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Shadow IT propels business case for Christchurch start-up

Shadow IT propels business case for Christchurch start-up

Silicon Valley is the next locale for Appsecute founders Mark Cox and Tyler Power, who built a management platform for PaaS solutions.

“If you think shadow IT is a problem now it is going to get worse with PaaS (platform as a service),” says Mark Cox, CEO of software company Appsecute in Christchurch. Cox and CTO Tyler Power set up Appsecute last year to provide a management platform for PaaS solutions.

“We can see that in an organisation with many development teams developing different apps, there is no one PaaS cloud that is going to fit everybody’s needs. Different apps have different requirements,” explains Cox.

Developers, on the other hand, want to use the best tools. He says there is a “split” between the need for developers to use many different platforms and for IT to have a common environment and standard set of tools.

“We want to provide a way for dev ops [developers, operations] to start using PaaS and to provide visibility across many different clouds,” explains Cox.

“We provide that common set of tools that works with any cloud platform so that IT can do their job, so that IT can get some visibility and control back over PaaS cloud.”

“The interesting thing coming now is Platform as a Service [PaaS] and the difference is you really don’t need so many operations people because the platform takes care of a lot of the operations and it is all about apps rather than virtual machines.”

“We can see this whole problem of shadow IT getting worse because PaaS is an enabler for shadow IT,” says Cox.

“At the end of the day, the CIO is responsible even though it is shadow IT and if it is a problem, it is going to go straight back and IT has to sort it out,” says Cox in an interview with CIO at VMworld in San Francisco, where Appsecute presented its products to customers and prospective investors.

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The upside of shadow IT

“We can bring shadow IT back into the fold, give some visibility and control over it and do that in a way where you do not need to shut it down or shut down the developers or force them into a single platform.”

The latter approach is not going to work because they can still work around you, says Cox.

Cox says the companies Appsecute is working with are mainly based in the United States. “We have quite a close relationship with the Cloud Foundry team within VMware. They are using our tools and they seem to really like it and are recommending it to their customers.”

“We are a small team at the moment,” says Cox of the four strong staff in Christchurch. But the company says it will be expanding soon and plans to open an office in San Francisco this year.

Starting out in Christchurch

Cox explains he and Power met while working at Jade Software, whose headquarters are in Christchurch.

Cox was asked to set up the mobile development team that will build an integration product to connect any system to any mobile device.

Tyler was working on operations and brought in as a software developer. He quickly rose to lead developer and the product they built became one of the finalists at the Microsoft Tech Ed awards in the US last year in the mobile category.

Power says while both have similar passions in IT, they took different paths to get to where they are now.

Power, aged 22, explains he did not go to college or university but had a passion for computer programming. “I participated in a number of open source projects, very much self taught and I was lucky enough to get commercial experience in a previous company, at Jade Software.”

Mark Cox and Tyler Power of Appsecute

“Tyler is one of those awful people who are self taught and ended up learning faster and being better than all of my college graduates on my team. He was my lead developer within six months of joining the team and he hadn’t been a developer for his job before,” says Cox.

Cox, who has just turned 40, has a background as a software developer and had worked as a solutions architect for banks and telcos. He completed a computer science honours degree at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. He worked for a couple of years at local companies then went on his OE to London. He worked in the development teams of investment banks in London.

Like Power, he was writing computer software “as a kid”. At age 10, he was teaching courses at the local computer club.

Both Cox and Power point to the upsides and challenges of being based in Christchurch.

For Power, one of the biggest benefits is access to technical resources. “Christchurch is a university town; there are a lot of computer science graduates,” he says.

But Cox says being based down under was an initial problem. “Often people will ask where are you based,” he says. “It is quite a common question early on in the discussions.”

“We had dinner with some people this week who said, I ignored you at the start because you are a start-up from New Zealand.

“We ended up with letting the product do the talking for us initially to get enough credibility.”

“It has been challenging and it is also important that you have a face to face time with people and so that’s why we know we need to be here [In the US],” says Cox.

Divina Paredes (@divinap) is editor of CIO New Zealand.

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