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Symantec CEO sounds off on cloud data backup, virtualization, acquisition strategy

Symantec CEO Enrique Salem discusses where hybrid cloud data backup, appliances and virtual environments fit in the future of backup and storage management.

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Symantec Corp. CEO Enrique Salem sat down for an in-depth interview this week at Symantec Vision. Among the topics he addressed were the increasing role of cloud data backup in data protection, Symantec’s appliance strategy, how the company has developed a closer partnership with VMware, and whether there are any plans to sell off its data backup and storage management businesses.

SearchDataBackup: How pervasive do you see the cloud becoming for backup and how disruptive might this be to your role in traditional storage?

Salem: We are seeing a lot of customers who have an interest in online backup being part of their overall disaster recovery solution. But there is such a high volume of data that we aren’t seeing a move that says that there won’t be any other form of backup data.

In small businesses with a small amount of data, we are seeing an opportunity where [cloud data backup] will be their primary backup, but for most companies it will be a combination of on-premise backup and then cloud-based for high availability or disaster recovery. You will see solutions from us that are hybrid with local storage that connects to the cloud. We see that as part of how it will unfold because if you move a lot of volume, you may not have the same level of performance from cloud-based backup.

SearchDataBackup: You have recently launched several storage products on appliances. What is the strategy behind that? Will you go even farther in that direction?

Salem: We actually think appliances are important because they simplify the deployment. So instead of having a media server, deduplication for VTL [virtual tape library] technology or a storage array, you can combine that into an appliance. For many businesses, the appliance takes three different functions, combined into one solution, which makes it easier for the customer. Where we are headed, we will have those three features in an appliance. For customers, it simplifies both deployment and ongoing administration and it drives down total cost of ownership.

SearchDataBackup: Some of your competitors have one platform for backup from small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) through the enterprise. Do you have any plans to merge NetBackup and Backup Exec into one platform or do you think customers are better served with different products?

Salem: We definitely will keep them separate because they serve different markets. They share technology when it is appropriate but we want to make sure that they meet the needs of different segments.

Backup Exec is focused on the Windows market and NetBackup is focused on distributed environments. There is a lot of common technology, so if you back up Exchange servers whether for Windows or heterogeneous environments, we use the same technology. But we acknowledge there are differences in the environments.

Our goal is to make sure our solution fits the segments. What we see in NetBackup and Backup Exec is that it is working. The backup and archiving business represents about $1.4 billion for Symantec. If you think about some of the competitors, they are much smaller.

SearchDataBackup: How important is storage management to Symantec? Is there the same level of commitment to storage management as there is to your backup products?

Salem: Over the last 12 months, we introduced a number of new offerings in our storage management. I’ll just talk about four. The first one is called Data Insight that actually works across our backup and security portfolio and it’s a significant differentiator against our competitors.

Number two, we have a new technology we created with VMware called ApplicationHA, which is the high-availability technology. This is pretty important in a virtual environment.

Number three is what we call VirtualStore, and that is about using community storage to enable virtualization of endpoints. It can also be used to virtualize servers, but the biggest case has been endpoints.

And four, we have FileStore that is built into our appliances or third-party appliances and allows customers to build a highly scalable NAS device.

And so for us, when you look at our portfolio, we have an existing business called Storage Foundation and Storage Foundation HA, but we also have added these new products. The good news we are working closely with VMware on the two that are focused on virtualization and Data Insight is a key differentiator for the company.

SearchDataBackup: The last few years there have been rumors that Symantec would sell off its backup and/or storage products. Is this something that you would consider if the right offer comes along?

Salem: At this point, some of those technologies are so key to our strategy. Something like Data Insight is the reason our Data Loss Prevention technology is doing so well. But you always keep an open mind. Right now we are very happy with the portfolio and that business is doing well again.

SearchDataBackup: Symantec has not made any significant storage acquisitions over the last few years. Is it your strategy to develop all of your own technology, or have you not found the right companies to buy?

Salem: We are always looking at companies in all segments. We absolutely see opportunities in all areas—things related to our storage and backup business, things related to security and cloud computing. We are always looking at businesses that fit with our portfolio. I would absolutely never rule our acquisitions related to our core businesses. I guess I always keep an open mind to what the team presents as opportunities to extend our business.

SearchDataBackup: Why have you chosen Huawei as your appliance partner? Is this an exclusive deal or might we see Symantec software shipped on other vendors’ hardware as well?

Salem: We ship on lots of vendors’ hardware. Huawei is a credible system builder but we work with many other third parties. We made announcements with Fujitsu, Dell. We also have what I call third-party contract manufacturers that build appliances for us. Huawei is just one partner. One reason Huawei was important is it gave us access to the Chinese market. It was less about what they could build for us even though they are very good system builders. We have many relationships. They are one of several opportunities.

SearchDataBackup: A few years ago, the relationship between Symantec and VMware was considered contentious and a bit competitive. How would you describe your relationship with VMware today?

Salem: When relationships work, they work when both parties see something to be gained. What they see with us is that one-third of servers have been virtualized but to go to the next third, some of which are business-critical applications, they need high availability. So VMware sees an opportunity to partner with Symantec where we are the market leader in HA technologies like Veritas Cluster Server. We also partnered with them to create ApplicationHA. So there is benefit for VMware and Symantec customers. Definitely expect to see more from the two companies.


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