Apples and Toasters

Apple Toaster

Apples weren’t my thing a couple of years ago. It was all a bit too predictable. You could tell the guy on the train who was going to get a Mac out of his laptop case – it was ‘a certain type.’ Now it seems I have become one of those types. It’s ok these days because every second person has an Apple product of one type or another. I’m hopeful that fact prevents me from being part of that once-predictable crowd.

For me it started with a phone. I had two Blackberries over a period of two or three years and they served their purpose really well. I was a huge fan. Then one day, the whole RIM-outage-no-mobile-email-reboot-it-every-so-often thing just became too difficult. It turned out that in my job (for which mobile communication is important) having to do all those extra bits and pieces you have to do when you own a Blackberry, were getting in the way of actually doing my job. Landing in another country for a one day meeting and finding that I couldn’t pick up a local mobile phone provider signal and couldn’t get any email just wasn’t acceptable. The truth is not that there was anything desperately wrong with Blackberry. I’m still a huge fan of the physical keyboard – by the way, the original Bold 9000 had the best keyboard by a country mile. What changed was me. Doing email and making phone calls on the go is a by-product of what I do but an important one. As a result something like that getting in the way was just, well, getting in the way. So there’s Apple number two.

Yes, number two. iPad came to me before iPhone in fact, as Apple number one, but since I had nothing to compare the iPad to, as much as I like it (and am writing this now on it at 38,000 feet) it didn’t dawn on me what the difference with Apple products was until the iPhone.

It took me a while to get used to the iPhone over the Blackberry. Issues aside, I knew what I was doing with the Blackberry. I’d used them for so long day-in, day-out that I knew all the quirks and what had to be done when. Up to a point that worked, as noted. When I say it took me a while to get used to the iPhone, I’m talking a couple of days. There were a few ‘what is it trying to do now’ moments. I was trying to use it like a Blackberry – trying to impose the previous user experience on a new interface. The irony was instead of trying to learn what was going on, just becoming part of the experience and letting the thing guide me worked out fine. I’m as comfortable if not more so with the iPhone as I was previously with Blackberry.

Apple number three was the Mac. Much like Blackberry I’d always had a Windows laptop. Ten plus years. Yes, they’re slow sometimes and get slower as they get older. Yes, there’s a bunch of stuff you just have to know to get it to work properly and so on, but it was comfortable and so I clung on to my Windows laptops – a fair number of them. But once again, as I changed and the work I was doing changed so my needs changed. The value to me now of a laptop that weighs almost nothing and is there when I need it, with no extended boot sequence and with plenty of battery life is greater than the comfort of previous machines. And yes, it is awfully pretty as well.

They key to all of this for me, with all of these devices, is that they’re built to do one thing and do it well. In the same way, if you want to toast bread you buy a toaster not a grill. Yes the grill may be able to do a load of other stuff as well, but all I need to do is toast bread. The toaster is an appliance built to do one thing, do it well, and not require any real knowledge or talent (not that I’m suggesting that making toast is complex you understand.) What I’ve been getting my head around recently is the difference between the toaster and the grill. What makes an appliance an appliance rather than a bunch of things thrown together in a effort to make life simpler. Apple seems to do it pretty well. It also seems that the toaster in our kitchen does it pretty well – rarely is there burnt toast. It’s about making it easier when what we’re trying to achieve is not the primary thing we do. My job isn’t doing email on the move but it is something I need to be able to do, therefore, iPhone. I don’t toast bread for a living either, therefore, toaster.

You’ll know by now in this blog that I’m getting to the bit I do actually do – backup. More specifically backup appliances and more specifically still, Backup Exec Appliances. Not just a bunch of stuff we’ve thrown together in a box. Built specifically to do one job and do it well. Serving a purpose. Because if your primary job is doing backups every day, what else could you be doing more usefully if backups were easier to do. And if your primary job isn’t doing backups every day then you surely want ‘doing backups’ to be as straightforward and worry-free as possible, don’t you? So there it is; Backup Exec Appliances – rather like Apples and Toasters . . . ripe now and cooked just right.

This train terminates here . . .

I’ve been away for quite some time. Not physically, you understand, although the same level of travelling around the world applies, as ever, but in writing terms. A lot has been happening in the world of Backup Exec and its left me with little time to sit and think and write. For that I can only apologise but its all been in the name of a good cause. If you’re reading this then you are probably aware that Backup Exec 2012 has been launched. Its significant. It brings change, but not just change for the sake of change. It brings change that makes life easier. I urge you to familiarise yourself with the changes. I moved from a Blackberry to an iPhone a little while ago and its a bit like that. Different, but better and it took no time at all to get into a new look and feel.

While I’m on the subject of change, its change time for me too. For the last eleven years I’ve been looking after Backup Exec in one role or another and that’s a long time in anybody’s book so its time for something new. I had an offer that came out of nowhere really. But wait, it’s not game over. I’m getting off this train, but I’m getting on another train. Another yellow train – in fact another Backup Exec train. One of the areas we talked about as part of the recent product launch was the Backup Exec Appliance. I’ve mentioned it here before, and no, at the time I didn’t know I’d be changing roles, but that’s what I’m picking up – the Backup Exec Appliance business. It follows the path of what I really believe in when it comes to protecting data – two things: it’s not about backup and restore; firstly, it’s about making life easier, better and secondly if I’m a company that builds boats it’s about helping me to build more boats. Plug and play, all in one place, done for you. You focus on what you do as a business, I’ll focus on what I do. So now when you think about protecting your data and you get to the software bit, you just have to decide whether you want it to arrive in a box, or on a box? With Backup Exec 2012 both options are easy. Perhaps one will turn out to be more easy than the other. Your call.

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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