Symantec Envisions Shift To SaaS


Rolls out online backup as first software-as-a-service offering


Symantec plans to eventually move all of its software to a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, starting with a new online backup offering the company unveiled Tuesday.

The new Symantec Protection Network, aimed at providing small and midsize businesses with low-cost online data backup and recovery, is Symantec's first SaaS offering, said Jeff Hausman, senior director of product management at the Cupertino, Calif.-based storage and security software giant.

However, Hausman declined to give details about which other Symantec applications would become SaaS offerings and when that might happen.

"We're not announcing products," he said. "We're announcing our vision, which is to take our software and deliver it as customers want it. Our vision is to take all our software and move it to this model."

The move doesn't mean that Symantec will stop selling software, according to Hausman. The company plans to sell both software and SaaS, as well as hybrid offerings, and it will focus its SaaS offerings on the channel, while also making them available directly to customers, he said.

"Symantec is a channel-friendly company," Hausman said. "We are committed to making SaaS work with the channel."

Mark Teter, CTO of Advanced Systems Group, a Denver-based solution provider, said he is excited by the prospect of Symantec moving to SaaS with its products. "Symantec is in a position to help change the way software is delivered," Teter said. "That is innovation."

Advanced Systems Group sells a lot of Symantec software but has no SaaS offerings, a situation that Teter said could change by Symantec's move into software services. "Symantec could legitimize SaaS in the channel," he said.

Jonathan Dambrot, managing director of Prevalent Networks, a Bridgewater, N.J.-based solution provider, said Symantec is using online backup as an opportunity to extend its reputation into the SaaS marketplace.

"The new platform is a good extension of their product line, and they have a strong infrastructure and breadth of knowledge to make it work," Dambrot said. "Symantec's experience with managed services means that their service delivery model will probably be executed extremely well. They'll be able to overcome things that other SaaS vendors deal with, such as the trust factor, which some startup companies have had to battle for."

The Symantec Protection Network online data backup and recovery service is aimed at helping SMBs get access to secure, reliable and affordable data protection, with one fee to cover the service, maintenance and support, Hausman said. The service leverages legacy Veritas backup and recovery solutions and legacy Symantec services management technology, and it relies on some redundant data centers that Symantec has set up for customers to use for online backups.

Customers that sign up for the service will download an agent to get started, Hausman said. The data is encrypted as it is backed up with a private pass phrase the customer uses. To ensure confidentiality of the data, that phrase isn't given to Symantec, but it can be passed on to a third-party escrow service if customers prefer.

The data is backed up using compression and encryption technology and can be managed by the customer or its solution providers via a simple online application that can select the files or folders to be protected.

"We provide always-on protection from anywhere," Hausman said. "We detect any changes and change deltas and transfer the deltas online. We also store a history of versions from 30 days to seven years, depending on customer needs."

The data can be restored from anywhere, he said. "On the Web, users can click on a file to be restored or search for file names or file types. The agent at that site will decompress and decrypt the files to be restored."

Going forward, Symantec will also provide a hybrid offering in which the next version of its Backup Exec data protection application will let users send a copy of backup data to Symantec's data centers at the same time it is sent to their normal backup targets, Hausman said.

NEXT: VAR feedback on the Symantec Protection NetworkThe Symantec Protection Network is currently available as a beta, with final availability and pricing to be determined. Pricing will be a monthly fee based on the amount of data protected, Hausman said.

Solution providers will be able to add their own services atop the Symantec service, including performing and testing the backups on behalf of customers and handling any alerts, he said.

Nick Cellentani, vice president of operations and storage consulting at Adexis, a Columbus, Ohio-based solution provider, said he's not sure why there's so much hype about SaaS when companies such as his have already been providing SaaS-like offerings.

"We as a company have been offering data protection as a service for years," he said.

The Symantec Protection Network will complement Adexis' storage service, Cellentani said. "With Symantec, we can wrap our value around its offering," he said. "Or those who use the Symantec services may get more interest in our services platform."

Brian Reagan, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Arsenal Digital, a Cary, N.C.-based provider of online backup services through partnerships with telcos, managed service providers, and hosted service providers, said his company welcomes Symantec to the SaaS space.

"We view this as positive, not only for the industry, but also for users," Reagan said. "We feel the traditional hardware/software model for data protection is not the best approach for all users."

However, Reagan said Arsenal Digital was somewhat shocked to hear that Symantec only announced a beta offering.

"We expected a full-service offering," he said. "That they took so long is probably because of the need to develop the technology. It took Arsenal Digital eight years to get it right. We expect it to take Symantec another couple years to really learn how to deliver this at scale in a complete offering. They'll find there's a lot of management and other changes that have to happen before they can offer a true SaaS model."

KEVIN MCLAUGHLIN contributed to this article.