CRN Exclusive: Veritas CEO Bill Coleman Discusses Why His Company's Partnership With Microsoft Azure Is So Different

Veritas Wants To Be A Force In The Cloud

When data protection and management software developer Veritas spun out of Symantec two years ago, there was concern about how it would survive as an independent company.

The company had release very few new products while with Symantec and its newer, more nimble competitors frequently namechecked its Veritas Backup Exec and NetBackup lines when comparing themselves to legacy gear.

Recently, though, Veritas launched strong competitive offerings in software-defined storage and cloud-focused data protection. Just as important, it unveiled a tight strategic relationship with Microsoft Azure, and introduced its 360 Data Management platform for managing data in multi-cloud environments.

Veritas CEO Bill Coleman sat down with CRN to discuss the big changes his company has seen in the last two years, and use the time to argue that Veritas is as nimble as any two-year-old startup despite its decades-old roots.

Why did Veritas focus on partnering with Azure? What about the other cloud providers?

Until now, we had the most offerings on the AWS cloud. AWS is a good partner, but they actually don't have a go-to-market arm. Which is fine, so we do the selling. This announcement was Microsoft adopting the [Veritas] Access [software-defined NAS] product and the VRP (Veritas Resiliency Platform), and they'd already adopted Enterprise Vault, Backup Executive, NBU (NetBackup), and eDiscovery. So they now have the suite. So they're the first ones that actually have adopted (our) 360 Data Management. That's why we're making a big deal out of it. We want everybody to adopt all of it.

How about other cloud providers?

Google is moving along very rapidly, as is IBM. So we'll be seeing further announcements with them. The reason we're trying to really position the cloud folks is, one of the big misunderstandings when we started this carve-out was [people saying we're] not going to be a player in the cloud. No one's going to use any of [our] products in the cloud. We want to make it very clear our products are in the cloud, and we're partnering with those guys because there are things you can't do without some of our products.

You mentioned that AWS doesn't have a marketing arm. How important is joint marketing with Microsoft Azure to Veritas' developing of the market?

It's important because they have tens of thousands of customers. A lot of them are not enterprise. For example, they've adopted Backup Exec, and we have the new version 12 which supports cloud. We wouldn't even be able to address those customers without Microsoft. [Microsoft has] a low-end ERP product for the commercial business segment. This is a complement to that.

Plus, they're in almost every enterprise. But one of the big reasons that they started this discussion with us is Office 365. They're being told by a lot of customers, 'Look, we've Office 365, but we've got a lot of governance issues related to our email in the cloud. And therefore, we need to have a product to be able to do that and discover how long it's been there, when do you delete it, are you allowed to keep it?' That kind of stuff.

Is there any risk that Microsoft might someday develop its own product strategy for things like data protection or data management?

They may. And any of them may. But we get to be Switzerland. Put yourself in the position of an enterprise. They are going to manage their own data. They're going to try to exploit their own data. And their own data is not going to just be in Microsoft or [in any one cloud]. That would imply that an enterprise would be willing to use separate data management solutions for every cloud. Well, that would negate the value of being portable across clouds, and it would dramatically raise costs and mean you have to use all the different proprietary tools that each cloud has to do any sort of analysis on it.

If they develop their own proprietary version, they could maybe develop it for all the other clouds. But then are customers going to move all their data to it?

In the VMworld conference in August, the big news was how closely VMware is working with AWS to develop its cloud strategy…

They've given up their whole cloud strategy and partnered with AWS. It's a big deal. I've spent a lot of time with [VMware Chief Operating Officer] Sanjay Poonen and [VMware CEO] Pat Gelsinger about that. We're integrating with all their product, their cross-cloud product. We've made a couple of announcements, but we're going to continue to do that. They don't compete with us, and we don't compete with them in the primary market. Even if they develop the products that would compete with us, [the] switching cost is really high. I asked one of our biggest customers in the world – it's a big bank, they have 35,000 servers devoted to our software – if they were gonna switch from us, what would it cost and how long would it take? And their answer came back: $100 million and two years.

If you look at Veritas' growing relationship with Microsoft and VMware's growing relationship with AWS, are we seeing more companies who have not been thought of as cloud companies are working more closely with public cloud vendors?

Enterprises want to take advantage of the cloud but they don't want to be locked in. And ultimately, they want to be able to do some pricing arbitrage across them. But also for security reasons, for liability reasons, for latency reasons maybe.

I've known Pat Gelsinger a long time, and he has done a phenomenal job. As of last month, he's been there five years. Five years ago, I would have told you that in five years their sales were going to be declining a lot because all they were was a one-trick virtual machine pony with a little hypervisor over it. He got rid of a bunch of stuff. They moved out Pivotal, etc. And then he focused on this multi-cloud management.

It may be container-based stuff moving forward. But once they moved up to that next level and they're the trusted partner doing that, they just got their next level niche. It's something that no individual cloud provider could do.

There's a lot of talk about digital transformation. How do you define digital transformation?

I will credit this to Greg Lavender, the CTO of Citigroup. It's taking data, turning it into information, turning that into insights that allow you to transform what you're doing to serve your customers better and beat your competition. End of story.

There's no mention of hardware-software in there.

No. No. The customer's value is not about hardware/software. It's about transforming the products they have, the way they provide the products to their customers, and every aspect of the business processes that support that and the logistics and the supply channel, and if they can do that better. We've seen business models like Uber and Airbnb and all that transform. This is gonna take it to every kind of business model you can imagine, just up it a whole level.

So how is Veritas different in its approach to digital transformation?

Okay. One, we've built a platform and two, we're selling a solution which has customer value. We're not selling products. And that's why I think, we are disrupting the industry.

You don't call the 360 Data Management portfolio a product?

I call it a solution.

Customers don't buy it just to buy a platform. They buy it to solve a problem, and that problem could be digital transformation, GDPR, or it might just be storage management across the cloud.

Since Veritas became independent from Symantec, has it done much in terms of acquisitions?

We made one small acquisition. A company called Avni [Networks]. Brought in a team. I had funded Avni. That formed the basis for this next-generation product we're building. That was in January.

Which product was that?

That's that next generation that I call the enterprise data management platform, this whole microservices-based thing.

We will probably close a second [acquisition] in the next two months. It's real simple. We have a strategy, and we know what we have to build. We're looking for tuck-in acquisitions that solve some combination of two problems. A competency we don't have, and we need and time to market. That's the strategy.

How often do you meet with channel partners?

When I'm on the road, I usually meet with channel partners on every trip. Or every two customers I meet, I meet with one partner. And a lot of times when we go to a geography, I'll have dinner with half a dozen partners.

Over 86% of our revenue comes through partners.

And we're [taking our solution business] to the next level with our partners. We've got a big partner enablement program looking at what's next: backup-as-a-service, disaster recovery-as-a-service. There's lots of value people can get out of these. We're not a professional services company. Now we have some but we really have to have partners to build and turn these into solutions.

Is there anything Veritas partners don't know about Veritas?

They know now we're moving to all these new products, right?

You said you don't make products.

Yeah. All of these new solutions. Thank you for correcting me. I think they know what we're doing. We're trying to be totally transparent. More than anything else, what we've been asked for is, 'How can you enable us? How can you help us?' A lot of this is expansion and changing of business models.