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Platform support main focus for Symantec backup application roadmaps

Roadmaps for backup applications NetBackup and Backup Exec will favor platform support over features, Symantec VP for product management says.

LAS VEGAS -- Blake McConnell, vice president of product management at Symantec, took control of Symantec's backup applications in September 2012 as the company was going through a transition to a new CEO and trying to calm unhappy Backup Exec 2012 customers. spoke with McConnell this week at Symantec Vision about the roadmaps for Backup Exec and NetBackup, and the roles that virtualization, the cloud and endpoint security are playing in data protection.

What are the biggest trends you've seen in the backup market since you started your current job last September?

Blake McConnell: In the SMB market, I feel like Backup Exec is the canary in the coal mine. Virtualization has taken that business by storm. Once you're moving towards a more fully virtualized environment, you can embrace the cloud. I believe that trend will hit the large enterprise space as well. Then maybe security discussions become more onerous as you move into the enterprise space, but people will try to embrace the cloud.

When I think of Backup Exec, timely platform support is clearly a priority, and we are in a situation where we are not delivering timely platform support.

Blake McConnell,
VP of product management, Symantec

Also, the heterogeneity problem will go on and on and on. One of the Symantec challenges will be how we rethink platform support because it's going to get out of control. You have annual platforms from VMware and an annual platform now from Microsoft, and Microsoft is going to move quarterly on its applications. From a roadmap product-delivery perspective, platform support will take priority [over] features because you're giving customers a reason to leave if you don't support platforms in a timely manner in backup applications.

It looks like application support will be the focus on the next Backup Exec upgrade.

McConnell: When I think of Backup Exec, timely platform support is clearly a priority, and we are in a situation where we are not delivering timely platform support. The next release [due to go to beta in May] is going to pick up VMware 5.1, Windows Server 2012 [through agents], and Hyper-V 2012. We need to get back on the right cadence for platform support.

Product supportability is also a big area. Backup Exec has been around for a long time. We have the largest installed base, so how do we make that product experience more enjoyable for our customers? A lot of that is improving product supportability.

The last category is providing new features. And I think [the] new features are going to be virtualization and cloud.

You're also working on bringing back old features that were taken out.

McConnell: Yes, Job Monitoring, multi-server jobs, and things like that. We're going to bring back old functionality but functionality that customers liked and somehow got left out of the original 2012 release. We're working on bringing back functionality that customers want, as opposed to functionality we think they want.

Weren't those features supposed to be added last fall? Now they're at least two upgrade releases away.

McConnell: I think before I joined the Backup Exec team to run product management in September, there were some public statements about those capabilities coming earlier. But I would say the team that made those statements did not understand what the actual work requirement was: to deliver them in a quality matter.

What can we expect from the upcoming NetBackup 7.6 beta?

McConnell: Virtualization is big push of 7.6. There are virtualization enhancements such as instant recovery capability, which is basically taking a VM recovery down to 30 seconds. Virtualization allows you to do that. We're delivering NetBackup Accelerator, which decreases backup times. NetBackup 7.6 will also support SAP HANA, which is a big deal for us because we're early with support for a big data platform.

Are you seeing a lot of customers going to Hyper-V yet?

McConnell: We're definitely beginning to see an increase in Hyper-V, but it depends on what part of the market you're talking about. In the enterprise space, VMware has such a head start that it will take a while for Hyper-V to chip away. But VMware is going to start getting distracted with things like vCloud Director versus OpenStack. If you move down-market, you can just imagine Hyper-V running the table. Those customers are running Exchange; they're running Windows Server; when they need to do a server refresh, they have Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V comes with it.

That impacts NetBackup and Backup Exec in different ways. For NetBackup, it's my opinion that data center heterogeneity is a good bet for us. That is what NetBackup has invested in historically and will invest in going forward. We're supporting these virtual platforms, as well as big data and cloud platforms. As you move down market, with companies with less than 100 users, Hyper-V runs the table. Homogeneity is not the friend of Symantec. Can Microsoft run the table with DPM [Data Protection Manager]? Get they get SCCM [System Center Configuration Manager] to where it's appropriate for a sub-100 customer company? Microsoft has had its toe in and out of the backup space for some time, and they've never really seemed to want that business. They've had different attempts and they've not been successful. But Microsoft is a big company, so we keep a close eye on what they're doing.

Is there much interest in cloud backup in the enterprise yet?

McConnell: I would say we get a lot of inquiries about cloud from big companies. There's a lot of talk about it. But you definitely see more implementation down market in the small business space, in particular around DR as a Service. Small customers who never had DR [disaster recovery] because it's never been viable for them, all of a sudden they can have DR as a Service as a bolt-on to their backup. The cloud is their secondary site, and you can restart your entire environment in the cloud.

How does Symantec support the cloud in NetBackup?

McConnell: In NetBackup, there are cloud connectors that will support different clouds. That connector is related to the OST [Open Storage Technology]. We're continuing to refine the cloud connectors. Today, we don't have a lot of cloud connector utilization because performance is not awesome. It makes for a good press release because we support these clouds, but we don't have good performance yet.

There's a lot of talk from Symantec about backup appliances. What is driving that market?

McConnell: Appliances are very strong across both business, Backup Exec and NetBackup. I don't think it's a big surprise down market. People in smaller companies like appliances because of the ease of installation, ease of configuration, all of the sizing work is already done. But even on the enterprise side where people have the resources to build their own appliances using our software, people like appliances. Ultimately, we want to have appliances optimized from the remote office to the largest of enterprises.

Are you doing anything for endpoint backup in NetBackup and Backup Exec?

McConnell: Frankly, I have more questions than answers about endpoint backup. Mainly, does the data center backup operator care about endpoint backup, or is endpoint backup going to get owned by the same person who is in charge of BYOD [bring your own device] strategy, the same person who puts security on endpoint, who puts PC lifecycle management on an endpoint? It's my hunch that it's not the data center backup operator. I would say that's not a big investment area for us now. We invest more in the virtualized data center, and how the virtualized data center is the path to the cloud or the software-defined data center. We will invest more in those trends than in endpoint backup.

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