John Wastcoat, Aspera

by Joshua Whitney Allen

IBM secures swift data transfer capability through Aspera

A Q&A with John Wastcoat, Vice President, Business Development, Aspera

Published February 06, 2014


It’s estimated that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created each day. IBM has moved to answer a key operational question of the big data age: How to move all this information fast?

Last month, Big Blue completed the acquisition of Aspera, Inc., headquartered in California, which specializes in high speed data transfer. Founded in 2004, Aspera anticipated the need for swift data movement and created a protocol that effectively eliminates distances and obstacles that so often slow the transfer of information. Over the last 10 years, Aspera has added features and capability to the software that has made it more efficient to send data—allowing people to use data more easily.

The acquisition brings Aspera’s long activity in Hollywood, media, government, life sciences, and energy within IBM’s reach. In late January, Insights Magazine spoke with John Wastcoat, Vice President of Business Development at Aspera, about his company.

Insights Magazine: What’s so challenging about data transfer?

John Wastcoat: Every industry in the world now is creating data that is getting bigger and bigger. And almost every company is having issues sending their data from Point A to Point B, or in multiple directions. Traditional methods of sending data only allow you to do so locally. TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) is by definition very slow and limited by distance.

Aspera, with our patented fasp protocol, allows you to send data at line speed and overcome those inefficiencies that exist with traditional protocols. What we’re looking at for the future—just the growing amount of big data from the enterprise, mobile data, social content— it’s not actionable unless you can move it for analysis and use. The faster you can move it, the faster you can act on it and positively impact your business.

IM: How fast can we move data across even global distances? 

Wastcoat: A notable example is our work with BGI, which provides a cloud genome sequencing data management system. We did some testing with them and managed to get 24 gigabytes of genomic data from Beijing to California in under 30 seconds.

You’ve got an industry that for a long time was putting genome data on hard disk and shipping it, and its taking weeks at a time before anyone can even get the data. With Aspera, you’re able to get the data and start solving some problems really quickly.

IM: Aspera is active in so many different industries, none longer than media and entertainment, contributing to the production of films like Avatar. You even won an Emmy® Engineering Award last year.

Wastcoat: Early on, we were opportunistic. The company got some early adopters with the major Hollywood studios, as well as in government, working with some geospatial applications.

The media and entertainment stuff is definitely very sexy and an important part of our business. The most notable use case in the U.S. is Netflix. Netflix has standardized on Aspera to ingest all of their content onto a cloud before it streams out for over 700 different kinds of devices—PCs, Internet-connected TVs, tablets, smartphones. What Aspera helps them do is bring in over 30 terabytes of new content a month. With the size of that data, you need Aspera, or it would never happen.

As our company has grown, we have been very strategic in attacking different verticals and in moving from being the default standard in media and entertainment into oil and gas, life sciences, finances.

We’ve been with Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Compute Engine. We’ve grown to have over 2300 customers around the world.

IM: Aspera has worked with U.S. defense and intelligence agencies. Obviously, data transfer raises security concerns for these organizations.

Wastcoat: When we were first getting started with the government, it was mandatory that we were FIPS 140-2 (Federal Information Processing Standard, which specifies cryptography standards) compliant. That has allowed us to apply this compliance across all of the other areas.

You have mission-critical assets that a company is looking to protect. For example, you can imagine if a major media company was spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a movie production and it was allowed to get hacked. 

IM: How successful have you been in maintain data integrity when moving information across distances at great speed?

Wastcoat: Aspera has never corrupted a file, going back nine years.

IM: IBM’s acquisition will surely bring Aspera into more industries around the world.

Wastcoat: We’ve had a relationship with IBM for some time. We started to see more areas where we could be valuable to each other. Cloud and analytics are areas where Aspera has been placing a lot of money. It became a very easy conversation about where the technology could go from there. Cloud, Watson, information management, enterprise content management, security, managed file transfer, storage—there are so many areas where we can add value.



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