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Veritas CEO talks analytics, GDPR and digital transformation

CEO of Veritas Technologies says despite all the changes swirling in the data protection world, the importance of data means 'incumbents get to win if they are good enough.'

LAS VEGAS -- In his role as Veritas CEO, Bill Coleman sees massive change taking place in the data protection world. And Coleman knows that brings great opportunities and great challenges to his company.

Veritas Technologies is the market leader in traditional backup, but the current version of the company has been around only 20 months since its spin out from Symantec. Besides its traditional challengers, such as Dell EMC and Commvault, Veritas faces fast-growing Veeam Software and converged data protection newcomers such as Rubrik and Cohesity. All of these vendors want to cash in on the digital transformation and ensuing changes to the backup world.

Part of Coleman's job as Veritas CEO is to make sure his company has all the pieces to deal with modern day backup. He predicts the traditional data protection market will undergo a 360-degree change in the next several years in which backup, disaster recovery and archive will be part of a large policy-driven, multicloud service. Changes are already coming with the rise of the cloud's role in data protection and new customer challenges from the likes of ransomware and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

We spoke with Veritas CEO Coleman at the recent Veritas Vision 2017 conference about how those changes will affect the future of backup.

Does the Veritas platform have all the pieces it needs to be a full-scale data management platform and deliver on the company's promises?

Bill Coleman: We have all the pieces we need except for object store [announced at Veritas Vision 2017]. That completes the pieces. Now how do you fill them out? We can visualize a handful of data sources with Information Map. Now we've added 23 additional sources, whether it is Google store, Box, Oracle, Microsoft Office 365, and so on. We are going to continue to build those out. We are going to containerize all our products. We are going to build advanced appliances that can support that and different kinds of workloads.

Next year we will publish our APIs and we'll also ship our software development kit so third parties can build their applications for our platform. Last year, I said we are going to be a platform company and we are going to build a first-generation platform, which we have done. Then we will build a follow-on to that, which I call the Enterprise Data Management platform that will be an end-to-end, purpose-built, cloud-native, microservice, container-based architecture. But the key to that is adding the analytics plane. So we will add a plane to separate all the analytics services and provide all the abilities to discover and manage not just the enterprise data but any other data based on whatever problem you are working on.

There will be no concept of backup. Those will be just policies. ... That is the next-generation world.
Bill ColemanCEO, Veritas Technologies

We will use predictive analytics; identify the data sources both internally and externally. We'll mine the metadata and take that to determine what data you actually need to turn that into a dynamic warehouse and solve that problem. We'll support the products we have and the 360 Data Management over the next three to five [years.] We will migrate everything to be done in that next-generation platform in which there will be no concept of backup. Those will be just policies; set the level of reliability you want. That is the next-generation world.

What do you see the data protection market looking like in five to 10 years? Will we still be talking about the complexities of backup?

Coleman: You are right, that world is changing. It is being compounded by the fact that things are moving everywhere. Data is not just in the data center anymore. It's in the cloud. It's in lots of clouds and it is in lots of SaaS applications. So that makes things a lot more complex. All the [data protection] capabilities will still be there. Those will just be assumed.

In a world of software-defined, there is no difference between backup, archive and disaster recovery. There are just the policies of where you put [data] and how many times. As an enterprise, if you are being required to do governance on your data, you have to figure out what is in the Oracle Cloud, the Amazon Cloud. ... What I believe in five to 10 years, the world is going to be software-defined. Hyperscale and portability will be assumed. No enterprise is going to be locked into one platform.

A big, well-known company wants to move all mission-critical to the cloud over the next few years. What the CEO told me is he wants to be able to manage three clouds simultaneously, based on policy and process and time. So it's going to be a utility. It's going to commoditize everything we know about hardware and software. The customer's site might not even own a data center. Veritas does not even own a data center anymore. All of our IT is run mostly on IBM Cloud, some on managed services.

As Veritas CEO, you speak with a lot of large IT organizations. What are you hearing from customers about the European Union's GDPR? In general, how far along are companies in being compliant? What stage are they in?

Coleman: We did some analysis on this recently. About a third to a quarter think they have a plan and they are moving in the direction of trying to solve the problem. Another quarter to a third does not think it applies to them. And those in the middle think it may apply and they are not yet moving.

When we started our GDPR trek at the beginning of the calendar year, I set a goal that we will have the products and services to support GDPR for unstructured data and some structured data by the beginning of October. So we have those practices and they are moving along. But I believe by the beginning of October, lights are going to go off and there is going to be a lot of panic out there.

We only solve part of the problem because a lot of it is a business problem and a legal problem. We are teaming with companies like Deloitte. I suspect that as we get close to next May [the deadline for compliance], many companies are not going to be ready. I suspect what the EU will do is similar to what our SEC does. They will say. 'OK you have to have this much of a plan by here, etc.' I just don't think companies will be ready. I talked to one of the biggest banks in Europe and their head of strategy said they don't know where to look to find the personal identifying information. And they are a European bank.

Describe digital transformation.

Coleman: Digital transformation is about doing analytics and machine learning to adapt your business processes, your supply chain, your products and customer engagement model based on data. It has to be better, faster and cheaper. You can do that in a more personalized way and that is how to compete. It's not just your data but it's any other source of data out there that can help solve whatever problem you are trying to solve in your business model.

That's digital transformation. And it is a transformation. It's not a disruption. In a disruption world, only a startup wins because the economics are such that the incumbent can't counter it. But this is a transformation so no one is going to say, 'I'm just throwing out everything I have in storage backup and adopting that startup.' That means the incumbents get to win if they are good enough.

Next Steps

Do you have a digital transformation plan prepared?

What GDPR compliance really means

The shift to utilize the data management platform

Dig Deeper on Backup and recovery software

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