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Symantec CEO: We’ll win in virtual backup and the cloud

CEO Enrique Salem says Symantec will emerge as the leader in virtual backup and the cloud; he also expects appliances to surpass backup software.

LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- During an interview with at Symantec Vision this week, Symantec CEO Enrique Salem said he expects backup appliances will eventually make up the bulk of backup implementations, as well as talked about changes to Backup Exec 2012, the cloud’s role in backup and why his company will win the virtual backup battle. What’s driving your emphasis on backup appliances?

Salem: There’s no reason to have lots of point products and lots of separate components in the infrastructure. We want to drive an integrated vision for our data protection products. What we’ve done is said, ‘First we have all the right pieces.’ Instead of going in and buying backup software from Symantec and deduplication from EMC or Quantum or somebody else, and buying a media server, our devices have solved that problem. Will appliances ultimately make up most of the backup market?

Salem: There will always be a backup software market, but my belief is that over the next several years more and more customers will move towards an appliance for Backup Exec or NetBackup. It will end up being 20 percent, 25 percent, maybe 30 percent, that are using backup software. I think the balance will use the backup appliances. And then of course, you will see more cloud-based backup capabilities. You’ve worked closely with virtual tape library (VTL) and other backup appliance vendors to make your software work with their hardware. Will that change now that you’re selling appliances and competing directly?

Salem: We’ll continue to support OST [OpenStorage Technology] to integrate with any VTL. But we think the better answer is to have one integrated solution. That doesn’t mean we don’t want a healthy ecosystem and to give customers choice when they want it. But ultimately our job is to reduce cost and simplify environment for our customers and we have a great data protection solution. Do you have to convince customers you can get hardware right?

Salem: When you think of the appliance business, there are a lot of things around it to allow customers to use it reliably. One of the capabilities we’re focused on is how to do reliable remote diagnostics of what’s happening to an appliance. When they put an appliance in, a lot of customers are saying, ‘Great, but when there’s something wrong with the device I want to know about it.’ And they’d like that to be a proactive notification from Symantec. There’s a lot of work we’re doing around the hardware product. Is there any chance you’ll need to own the hardware you sell?

Salem: We can use a contract manufacturer. We’re very pleased with NEI, they do work for lot of other companies. Do we have to in-source that? I don’t think there’s a reason at this point, we’re not producing the volume that would give us cost advantages. How is the cloud affecting the backup business?

Salem: Today you still have trucks rolling up to pick up tapes and take them off-site. A lot of companies still use Iron Mountain to move tapes off their physical premise. I think over time, as we get better at figuring out what’s critical to store off premise, you can extend what you can do in the data center into the cloud. Big businesses will still have a lot of data on premise, but certain pieces of the important data from a disaster recovery perspective or other mission critical aspects will be in cloud-based services.

Our biggest customers have petabytes of data. I’m not sure we’ll be moving two petabytes of data fully to the cloud in the immediate future. As you go to the SMB segment, cloud backup can replace any on-premise work. So if you take a 250-, 300-person company, a lot of them will be able to move away from having any backup on premise.

We have on-premise backup software, on-premise archiving, on-premise e-discovery, and in the cloud we have the same thing. We can back up to the cloud, we can archive to the cloud, and we can move more of the e-discovery function to the cloud. How big of a threat is cloud backup to Symantec, which has such strong roots in traditional backup?

Salem: We’ll make it easy for people to go from on-premise backup to cloud backup. We’re managing 100 petabytes of on-premise data, I don’t know of anybody else in this industry has 100 petabytes of customer data in their data center from a backup perspective. As soon as customers want to go there [the cloud], we’ll help them. Backup Exec 2012 had some drastic changes, especially to the design. What type of reaction are you getting to Backup Exec 2012?

Salem: We’ve made a lot of changes to Backup Exec. We used to have an activity-based view for managing the product. Now we’ve made it jobs-based. That’s a change for folks. First time users of Backup Exec love it, they say it’s the way to go. For existing customers -- like any change, it’s going to take a while for people to get used to it. For instance, Microsoft is getting rid of the Start button, so somebody wrote an app to put the Start button back.

The feedback we’re getting for Backup Exec 2012 makes it clear that while they like the model, there’s a little bit of retraining going on. Is there any sentiment inside Symantec to combine backup platforms?

Salem: You mean NetBackup Exec? I would say there’s room for us to have both. Backup Exec works great for a Windows server environment, from one server to thousands of servers. For more distributed and heterogeneous environments, NetBackup is the right product. There are different people using them. While there’s some overlap, the products serve different segments of the market.

I’ve seen a lot of companies make the mistake of trying to do a one-size-fits all, and at some point that catches up with them. I’m comfortable having two products right now. Now we are getting a lot of leverage across the two products. If you’re backing up an Exchange Server from either NetBackup or Backup Exec, we don’t create two separate agents to integrate the Exchange server or Exchange store So there’s a lot of leverage across the two products, but there are also things we do that are customized for each product. How much have you had to change the backup products to protect virtual servers?

Salem: Obviously there’s new functionality we’ve added to the hypervisor layer to give you more visibility into a virtualized environment than we had previously. We have a technology we call V-Ray that is all about giving visibility into what you’re backing up in a virtual environment.  That’s new functionality that we had to deliver. Virtualizion is ubiquitous, it’s a matter of how much they’re virtualizing. We’ve done a lot of work to integrate with the hypervisor layer that makes it possible to do everything we’ve done previously on a physical environment on a virtualized environment. Competitors such as Veeam and Quest have sold their virtual machine backup to Symantec customers. Can you get those customers to switch to Symantec for VMs?

Salem: Ultimately we’ll win this battle in the end. When there’s a change in the marketplace, a lot of times you see point products enter. But we back up more virtual environments today than anybody else, over time we’ll take our installed base and move more virtual backup to the NetBackup and Backup Exec platforms. How do you view backup for end point devices?

Salem: With end points, people are thinking about what’s the right architecture for where there data should reside. I think you’ll see more people do secure collaboration or shared content that is either in a private cloud or a public cloud. If they’re worried so much about persisting the data on the device, they’re going to say ‘Why don’t I have an architecture that says I can have data on my device, but ultimately I keep it stored centrally?’  I think more about secure collaboration where the data may not even be on the end point, or if it is, it is transient on the end point but ultimately getting stored on a central location because you want to move it to a different device or you want to share it with somebody else.

Of course, we will add functionality to protect information on a client device. PSTs and other forms of content are still held locally in many people’s cases, so we have to be able to effectively back those up.

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