and I charge a dollar for the new thing, then there is no incentive to change at all. We try to overcome the technological reluctance by making it palatable from a cost perspective. That is one of the reasons why we keep our prices the way we do.


CEOCFO: Would you tell us about your products?

Mr. Kundiger: Our first product is an engineered system for OpenStack and software-defined networking (SDN). We call it ARC which stands for Awnix Rival Cloud. It includes OpenStack with pre-integrated SDN for network functions virtualization. We found that OpenStack is great, and we found that OpenStack with SDN is amazing, so we’ve integrated SDN into every deployment. We also filled some gaps in OpenStack. For instance, OpenStack does not have an enterprise-grade backup and restore solution, nor does it does not have a disaster recovery capability. That is a big problem for most companies, especially large companies and government organizations subject to regulatory compliance because they cannot have a cluster go down or a building burn down and then lose all of their data or their customers data. To fill this gap, we built a product called ARChive, which is kind of a play on words because it works with ARC and it does backup tasks and archiving. It’s a full enterprise-grade backup restore and disaster recovery solution for OpenStack. The next feature we added was VM high-availability. If you have a cluster of nodes and one of them failed, all of the virtual machines on it are down until somebody comes in and fixes it. We solve this with software that we call Awnix High Availability, or AHA. If a node does go down, it automatically restarts those virtual machines on other hosts that are still up. It also includes a cool health-check feature that monitors the compute hosts to move the virtual workloads and services before the node fails. Restarting VMs is great but they are still down for a few minutes and that can be a big deal. We feel VMs should be moved before a node fails. We are the only one with a high availability tool for OpenStack that scales to many hundreds of nodes, and we are the only company anywhere with virtual health checking. We have another product in beta that incorporates container technologies with VM technologies and an overarching orchestration layer. What all that means is you can have your cake and eat it too without having to understand how to install, configure and maintain these to relatively disparate and complex technologies. You can simply use the orchestration or CI/CD (Continuous Integration, Continuous Development) interface and you can use all of that infrastructure underneath it, VMs or containers, for whatever is best suited for the application or workload without having to administer the infrastructure or components yourself. Just click to deploy the app or workload and it will go to the best infrastructure automatically. That is coming.


CEOCFO: Would you tell us about your work with government and the military?

Mr. Kundiger: I am former Navy, and Mike Meskill, Awnix’s other founder and CTO, is former Army. For fifteen years I worked in the government, predominantly on the DoD side as a lead architect or program manager, and then four years at USDA as the chief architect. I designed and deployed systems in eighteen countries and was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan to set up some datacenters there. Mike had done IT design for the government for almost ten years at the USDA where he designed and deployed virtualization systems and applications in support of thousands of applications such as the SNAP food stamp program, or in support of the Forest Service firefighters. We come from that environment, so we understand it. Government contracting is complicated and government fiscal regulations are complicated. Their buying cycles can be lengthy and complicated. More than that, when you do buy a product or software for use within the government, it has to fit within the government’s regulations for use and certification. There are various names, which include FISMA, FedRAMP, and DIARMF. There are even more depending upon the agency or department. We understand those too because we came from there. When either of us developed or designed a product or a platform within the government, we had to go through and make sure it complied with all the regulations and laws in order to be used. We do that here and we do it by default. We do not build a system that cannot be compliant. Everybody can benefit from the security aspects. Lastly, we are a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business. That means we are a small business with a small business administration set-aside which can expedite the procurement process.


CEOCFO: Would you tell us about recognition CIO Review?

Mr. Kundiger: Our web traffic has gone up probably ten-fold. For example, I finished a call with a prospect, just a few minutes before this call, who referenced that article. It has had an impact and it has been a reinforcement of our expertise in this space with our existing customers, but it has raised awareness of us in the greater market space, which is valuable because we are a small company. There is an unfortunate misconception that there are very few, if any, other companies doing what we do with OpenStack and containers. Because we are small, getting the brand out takes a bit and the article in CIO Review has done a lot for us to get our name and brand out there so the people know there are alternatives to what they may otherwise be doing.


CEOCFO: What surprised you as Awnix has grown and evolved?

Mr. Kundiger: The things that I thought would be hard are not as hard as I expected, and the things that I thought would be easy are not. For example, the administrative side of doing business is constant and I did not expect things such as finding a quality accountant would be too hard, but it was. I thought that the technology would be complicated, because it is complicated technology and we would have a hard time finding the skills and the people necessary, but that has not been that hard. We have built a stellar solid team of engineers and they produced a great set of products and services for us and I thought that would be more complicated than it was.


CEOCFO: Why choose Awnix?

Mr. Kundiger: Because Awnix is invested in your success. If you are successful, we are. We developed this company because we love the technology and we love improving processes and so forth. We love helping, and when that helps our customers, then that helps us. We would rather have a customer that bought something from us and we helped them become self-sustaining, even if that means they don’t need us anymore, and they talk about how great it was to work with us, instead of someone who had bought something for a greater amount of money or with recurring contracts for long periods of time that did not feel as if we met their needs, which sounds like common sense but it is not. Some of our competitors would prefer the type of contract or sale that ensures they are locked in. We don’t. We are totally invested in our customer’s success.



“We set our company up with a culture that revolves around a simple question, ‘Would we want to buy from us if we were the buyer?’”- Rick Kundiger


Awnix Inc.



Jamie Parker








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