Carbonite CEO says the company needed Zmanda for database backup

Acquiring Zmanda filled the database backup gap that limited the value of Carbonite's cloud backup service for small businesses.

Carbonite CEO David Friend said his company acquired database backup vendor Zmanda because the PC cloud backup that Carbonite offers falls short for most small- and medium-sized businesses.

Friend said Carbonite backs up 300 million new files a day to its cloud and adds a petabyte of storage every two weeks to keep up with demand for its consumer and business services. But he said businesses are demanding database backup to go with the PC and mobile devices that Carbonite protects.

"We had to add database backup," Friend said. "Our lack of ability to back up applications like SQL and Exchange is the biggest hole in our service. A lot of small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) won't consider Carbonite because we do PC backup and not database backup. They say, 'We love your PC backups but we want to be able to get our PCs and servers backed up with one vendor. We don't want one vendor for PCs and another vendor for servers.'"

Zmanda backs up Microsoft SQL Server, Exchange Server and SharePoint, as well as Oracle, PostgreSQL and MySQL databases. It also protects virtual machines and UNIX operating systems, which Carbonite does not back up.

Zmanda is a commercial version of Amanda open source backup. It has been around since 2005 and became the first application vendor to use the cloud for backup in 2008. Its Zmanda Cloud Backup (ZCB) now uses Amazon and Google public clouds as targets.

Carbonite launched in 2005 and began offering Carbonite Pro for SMBs in 2010.

Carbonite takes a different approach to cloud backup. Its hosts all of its customers' backups on one of three Carbonite data centers. Friend said Zmanda customers can continue to use public clouds, or they can back up to Carbonite's data centers.

"We're good at storing large amounts of data," he said. "And we do it cheaper [than Amazon and Google]. I expect we can leverage our back end to make the Zmanda offering more attractive for customers."

Carbonite has more than one million customers using its cloud services for PCs and mobile devices, but has yet to break even. The vendor is coming off its best revenue quarter with $21.6 million, yet lost $3.4 million during that period. Carbonite spent $15 million to acquire Zmanda last week because it provided the fastest route to database backup.

Friend said it would have taken too long for Carbonite to build its own database backup application.

"It had to be bulletproof," he said. "It takes a long time to get something perfect, and it takes a long time for people to trust our product with their databases. It would have taken at least two years to develop, and then we'd have to deal with the perception that it was a new product."

He said Zmanda wasn't shopping for a buyer, but the deal made sense because "it has the opposite problem -- it was trying to sell server backup, but didn't have a PC solution."

Friend said Carbonite has about 400 employees before the deal, compared to 25 for Zmanda. He expects the deal to close by the end of the year. After that, Zmanda will continue to run independently and maintain its Sunnyvale, Calif.-based office. Carbonite is based in Boston. Friend said Carbonite will also maintain the Zmanda brand and its Amanda Enterprise on-premise backup.

"We're not going to mess with Zmanda," he said. "It's been quite successful and we're not going to do anything to upset that."

Zmanda founder and CEO Chander Kant will join Carbonite.

Friend said adding database backup makes Carbonite more competitive with traditional SMB backup applications such as Symantec Backup Exec. Until now, Carbonite has competed mainly with Mozy in the consumer/prosumer backup market.

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