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Quest launches NetVault 13 after CEO change

NetVault's Quest for stability: Version 13 adds a REST API and Teams backup for Office 365. Analysts say it's a good product, but can Quest's new CEO improve its market execution?

Quest Software improved backup software NetVault's application and cloud support in its latest upgrade. Now new Quest CEO Patrick Nichols will work on bringing stability to the NetVault brand after decades of frequent ownership changes.

With NetVault 13 released this week, many of its operations can now be accessed through a REST API. This enables script-savvy customers to customize their NetVault deployments, setting up automation or creating other ways to optimize how their environments interact with NetVault. NetVault 13 also introduced deeper integration with Quest QoreStor deduplication software and synthetic full backups generated entirely through metadata, leading to faster backups and lower resource usage.

Competing backup vendor Rubrik similarly has native RESTful APIs for its product, along with supporting documentation and prebuilt integrations. Rubrik users have deployed REST APIs to create automation for services such as applying SLA policies and recovery testing.

NetVault has plugins for supporting additional environments, such as MongoDB, Microsoft Azure Active Directory and Office 365. With this release, NetVault's Office 365 plugin can do full and incremental backups for calendars and Microsoft Teams. This addresses the problem of retention: Deleted files and conversations normally end up in a recycle bin that will automatically empty after a short period of time, but NetVault can recover data from beyond what Office 365 provides natively.

Patrick Nichols, CEO of Quest SoftwarePatrick Nichols

Michael Gogos, product manager of NetVault Backup and vRanger at Quest Software, said this release's timing is fortuitous, but not intentional. NetVault intended to support the entirety of Office 365's suite since the plugin's launch, and NetVault 12.4 introduced OneDrive support. Microsoft Teams support had always been on the roadmap, and, according to Gogos, the increased customer adoption of Teams due to the COVID-19 pandemic, didn't impact or accelerate the feature's development.

"Unfortunately, it's perfectly timed, but it wasn't planned that way," Gogos said.

A complicated history

Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) senior lab analyst Vinny Choinski said NetVault is an old product dating back to the days of tape backup, but wasn't as popular as competing products such as IBM Spectrum Protect or Legato (then EMC) NetWorker. He said NetVault is a solid product able to support medium as old as tape, as well as modern environments such as Office 365. The features added in NetVault 13 indicated to Choinski not only Quest's continued support and confidence in the product, but that it's expanding into the right areas of customer need. It is unfair to call it an inferior backup product to its competitors.

Choinski suspects that NetVault's weak market performance is due to frequent ownership changes. The NetVault product started as something AT&T developed for internal use in 1989 and spun out to form Commvault in 1996. Due to contract disagreements, ownership of NetVault's source code ended up in the hands of Willow Ltd., a U.K. company that helped AT&T develop tape library support for the NetVault product. Willow Ltd. was renamed NetVault Ltd. in 1998.

[Quest] has a good portfolio of robust solutions, but it's an island of misfit toys.
Vinny ChoinskiSenior lab analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group

In 2000, BakBone Software bought NetVault Ltd. Quest Software acquired NetVault in 2010, and Dell bought Quest in 2012 to form Dell Software. Dell then sold its entire software division (which included Quest) to private equity firm Francisco Partners Consulting in 2016, after acquiring storage giant EMC. Francisco Partners still owns Quest.

Choinski said the frequent changes have made it difficult to keep NetVault's branding consistent for the people trying to market and sell it.

"It was probably execution why it doesn't have as large a footprint," Choinski said. He also added, "[Quest] has a good portfolio of robust solutions, but it's an island of misfit toys."

Other storage industry experts shared similar views on Quest's wide-ranging portfolio.

Marc Staimer, president of Dragon Slayer Consulting, described Quest Software as, "a conglomerate with a bunch of products that don't actually work together," whose market performance is, "mediocre, at best."

Christophe Bertrand, senior analyst at ESG, described Quest as a number of disjointed solutions that work well individually. Quest has a history of picking up good pieces of technology through acquisitions, leading to the long list of products it has today.

"One of the telltale signs is you look at the product list and it's got an A-to-Z," Bertrand said of NetVault's feature list.

Acquisitions by the numbers

Nichols took over as Quest's CEO in late April after holding the top job at Corel. He said he plans to bolster Quest's branding. Quest Software consists of business units such as data protection, unified endpoint management and performance monitoring, each with their own product lines. Nichols recognized this diversity of products stemming from Quest's long list of mergers and acquisitions, was making it hard for customers to see the overall Quest branding.

"[There's an] opportunity to make the overall Quest brand larger and put Quest in the front seat, versus having individual business units in the front seat," Nichols said.

Nichols replaced former Quest CEO Mike Kohlsdorf, who is also president of Francisco Partners. Kohlsdorf is focusing on his primary role, while Nichols stepped in to lead Quest's brand unification and growth efforts. Nichols said Quest is financially sound, so he will focus on growing the company in every aspect -- portfolio offerings, employee headcount and customer base.

Bertrand said the CEO change shouldn't be taken as an indication that Quest Software is floundering or that Kohlsdorf was doing a poor job. Instead, it's a typical private equity move of bringing in someone with private equity and M&A experience to bolster existing investments and look for areas to boost revenue. He expects any Quest acquisitions to be more about boosting finances and selling to its existing audience rather than increasing the breadth of technology Quest covers.

"This is an EBITDA [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization] play," Bertrand said.

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