Backup Exec 15 important for Symantec and long-time customers

Symantec's release of Backup Exec 15 is the vendor's latest attempt to turn around the fortunes of its popular SMB backup software platform.

Earlier this month, Symantec launched Backup Exec 15, the latest version of its long-running SMB backup software platform and part of the vendor's ongoing efforts to restore the brand's reputation.

Backup Exec 15 offers support for the newest versions of VMware hypervisors and storage applications and the rollout comes 10 months after Backup Exec 14. That was the beginning of what the company hopes is a turnaround after it ran into trouble with it back in 2012.

The importance of Backup Exec 15 is that Symantec's backup team -- soon to be part of the new Veritas -- is trying to show it has learned from the mistakes made with Backup Exec 2012. Senior Managing Editor Ed Hannan recently interviewed Senior News Director Dave Raffo on the importance of the release, key features of Backup Exec 15 (and what it is missing), why the upgrade only supports one vendor, and why they kept the Backup Exec name after the problems with Backup Exec 12.

The release of Backup Exec 15 is seen as big news, but what makes it important both for Symantec as well as long-time Backup Exec customers?

The importance of Backup Exec 15 is that Symantec's backup team -- soon to be part of the new Veritas -- is trying to show it has learned from the mistakes made with Backup Exec 12. One problem with BE 12 was that it changed the workflow and the way the company's customers do backups. Symantec finally fixed that last year with BE 14, when it restored popular features removed from BE 12.

The other problem with the last few versions of BE was that Symantec was late to support backups of popular applications, mainly those from Microsoft and VMware. BE 14 was current with the latest Microsoft apps, and now BE 15 supports VMware vSphere 6 and other new VMware applications and features such as Virtual SAN (VSAN) 6 and Virtual Volumes (VVOLs).

For users, this means they can go ahead and upgrade to the latest VMware apps and not have to worry about being able to protect them with BE. Symantec pledges to keep current with quarterly updates, too. Of course, Symantec's problems supporting the latest virtual machine technology wasn't new to BE 12 or even limited to BE. Like most legacy backup vendors, Symantec struggled with the concept of protecting virtual machines rather than physical machines before finally getting it right. That opened the door for newcomers like Veeam Software to gain a foothold with VM protection.

What are the key features in Backup Exec 15 and what is it missing?

The key features are support for the latest VMware products -- ESXi 6, vCenter, VSAN 6, and Virtual Volumes (VVOLs). It also added some catch-up features such as a gateway to move data to the Amazon cloud, the ability to do SAN restores, and support for virtual machines with over 2 TB volumes.

Symantec also added what it calls Backup Exec Capacity Edition Lite licensing that lets customers pay less for TB to protect only VMware, Microsoft Applications, Hyper-V, and Windows Server. This version is missing features such as data deduplication and full application support.

The biggest thing missing is a reason for Hyper-V customers to upgrade. If I'm running Hyper-V instead of a VMware hypervisor, why do I need to download and upgrade a new software package that is aimed at VMware customers? Symantec would argue that features such as the cloud gateway, SAN restores and larger VMs help everyone, but not all SMBs need those features.

I noticed you termed it "unusual" for a vendor to release a full version upgrade solely to support one vendor's applications. Why do you think Symantec went this route, rather than wait to support other vendors?

Backup Exec is used mainly by SMBs, and SMBs are most concerned with Microsoft and VMware applications. Because BE 14 addressed the latest Microsoft apps, Symantec/Veritas focused on the new VMware releases in BE 15. They could have made it a point release, but launched it as a new version to show they were serious about keeping up with support. They also added a new "Lite" licensing model that lets customers pay less per TB for common Microsoft and VMware applications.

Dave Russell from Gartner said it didn't feel like a version change. Given the firestorm surrounding Backup Exec 2012, why didn't they just give the product a new name, incorporating what was good about Backup Exec without the stigma of Backup Exec 2012?

For all the problems Symantec has had with Backup Exec, it still has a lot of BE customers. At its peak, BE generated around $330 million a year in revenue. Even a lot of the most unhappy customers stayed with BE during the problems, even if it meant sticking with BE 10 and waiting years for fixes before upgrading.

So, the brand does still mean something. And as the reaction to BE 12 showed, backup administrators don't always react well to change. So, Symantec decided to cash in on that brand loyalty instead of risking confusing the market by introducing a product with another name.

The decision to call its new data protection company Veritas is another decision by Symantec to go with a popular brand.

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