Who’s Looking After Your Clouds?

Cloud is the answer. It has to be doesn’t it? And its all about software, right? Wrong. I’m at VMworld in Copenhagen this week and its not just about software and its not all about virtual. Sean Regan walked around the show and found 14 hardware boxes that weigh more than him. Cloud? Maybe – clouds aren’t weighed down by steel boxes. Consolidation? Maybe. Some of its expansion, especially in storage, but shhh, don’t tell anyone; its a secret.

From customers I’ve talked to here it seems to be all about doing more with existing hardware. Getting the cloud you want from the infrastructure you’ve got. That sounds like its a blend of physical and virtual, not just all about virtual. Symantec can take the hardware you’ve got today and help you build a cloud infrastructure on top of it in partnership with VMware. Once you’ve built that infrastructure, we’ll help you protect it too. Can you imagine deploying a physical production server without securing it or backing it up these days? You wouldn’t really would you? So why not extend the physical processes and technologies into virtual as you deploy it. Sure, its shiny and new, but that’s not to say the backup, security and availability of it needs to be totally different. How much time have you got to learn new processes and tecnolgoies and try to integrate them with what you’re already using and familiar with? If the answer is lots, then you’re in the minority!

Here’s the other thing if you didn’t manage to get to VMworld this year. It’s funny but everyone is ‘number one for VMware backup.’ I know I’ve said it before in previous posts but Symantec really is – most market share, most customers, most customers backing up virtual environments with Backup Exec and NetBackup.
What you do need to ask though is these two things when it comes to VMware backup:
Firstly, is your backup product VMware Ready? If a backup product isn’t certified by VMware that’s a problem. Why did VMware say no to certification?
Secondly, why are you number one in VMware backup? Ask the question. Most of the responses we’ve had to the question this week at VMWorld have been along the lines of “the marketing guy told us to say that” which is interesting.

What else has been of interest this week? Well outside of the obvious – customers want a better way of backing up VMware than file by file, machine by machine – the better way being the Agent for VMware that we’ve had in Backup Exec for over three years – high availability integration has also been on the agenda. ApplicationHA and it’s integration with Backup Exec and VMware was described to me as “something from the future” by one customer I spoke to today. The ability to look inside a VM and see whether the application has failed, rather than just monitoring the VM it is sitting on, and bring the application up on a second VM – interesting. The next bit more interesting though for Backup Exec customers is that if that failure occurs and the application can’t be failed over, Backup Exec can create a restore job and, optionally, automatically restore as well to bring the machine with the failed application back online. With a retail price of around $350 per VM that kind of functionality and integration seems to me to be something of a bargain.

I’m not going to get started on security for VMware environments other than to say that Symantec is the largest security software company and when you look at new real estate in a virtual infrastructure the combination of market leading backup, security and availability from one company just makes sense. There’s a good reason it’s all market-leading software and all those reasons circulate around our customers who continue to buy and deploy that software.

So who’s protecting your clouds? If you aren’t thinking about Symantec, you aren’t thinking . . .

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Free T-Shirts and Technical Stuff

As I’ve struggled my way through this last week on jet lag, limited sleep and caffeine at Symantec’s Worldwide Sales and Marketing Conference, two things have struck me. The first is that Backup Exec has a special place in a lot of peoples’ hearts. Its roots can be traced back around 30 years and there is a very real passion – among the sales force and pre-sales groups in Symantec, within the channel partner community and among our customers too. We brought themed “Backup Exec Boot Camp” t-shirts and hats to the conference as prizes and throughout the week more and more employees and partners were wearing them – through their own choice. Supporters if you like, but certainly a very loyal following that’s prepared to shout about it from the rooftops. If you want to get one for yourself, look out for the regional Boot Camps we’re going to be running around EMEA in the coming weeks and months. Traveling around EMEA, I meet partners who have built their businesses around Backup Exec and customers who have been using it for years and who are genuinely pleased to meet “a Backup Exec guy” like me.

The second thing that struck me this week was that in spite of the breadth and depth of capabilities within Backup Exec there is also a real awareness gap around those capabilities. I see focused competitors going after the VMware space – there’s loads of stuff talking about them as one trick ponies; there’s more still trying to translate reality from marketing hype. I’m not going to dive into that right now, although Sean Regan wrote an enlightening blog http://bit.ly/kYxIQz that I’d recommend you read. We’re doing our own bit when it comes to virtualisation, backing up more VMWare hosts than anyone else in the market, through Backup Exec and also NetBackup. (IDC market data & Symantec unit bookings).

Here’s the thing though. You could argue all day about the number of companies running Backup Exec, but it’s a lot – well into seven figures. Many of those have already invested in the VMware Agent for Backup Exec in the three or so years that it’s been available, while others are running the Hyper-V Agent in the same sort of time. Hyper-V platform uptake seems to be picking up more and more as well. Despite this I still run into customers and partners who don’t realise these agents exist. There are others too. Backup Exec and De-Duplication, for instance. Symantec System Recovery – there’s another example of how Backup Exec goes so far beyond tape-based physical server backup and can solve real problems for real organisations.

My suspicion is that it’s the approach we take in talking about it all. I don’t just limit that to Symantec. It’s endemic in the industry. We tend to talk about technical stuff – we all do it. What does it do? How does it work? My phone lets me check my mail and make calls (most of the time). I don’t care how it does it; it solves my challenge of communicating with customers, colleagues, family and friends. So what problems does Backup Exec solve? It’s simple really – it makes life easier. Whatever the question, the answer is Backup Exec. If my business is building boats, Backup Exec helps me build more boats. It lets me spend less time doing backup and restore stuff, less money investing in hardware, less time worrying about the complex bits and more time and energy building boats. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Or is it about free t-shirts and technical stuff? And just to clarify, Symantec is #1 for VMware backup, t-shirt or not. http://bit.ly/lXcWi6