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CommVault CEO talks big data backup, cloud backup, archiving

CommVault CEO Bob Hammer talks about backing up big data, cloud backup and the relationship between archiving and backup.

CommVault Systems Inc.'s $406 million backup software revenue since its last fiscal year is a 35% increase, which far outgrows the entire market. We spoke with CommVault CEO Bob Hammer about the drivers for his company’s recent success, and how it is handling cloud backup, backup for ‘big data,’ virtualization and mobile devices, the trend in the market toward integrated appliances and how recent acquisitions may affect its healthy relationship with Dell. Why has CommVault grown faster than competitors recently?

Bob Hammer: In general, what’s happened is we got way in front of all our competition in solving key data-related problems, like server virtualization, scaling the amount of data, the cloud, managing remote sites [and] managing data at the edge with desktops and laptops. We’ve been able to do that much easier and more cost effectively than our competitors with Simpana 9. The cream rises to the top. How does Simpana handle some of the problems you spoke about?

Hammer: The scale of data is getting so large that you need [a] modern ability to move it. By modern ability, I mean using standard backup technology really does not work well to manage traditional backup in a massive-scale environment. You have to move to what I call intelligent snap and replication. I want to move it from high-availability primary to low-cost secondary and archive tiers. Our source-side dedupe enables customers to reduce scale before they move it over the network.

And it’s all done intelligently with fully indexing capabilities to quickly find and recover that data. It’s different than any of our competitors. And it’s all done on a single platform. In addition to that, we build in archiving so you only copy the data once and can keep that as high availability or backup copy or dump it out for long-term archiving. What role is the cloud playing in backup?

Hammer: I would say almost all of our major customers are implementing some type of cloud managed service capability in their re-engineering of their IT infrastructure. CommVault is heavily involved in the public cloud with managed service providers Rackspace, AT&T, Verizon and British Telecom. The managed service provider community is a high-growth area for us because our platform is architected for the cloud with modularity and scalability and multi-tenant capability and automation built in. Our ability to move data after it’s deduped is a critical issue for major MSPs. They want to dedupe the data before it goes across the network, because it uses less bandwidth than doing it the other way around. Are customers using the private cloud for backup?

Hammer: Almost every call that I’m on has a private cloud involved. I can’t think of one major customer in the last few months where a private cloud isn’t a part of their intended solutions. I’m talking about big enterprises. We’re seeing a significant global trend of large companies and government moving to a shared-service model with private clouds. How is big data changing backup?

Hammer: We agree on the perspective of big data, we just disagree on how that should be implemented. In terms of what you’re doing with big data, there’s nothing new. Organizations are using data to make decisions the same way – I want to get the right information to the right person at the right time. There’s nothing new about that. What’s changing is the amount of data. Now we have multiple sources of data creation. Those require technologies to solve problems at a faster rate, and that requires you to do a lot more with data in real time.

But to do big data analytics effectively, you need to compare a trend. That means you have to marry historical analytics and real-time data. The question is now, how do you do that? And underneath it, that means, ‘How do I aggregate data?’ In the past, you would index and manage data that organizations create. Now if I have to crawl out onto the network somewhere and grab data related to social networks and machine data, I need a way - an efficient way - to aggregate that, bring it under control and index it. And access it and secure it if I need to. That’s a big change. It takes big fundamental changes to do that, which we are working on. When will we see these changes?

Hammer: Some time in [the] next 12 months we’ll have those enabling technologies out in the market to solve those kinds of problems.

We’re making significant changes to marry historical with real-time data. We agree with the trend, agree with the need and agree with why it’s happening. We’re just taking a different approach to enable customers to solve those kinds of problems. Are your customers demanding backup for laptop and edge devices?

Hammer: That’s relatively new. It’s not absolutely critical today but more and more data is going to laptops and some type of smart device at the edge. In the future, managing those devices will be critical, and documents on those devices will be shared to collaborate more effectively. How has virtualization changed backup?

Hammer: Virtualization has been a cataclysmic change in this market, [including] for on-premise backup and for managed services or the cloud, whatever you want to call it. You need the ability to protect virtual machines on those environments, manage them on a more granular basis and at much more scale across the enterprise. How do archiving and data management fit in with backup?

Hammer: Backup is an insurance policy, but every major enterprise also needs to solve compliance, regulatory and legal issues. More and more, I’m talking about big data. Every company needs that. To do that, you need an intelligent archiving back end to store your data.

Intelligent means, ‘I know what the data is, I know who it belongs to, I know what application it is and I can get to it, I can audit what I’ve got and ensure it’s here.’ That means you have to index all that. And you don’t want all that sitting in backup format, you want to be able to sub that out, get it off your primary, and keep it in low-cost secondary in what I call a virtual archive. You can search all those objects, so when you move them, you decide what you need to move and move a relative small result set. That’s all built into Simpana.

By merging backup and archiving, you’re enabling significant cost savings. Instead of having a separate archive, if you have one single copy and move data, you’re not copying it over and over again, and you don’t have expensive copies of data in primary storage. You keep it on low-cost secondary storage. Symantec and others are moving more towards an integrated appliance model, replacing the need for a separate media server and backup target. Where does CommVault stand on appliances?

Hammer: There’s a definite market for appliances in the right places. It’s a point product. Even if you’re using an appliance, you still need a way to hold and manage all the data. It is a piece of the market, it’s not the market. It’s one element of a much broader core set of technologies that you need to enable customers to manage data.

We work with Dell with the DL series. And we’re working with other hardware vendors to build appliances for our platform. We will not get into the hardware business. Your partnership with Dell accounted for 23% of CommVault revenue last quarter. But Dell recently bought data protection vendor AppAssure, and launched a backup appliance based on Ocarina deduplication software. Are you worried about your relationship with Dell?

Hammer: There’s no question that Dell, with its other technologies, makes it more complicated and we have to work our way through it. But at the end of the day, we have a lot of strengths and we’ll prevail in meeting our core objectives.

I can strongly state we’re confident in our technology, our broader ability to distribute, our own selling capabilities, our industry-leading ability to define and implement the right solution for customers and our industry-leading pace of innovation to achieve revenue and earning objectives.

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