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Veritas Technologies CEO: Vendor 'got lost' as part of Symantec

Veritas CEO Bill Coleman talks about how he intends to reshape the company around data protection, data management and the cloud after splitting from Symantec.

Veritas Technologies held its first user conference last week since it split in January from Symantec, which sold the vendor to Washington D.C.-based investment firm Carlyle Group. Freed from Symantec, Veritas Technologies is trying to expand its focus beyond storage to become a data management platform company. Data protection, however, still plays a significant role in the company's strategy. NetBackup enterprise backup software and appliances remain the vendor's flagship brand, and Veritas Technologies is trying to resurrect its Backup Exec SMB backup app after years of decline.

SearchDataBackup spoke with Veritas CEO Bill Coleman at Veritas Vision, discussing trends in data protection and his plans to reshape the company that was part of a security vendor for 11 years.

How are things different at Veritas Technologies since you split from Symantec?

Coleman: Symantec was mostly focused on security, so there really wasn't much marketing. Symantec did not have a long-term strategy [for Veritas]. They had roadmaps of each of the different products. So we didn't have a dedicated sales force. We were just another set of products on a list of a 7,000-person sales force.

Now we get to market our position, advertise and plan, and build our own strategy. This conference is one of the cornerstones in which we get to reintroduce ourselves to our customers.

Bill ColemanBill Coleman

About the third week I was in the job here last February, I got a call from the global CTO of Citigroup. We were negotiating a five-year license agreement with them. He said, "I have to come out and talk to you." His first question was, "Who is Veritas Technologies?" I said "What do you mean?" He said, "Well, I know what your products are, but why should I sign a five-year agreement when I have no clue what you are going to be in five years and if you are going to solve my problems?" That is indicative of where the company was. It got lost. Just selling products and not helping customers.

This digital transformation ... it's about moving beyond storage and management of data, it's being able to do governance and compliance and do some big data stuff, too. Symantec wasn't telling their customers anything about that. They didn't even have a strategy to do that. The good thing was the [Veritas] product roadmaps were already doing elements of it.

Symantec did not have a long-term strategy [for Veritas]. We were just another set of products on a list of a 7,000-person sales force.

What are you seeing new in the backup market?

Coleman: Certainly, copy data management is a big thing but it's not just about having too many copies. It's also about being able to roll up and roll down DevOps environments in the cloud. The next big trend is that enterprises want to get out of capex, so there is a movement to consumption and subscription models. What we are really seeing is a majority of the enterprises want subscription, not consumption. As one major CIO of a Wall Street firm said, "The problem with buying by the drink is you eventually get drunk and then we are paying way too much money."

The bigger trend is the move to a subscription model, which they don't want to subscribe to the software. They don't want to subscribe to the hardware. They just want to subscribe. They want you to drop in the appliance and charge based on their usage. So for the backup market, those are the two biggest trends that are tactically going right now.

Veritas is still doing a lot around NetBackup, but what is the future of Backup Exec at Veritas Technologies?

Coleman: [Backup Exec sales] have been declining. It's been neglected, actually. What we've done is created a separate business group in sales that directly focuses on it. Under Symantec, the sales of Backup Exec were done by the same sales people that sold everything else. If you're a sales rep and you can sell a half-million-dollar deal [for NetBackup] here or a $5,000 deal here [for Backup Exec] ... There also was no inside sales for Backup Exec.

So we're focusing back on that. We went out and did focus groups and talked to partners that deal with Backup Exec and customers and they love the product. In the short term, we think we can begin to build it up and stop the flow. In the longer term, it will be delivered as a service with Microsoft [Azure] and Amazon [Web Services]. We believe that is where SMBs will go for backup anyway instead of having their own disks and data centers.

Just about every backup player is talking about the cloud. Is the cloud backup market saturated?

Coleman: No, it's hardly saturated. Most companies don't put their tier-one, mission-critical data in the cloud yet. They are doing a lot of DevOps in the cloud. Increasingly, archiving is done in the cloud but there are several reasons they don't do tier-one loads in the cloud. One, it is reliable enough and it is secure enough and those are getting better. The other is portability because no one wants to be stuck with only running on Amazon in the future.

The other thing is today the cloud providers don't do backup, they do snapshotting. They take a snapshot of what is running and put it on a disk. That means to recover you have to bring the whole thing back. You can't selectively recover. But the more important thing is Amazon tells all their customers that if somebody in your organization deletes something, they are going to delete it and if it's an accident, then there is no way to get it back.

They don't do backup to the cloud, not in the way a mission-critical organization needs it for their tier-one transaction processing workloads. That will evolve in the next several years. We are working with the three big cloud providers in being able to do that with them.

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