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​Stax - The Power of the Product

​Stax - The Power of the Product

The rise of cloud is forcing IT providers to make bold bets, innovating from within in the pursuit of growth - ARN identifies a leader in the pack.

Dave Slutzkin - General Manager, Stax

Dave Slutzkin - General Manager, Stax

Building and developing new tools to help customers is not a new phenomenon in the channel.

In fact, service providers have been innovating both internally and externally for years.

But in Australia, one IT consultancy firm is stepping out of the shadows and into the spotlight on a full-time basis, emphasising the power of the product in a cloud context.

Since opening its doors in January 2015 as an integrator, Versent has grown to 105 staff, servicing over 70 customers with close to $20 million in revenue.

In less than two years, the Melbourne-based company has struck partnerships with Adobe, Axway, CA Technologies, Elastic, Microsoft, NGINX, Ping Identity, Rad Hat, Sail Point, Sumo Logic and Splunk, honing in on highly regulated industries across the country.

Crucially however, Amazon Web Services (AWS) serves as the key cloud ingredient to Versent’s plans for further expansion at a national level.

Founded by cloud experts, Versent works with more than half of the top 200 ASX-listed companies, consulting to high profile customers in finance, telecommunications, media, public sector and utilities sectors.

Built on a business model of simplicity and repeatability, the company operates through a fixed price and outcome approach, typically based on 16-week deployment time.

With automation forming an integral part of Versent’s make-up, the business recently launched its new flagship product, Stax, designed to help Australian organisations access the power of the cloud through AWS, providing simplified management of workloads.

Now spun into a separate business entity, the locally developed offering is configured to remove the guesswork out of cloud, providing full stack visibility, risk and compliance assessments.

“We knew that the products in the market currently weren’t doing the job,” Stax general manager, Dave Slutzkin, said. “It was either too narrowly focused, wasn’t well suited for an Australian working environment, too expensive or not very effective.

“Businesses were not getting value out of the tools they were using to manage AWS environments, and it became clear that there was a big gap in the market.

“It took a little time for Versent to build out its capabilities to the point it was possible to start taking advantage, but once we did, it’s been full steam ahead.”

Dave Slutzkin - General Manager, Stax
Dave Slutzkin - General Manager, Stax

Stax is very much operating in the start-up phase, having hit the market less than two months ago, with nine dedicated staff already on board, spanning developers, designers, sales, marketing and product management.

Spinning off

Slutzkin said the decision to spin off the Stax business from Versent was inspired by its ability to flourish as a standalone entity, feeding off its new found freedom and laser-sharp focus.

“The two businesses have different characteristics,” he explained. “Fundamentally, there’s a different way to run a product focused or software business rather than a pure services or consulting business.

“It’s less about utilisation, less about the monthly contract expiring, new contracts starting and resource management.

“Product and software is more focused on the medium to long-term management of product vision and roadmaps. It’s also about how you resource a team adequately to make that work.”

Slutzkin believes the purpose of Stax is to develop a “powerful and engaging tool” that makes understanding and managing cloud easy, further increasing confidence for enterprises moving to the cloud and helping to improve maturity in AWS.

Currently however, the product remains in ongoing development with a build time before launch lasting over nine months.

“We could see the need in the market and that’s one of the way that the partner and ISV are operating such complementary spaces,” Slutzkin said.

“As a partner, you’re working on the pain points of an organisation on a daily basis, understanding what the struggle and the tools required to solve these problems.”

Developed on Australian shores, Slutzkin said the Stax team of AWS experts co-designed and built the tool alongside customers, ensuring the features offer exactly what local enterprises require, best reflecting the needs of the organisation.

From the perspective of the end-user, Carsales.com.au director of engineering, Michael Ridgway, said that Stax has provided a “tangible view” into the whole picture of AWS, a picture they couldn’t paint with previous tools.

“Stax has helped us uncover and remediate a number of things that we wouldn’t have been able to find without the visibility Stax provides,” he said.

Ridgway said working closely with the local team also ensured that Carsales.com.au provided direct input into designing product features.

Dave Slutzkin - General Manager, Stax
Dave Slutzkin - General Manager, Stax

“The Stax team has been really helpful in understanding our business and unique challenges,” he added. “We’re looking forward to working together as Stax becomes a key piece of our tooling.”

Mutually beneficial

From a company standpoint, Slutzkin said the expansion from services to product represents a mutually beneficial venture for both Stax and Versent, because in development, the offering receives a flow of problems which can and need to be solved.

“From the services point of view it’s a huge value-add to be able to solve a problem on an ongoing basis,” he said.

“There’s a lot of capability that needs to be built and tools can be a huge part of that capability.”

For Slutzkin, strong waves of development innovation are taking over the Australian industry, aligning with advisory services to provide customers with a broader offering as a result.

“Consulting companies are building products but also pure product companies, especially within the enterprise space, are falling away because the consulting option is crucial,” he observed.

“Partners must be able to provide something more in-depth than just what a product can do automatically.

“We’re seeing that progress on an ongoing basis. We might identify an opportunity within Stax to help a customer save money or fix issues within the cloud, which leads onto a new type of conversation and questioning.”

Through Stax’s close partnership with its parent company, Slutzkin said there’s an “obvious answer” to such questions.

“It works well and I think this approach will continue,” he acknowledged. “Product companies need to have that consulting capability to make the best use of their products.”

Looking ahead, Slutzkin said Stax is continuing to explore different routes to market, aligning to Versent but also the AWS marketplace.

“While we haven’t run any broad-based marketing at this stage, that will be a priority in the future,” he said. “Currently, we are running as fast as we can to service our partner sales.

“We work closely with Versent and AWS which is hugely beneficial because we can help both customer sets.”

Despite being less than three months old, Stax is currently fielding enquiries from interested overseas parties, emphasising the worldwide potential of aligning with a global cloud powerhouse such as AWS.

“We’re still targeting Australia but we’re making steps to expand more broadly into the AWS marketplace, both in Australia and overseas,” Slutzkin added.

This article originally appeared in the November issue of ARN magazine - to subscribe, please click here

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