Veritas must reassure APAC customers about private equity ownership

Split from Symantec and now owned by a private equity firm, Veritas faces questions about whether it will sustain innovation for products that may not prove profitable in future.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

LAS VEGAS, USA--Veritas Technologies has kept up a busy product roadmap since its split from Symantec early last year, but its ownership under a private equity firm has led to questions about its commitment to long-term product development.

According to Forrester's senior analysts Naveen Chhabra, Veritas customers in Asia-Pacific remained unconcerned about the separation from Symantec since both vendors always had operated separately. Each kept its own line of sales and capabilities and did not have any overlapping teams, he said.

However, customers did care about the fact that Veritas was now in the hands of a private equity firm, which could potentially affect the products they purchased, Chhabra said in an interview on the sidelines of the vendor's Vision 2017 conference.

Veritas split from Symantec in January last year following the buyout from private equity and asset management firm, Carlyle Group.

New Delhi-based Chhabra said customers questioned if the change in ownership had put stronger focus on profitability and, as a result, products that did not prove lucrative might not see sustained innovation from the vendor.

Noting that this was a concern expressed by customers in Asia-Pacific as well as other regions, he said Veritas would need to clearly communicate its stance on the matter.

And it should probably do so sooner rather than later, especially since it is looking to expand its footprint in Asia.

The region currently contributed just under 20 percent of Veritas' total revenue and CEO Bill Coleman was expecting to grow this to around 30 percent over the next four to six years. To achieve this, he told ZDNet earlier at the conference that the software vendor would have to do a better job coming out with localised products for Asian markets.

Chris Lin, Veritas' senior vice president and Asia-Pacific Japan president, concurred, adding that localisation needs for the region included multi-language support and considerations for local cloud environments, such as data sovereignty regulations.

And while customers in the region no longer discussed the split from Symantec, Lin said Veritas needed to better drive messaging around its new range of products.

He told ZDNet that customers still thought of the vendor as a data protection player and were unaware it had introduced new offerings in the past year as part of efforts to re-establish itself as an information management services provider. These included the Veritas 360 Data Management portfolio, encompassing its flagship Veritas NetBackup, as well as its data visualisation tool, Veritas Information Map.

The vendor's Asia-Pacific Japan vice president and head of technology, Andy Ng, added that the software vendor released more products in the past 10 months than it did during its 10-year history under Symantec.

This, Ng said, spoke volumes about the state Veritas was in before the separation.

At its Vision conference this week, the vendor further announced several new offerings that included software-defined storage platform Veritas Cloud Storage, and updates to its existing products, including 23 new data sources for Information Map and dedup capabilities in Veritas NetBackup 8.1.

Analytics key to competitive advantage

To further expand its footprint in Asia-Pacific, Chhabra said Veritas would need to identify the nature of its customers. He noted that Asia comprised many small and midsize businesses (SMBs) and the software vendor would need to figure out how it was gearing itself, from a product and strategy level, to cater to this company type.

The Forrester analyst then added that developing products that were "amiable" to a group of businesses that typically accounted for 10 percent of global revenue, might not be capabilities all technology vendors would want to heavily invest in.

He suggested Veritas increased its focus on the analytics portion to drive its transition into an information management vendor. The vendor needed to come up with use cases and go deeper to clearly demonstrate how exactly it was helping enterprises extract insights from their data.

He noted that Veritas played in a marketplace that was highly competitive and where customers constantly were looking for incremental value. "This will only come through innovation and leading with thought leadership," he said.

He pointed to two key areas that data protection market players such as Veritas had yet to properly provide, namely, root cause analysis and analytics-driven recommendations. Just as Google Maps today tapped analytical and behavioural data to help users move from one point to another, he urged the need for such tools to guide data backup administrators.

Describing data protection tools as typically "sticky", operating in an enterprise environment for at least five years, the Forrester analyst said this should be better leveraged to establish an understanding of the company's data environment and how its systems behaved.

Chhabra said: "All that data lives within an enterprise, but no one does an analytics around that data like Googles has done with its Maps app. Data protection vendors are not using this to transform the lives of backup administrators, which can come through analytics-driven recommendations."

Asked if this assessment was on point, Veritas' senior marketing director of software-defined storage Dan O'Farrell said the vendor already had invested significant efforts in machine learning to better predict and manage business storage environments.

For instance, it had developed tools to detect and study I/O patterns and data logs so storage systems could best direct workload traffic using the most optimal route. This could be done to ensure businesses remained in compliance with data regulations such as GDPR as well as service level agreements.

O'Farrell said there was no timeframe yet on when Veritas would integrate such functionalities into its products, but said these were areas the vendor currently was working on.

Veritas vice president and EMEA head of technology, Peter Grimmond, added that some of such capabilities already were available in its appliances, in which its engineers would receive an alert to head down to the customer's site to fix the system before a potential failure occurred.

Grimmond added that the vendor would continue to introduce and integrate machine learning capabilities into its products.

Chhabra said he also would be keen to learn more about Veritas' plans for the NetBackup portfolio and how it would address upcoming challenges in the marketplace. In particular, he singled out three competitors--Reduxio, Rubrik, and Cohesity--that Veritas would want to keep an eye on.

He noted, though, that North America remained the primary customer base for these vendors, with Reduxio yet to make a play for Asia-Pacific. And while Cohesity and Rubrik had operations in the region, neither was considerably active in Asia.

Veeam, in particular, had been targeting Veritas' BackUp Exec customers with its migration campaign, advocating "7 reasons not to renew Veritas". It, too, took aim at Veritas' private equity ownership, which it said would likely lead to a primary goal of slashing costs and generating cash for its lenders. Veeam added that Backup Exec had "no automated backup testing and recovery verification" and lacked infrastructure monitoring.

However, Chhabra noted that BackUp Exec was targeted at SMBs and Sohos, while Veeam had been ramping up efforts to increase its presence in the enterprise market. In this aspect, it was "missing that line of thought" with its campaign against Veritas.

He added, though, that while Veeam currently was not of significance to Veritas, it certainly could be a competitive threat in 12 to 18 months.

Based in Singapore, Eileen Yu reported for ZDNet from Vision 2017 in Las Vegas, USA, on the invitation of Veritas Technologies.

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