Last year we introduced you to Nouvola co-founder and CEO Paola Moretto. Here, meet co-founder and chief technology officer Paola Rossaro.One small company, two Paolas! How did you and (co-founder) Paola Moretto meet, and why were you interested in starting this company?
Paola Moretto and I met at U.C. Berkeley when I was doing a postdoc and she had a scholarship to do research. We’ve been friends for more than 20 years. We took different paths in our careers but we stayed in touch, shared a lot of adventures and compared notes on the work we were doing and the challenges we were facing. When she moved to Portland she shared the work she was doing with the company that became Nouvola and we saw it was really an area where I could help.
Paola Moretto has often offered the analogy of driving over a new bridge without testing its capacity, to explain why companies need to test how their apps perform in the cloud. It’s a great metaphor for a low- tech audience. But talk to your fellow engineers. Can you explain on a more technical level the value Nouvola adds?
Well, engineers tend to want to understand a product in terms of the way it works and what the code looks like. But it’s important to also understand the value it adds. You want to make sure that your software is able to react well when there is high traffic. You don’t want the system crashing if you have a higher load. But most important, you don’t want performance degradation from one build to the next. Our products can save companies a lot of time ensuring that what they offer is working as promised. And, by helping companies offer a more reliable and scalable product, it can make them look better to their customers. All this helps enable businesses to focus on their core expertise without distraction.
What are some of the businesses that might not understand that they need this technology? Explain why they do.
Any business that operates in the cloud needs to test for performance. We always think of ecommerce but ecommerce is not the only one. Travel and hospitality, online gaming, video streaming, media, social networks and business SaaS applications are some of the verticals where we have seen good traction. Really, every business today is a software business, whether people are aware of it or not. Performance testing is also important for government and municipalities that serve customers. We all saw what happened when Healthcare.gov was launched but this happens in smaller ways all the time. Most of our customers are Fortune 500 companies. Performance is no longer an IT issue. Performance on the web is your brand. People perceive a brand from the quality of the user experience they get from the website or app.
Talk a bit about your background and the work that brought you to this point in your career.
I have always focused on the issue of software performance in one way or another. Even before there was a cloud, I was focused on ways to ensure that the code was performing well. I got my PhD in computer science from the University of Milan, Italy, where I specialized on performance. My focus was on the performance aspect of parallel applications and my dissertation was on load balancing. Then I worked on real time operating systems. Real time is key to performance. At U.C. Berkeley, where I did work on the technology that we now know as video on demand and then I moved on to Wind River Systems (now part of Intel Corp.), where I worked as a senior technologist on development, network protocols, parallel processing, high availability and performance. After that I worked on a couple of startups in the Bay Area.
Is performance given the attention it deserves?
Mature companies tend to understand how much performance can impact the product and the brand and the revenue. But others discover the hard way and get burned. As we move to more cloud-based apps, there’s a big increase in the number of things end users are expecting and speed and responsiveness are becoming paramount. So awareness of performance is increasing because of where technology is going.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve observed over the past year?
Three four years ago, the questions I’d hear were along the lines of, What is the cloud and do we need it? Now we are well beyond that. Businesses are asking, What are the tools we should be using in the cloud? It’s not, Are you in the cloud? but Why aren’t you in the cloud? As others have said, the Cloud is the new normal.
The other change we are seeing is that performance is becoming a number one topic. This has led to a lot of focus on containers, which can help in performance. Containers are the next Cloud. And with containers entering the mainstream, it becomes easier to check your performance from any place to see if you need to tweak your system to achieve the best performance. Containers require new ways of doing things. The use of containers is going to provide new ways of evaluating performance and new ways for apps to improve performance. It is definitely an area where Nouvola sees an opportunity to help in the continuous development lifecycle. For all the rapid evolution of containers technology that happened in the last couple of years, one problem remains to be solved: How to do performance testing for containerized architectures? Nouvola can offer a solution.
Speak a bit about being a woman in technology, and part of a two-women team leading a high-tech startup. What’s your take on why there are not more women in leadership roles in high tech?Definitely women in leadership in technology are still a little bit like unicorns. There are tangible steps that high-tech companies can take to change that but I think the most challenging part is the cultural shift. There is still a lot of bias. A woman CEO can go to a conference and present a product and someone might say, Oh this is great. Where is the CEO? You can put in place regulations and quotas but these cultural biases are hard to remove. I do enjoy the challenge.