CRN Interview: Greg Hughes, Veritas Software

At this week's Veritas Vision end-user and partner conference in Las Vegas, Veritas Software unveiled new components of its utility computing strategy. The company introduced four services consulting practices, including disaster recovery, storage management, application performance management and utility computing. Greg Hughes, named to the newly created position of executive vice president at Veritas global services last October, discussed Veritas' services plans in an interview with CRN Senior Editor Joseph F. Kovar.

CRN: This is a new position for you, working with services at Veritas, right?

HUGHES: The role is a new one. Prior to my joining, there were two separate organizations: a technical support organization and a consulting and education organization. Consulting and education reported through the sales force. Technical support was a separate organization, reporting to [Veritas Chairman and CEO] Gary Bloom. Gary felt it was important to have a very integrated global services organization. So he's brought the two together under my leadership. So I now run consulting, education and technical support globally for Veritas. It provides a much more seamless experience for our customers in those areas--and for our partners as well. Our partners [previously] had to deal with separate organizations in these areas.

CRN: Four new services were announced at Veritas Vision. Are they Veritas' first service offerings?

HUGHES: Veritas has had a consulting organization for quite some time. What these practices are meant to do is to address some specific questions that our customers are asking over and over again. When I got on board in October, one of the first things I did was spend a lot of time in the field, on the road, meeting with our customers, partners, sales force and my organization. And there were some very consistent themes coming up from our customers. One of the themes was that they wanted thought leadership from Veritas. The wanted help on the tough questions that were really the core to their IT strategy. And then they wanted us to leverage our experience working with customers around the world to help them answer these questions. These practices are focused on the highest-priority questions we were getting.

Sponsored post

For example, [a utility computing system for disaster recovery at British Sky Broadcasting Network] was done by our utility computing practice and our consulting organization. That practice sat down with Sky and ran a workshop, the purpose of which was to see where to start applying the principles of utility computing. They determined that the best area to start was disaster recovery because Sky was having difficulty fitting it into their budget. And then we helped them make what we would call pragmatic and deliberate progress toward a utility computing paradigm, assessing the current state of their infrastructure and operations, creating quality of service and service levels that map to what the business needs were and what IT could provide, and designing architectural blueprints that could support those classes of services.

CRN: How about the other services practices?

HUGHES: Our i3 APM [application performance management software] product helps our customers diagnose performance issues in their infrastructure. Storage management practice is going to address the challenge that many of our customers have in reducing the cost of their storage infrastructure, while at the same time improving availability and performance. We have some of the leading storage architects in the world in that practice. And the final one is disaster recovery, helping our customers basically build pragmatic disaster-recovery plans for IT and data.

CRN: So there are disaster recovery, storage management, application-performance management and utility-computing practices. How intertwined are they? Can they be acquired separately?

HUGHES: Our customers may engage in one practice at a time or in multiple practices, depending on the issues they're facing. It's really customer-driven.

CRN: How do channel partners fit in? Where are the opportunities?

HUGHES: I am fundamentally supportive of a growing and healthy channel and systems integration partner group. The first step in helping channel partners was getting very clear with them about where you, as a vendor, are investing to build practices. It's getting clarity around your direction. So they can understand where they can make complementary investments, where they can make investments on top to support and accelerate what you're trying to do, or where they can make completely ground-breaking investments.

We're going to be very open in our techniques and approaches because, ultimately, we're a product company. My services organization supports our product company. The purpose of my services organization is to help our customers get lasting, substantial value from the adoption and use of Veritas technology. It's not to build an independent systems-integration business.

CRN: Has Veritas implemented any of these services yet with channel partners?

HUGHES: [Our i3 APM] is where we would be furthest ahead. [Full] utility computing is probably something that will happen over time. It's a little more of a missionary, a higher-end offering. I would say that for a lot of this stuff, Veritas is breaking ground because of our extensive experience with customers around the world. [We are] creating an opportunity for channel partners to fulfill the same kinds of work with our customers directly, particularly where they've got customer relationships and the customers want them. Ultimately, we want to provide choice to our customers.

CRN: How complete is the i3 APM services offering, and how far has Veritas taken it in the channel?

HUGHES: The services offering starts from installation and implementation, all the way through reporting and performance diagnostics. The performance diagnostics take people who are very trained in performance management, who understand how to read the reports, and [lets them help our customers diagnose problems. Implementation and installation requires people who understand the platforms, [such as] J2EE and Oracle.

We've got overall capacity to do that. But the business is growing pretty fast, and we need to grow that capacity. That's where the channel fits in. So we're working with about 50 channel partners and systems integrators. Our channel partners are very excited about this and see it as a big opportunity to build a revenue stream and engage with different customers.

CRN: What's the next service that Veritas will take to the channel?

HUGHES: I'd say storage management. Partners will be very equipped around storage management. I was talking to a channel partner that has built a practice around what I would call process improvement. Getting effective use out of technology [involves] having effective processes that are best-of-class, well-defined, written down and rigidly adhered to. Unfortunately, not all customers run their operations that way.

CRN: How long before that service is ready to filter into the channel?

HUGHES: I think we can get started right now. Some channel partners will be more ready than others. Some will have something that's closer to this than other channel partners. And that's probably where we'll have to start, with the ones with a more holistic view of storage who are not just technology experts, but understand how to work with the organization, process re-engineering and all of that.

CRN: If partners are interested in these services as part of their preparation for utility computing, what do you expect from them?

HUGHES: At the highest level, we would expect a greater commitment to Veritas and a bigger relationship with Veritas. We fully intend to help our channel partners grow their services revenues. [That commitment] would involve certification. This is very important because that is required for predictable outcome to our customers. [It also would involve] a growing license sell through business because, ultimately, we're here to help build our license business.

We'd also expect high customer satisfaction. We have a program called the Technical Support Partnership Program, where we work with our channel partners to provide technical support. They provide first- and second-line technical support, and go back to us with back-line support. It's a nice way for them to continue their relationship with their customers and to have another economic return. And the way we share in the overall profitability of that is driven by the quality of service they provide.

CRN: Are there certification programs in place for services?

HUGHES: Over time, I would imagine we would create certification programs in these areas. Frankly, we're breaking new ground here. We need to find out what a certification program would look like before we decide that.

Our [current] certification programs are focused around our Foundation products--clustering, backup. We're going to make certification more readily accessible. We're not going to make it easier in the sense of lowering the threshold. It's still very important to have a high threshold for certification that benefits everybody in the ecosystem. But we're doing things like our Virtual Academy, which is really good Web-based training. One thing we were finding out from our channel partners and customers is that sometimes it's hard for them to spend three to five days in a classroom, in a different city. They want to take classes on their own, in their own time, at home or in the office. [Virtual Academy] is the same concept and has the same quality as our curriculum, but it's delivered over the Web.

CRN: How do Veritas' service offerings compare with those of other vendors offering utility computing, such as IBM and Sun Microsystems?

HUGHES: Our customers build their own internal utility rather than [having one provided] to them. We'll continue to work with IBM Global Services, EDS and Computer Sciences Corp. on creating an outsourced utility offering for customers. There will be many customers who want that and want to outsource chunks of their infrastructure. But there also will be many customers who want to own their infrastructures, for security and other reasons. I would say our services focus more on those who want to build their own utility internally.