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Acronis backup strategy: Protect any data, anywhere

Acronis CEO Serguei Beloussov discusses streamlining Acronis Backup software products with 'data anywhere' strategy to cope with new data challenges.

Acronis founder Serguei Beloussov returned to the backup software vendor as CEO in 2013, six years after leaving the company's day-to-day operations. Acronis this week revealed its new strategic direction around AnyData technology and Acronis Backup as a Service. AnyData brings features such as disk and virtual machine image capture, instant recovery, unified backup format, and single-pass backups to physical and virtual servers and applications such as Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server and SharePoint. Acronis Backup as a Service enables partners to build cloud backup and disaster recovery services.

SearchDataBackup spoke with Beloussov about Acronis' strategy and technologies and why he came back to run the Boston-based data protection vendor.

What is your history with Acronis, and why did you return as CEO last year?

Serguei Beloussov:I founded a company called SWsoft in 2000. That company split into Parallels and Acronis. I ran Parallels, but I was still a majority shareholder in Acronis. I was involved as president through 2005 and as executive chairman through 2007. Today, I still control the majority of Acronis' voting stock. But I was not involved in Acronis [day to day] after 2007. One of the main reasons I came back is I believe there is a huge opportunity related to data management and storage management.

You are still executive chairman of Parallels, which sells virtualization and automation software to service providers. Are there business opportunities for Acronis and Parallels together?

Beloussov: Of course. There was always a good relationship between the two companies. The primary cooperation will be the cloud service provider space. The majority of Acronis' channel needs to become managed service providers offering IT services. IT is becoming a service. Parallels provides a platform for cloud service providers and Acronis provides a good solution for data protection.

We believe today it is necessary and possible to protect any data anywhere.
Serguei Beloussovfounder, Acronis

How has data protection changed since you left Acronis in 2007?

Beloussov: First, the market has changed. There are new trends -- a lot of them involve virtualization, but also there is mobility, there is cloud, there is big data, there is BYOD. There are a lot of changes in how IT is consumed, deployed and delivered. Second, the importance of data has changed. There is much more data today than in the past, and it's much worse when you lose data. The third thing is, in many situations, it's no longer centralized IT charged with protecting data, but workload specialists or specialists based in branch offices.

What is AnyData technology?

Beloussov: We believe today it is necessary and possible to protect any data anywhere. We wanted to do three things. We wanted to offer a best-of-breed product for any workload. If you are a Windows administrator or a Linux administrator or a VMware administrator or a desktop administrator, you would want to buy a backup and disaster recovery solution that is best for your workload.

The next thing we wanted to do is focus on complete comprehensive protection of every workload. So we do not offer additional features for an extra charge. We include all the features required for every workload for a smaller environment or a larger environment.

We wanted to make it possible for different data protection solutions for different workloads to be combined in the total solution. You might buy them separately for Windows or VMware, but eventually you would use them as a single product. That's where we came up with offering each product separately with all the features but they all fit together. As we move forward, we will enhance AnyData technology.

In the past, we had a product for Exchange and a separate product for bare-metal restore for the server. In the bare-metal restore product, you can restore any application on the server or restore the full server if it fails. That application may be Exchange. And then we had a product for Exchange so you could restore an Exchange data store, or restore an Exchange mailbox or a message. But to do disaster recovery or to restore your workload in any situation, you would have to use two products. Today, you get a single product. If you use our Exchange product, you get complete protection of the physical server and you can even restore that on a virtual server on any hypervisor. You can also use advanced features like Active Restore so you can boot from the archive and start operating before the restore is completed. All of that would be available on all of our products.

You no longer buy the features separately. You get everything you needed for Exchange or VMware or Windows. We took all of our technologies which we built for different products over 15 years and made it all work together, coded for every product for every workload.

Is this new technology or new packaging?

Beloussov: I think it's just a different way to consume products. In the past, you might buy one product for Exchange, another product for VMware, another product for Citrix, another for physical servers for Windows and another product for physical servers for Linux. You would get all of the platforms protected, but the products wouldn't work together.

So what do you call your backup product now? Is there one name?

Beloussov: We have Acronis Backup for smaller environments and Acronis Backup Advanced Suite for larger environments. We have Acronis Backup for VMware, Acronis Backup for Windows Server, Acronis Backup for Linux Server and Acronis Backup for PC. For larger environments, we have Acronis Backup Advanced for Virtual Backup, Acronis Backup Advanced for Physical Backup, Acronis Backup Advanced for Application Backup.

And all of that is based on AnyData technology. AnyData technology means that every single possible way to capture information, to restore and store information, is available to you. All of our products across all hypervisors and physical servers store data in a unified data format. That means if you back up a Linux server and you need to restore a specific file from a Linux server, you can restore on a Windows server if you need to. You wouldn't have to restore on a Linux server first and move it to a Windows server. Any of our products can restore data from an archive made by any of our other products.

Do you protect endpoint devices?

Beloussov: We have Acronis Backup and Acronis Backup Advanced for PCs for endpoint devices. We will soon add a product for Mac and a product for mobile devices.

How do you support cloud backups?

Beloussov: We are focused on protecting data anywhere, and that means all of our products are available for hybrid deployments. You can deploy them on-premises or on the cloud. You can deploy Acronis Advanced Backup on-premises and choose to back up to the cloud offered by our cloud service partners. Or you can buy the service from one of our cloud partners and back up on-premises or in the cloud. In many cases, companies will not want to put all of their data on the cloud, and so with a pure cloud solution, they will have to use two solutions -- one for data they want to keep on-premises and another for the data they want to put on the cloud. With our product, they can send some data locally and some to the cloud.

Who are your target customers?

Beloussov: We have consumer products for personal use, but the majority of our business customers are SMBs. In the past, it was mostly small companies, but now it's mostly medium-sized companies with several hundred employees. We support Linux, Mac and Windows, but we are not supporting Unix, we are not supporting Oracle. Well, we can back up Oracle as part of our backup for Windows server or Linux server, but not as a separate product. We also sell to larger businesses with needs for specific workloads like remote or branch offices, or endpoint protections, or disaster recovery for Windows and Linux servers.

Who do you consider your main competition?

Beloussov: We aspire to be as efficient as CommVault but focused on ease of use and efficiency. CommVault has a robust product, but it's for larger enterprises. We compete with Symantec across the board, and we compete with Veeam for virtualization of VMware and [Microsoft] Hyper-V. But we also support Citrix and Oracle hypervisors. We work on the hypervisor and virtual machine level, so we support a broad set of virtualization products.

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Great interview! Thanks for sharing