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Q&A: Symantec CEO John Thompson on poor customer service, storage standards

'We need to go back to the genesis of why we did what we did'

By Brian Fonseca
August 2, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - After struggling to consolidate its ERP systems following its buyout of Veritas in 2005, Symantec Chairman and CEO John Thompson now says his company has only temporarily addressed issues around poor customer service by overstaffing. In a recent interview with Computerworld, Thompson addressed online licensing problems as well as how the company's Storage United and data center automation will allow administrators to consolidate management across multiple vendor storage products.

Excerpts from that interview follow:

Have you sufficiently addressed related customer service issues and long telephone waits?  We think we have by overstaffing, but that's not a sustainable model, so we have to fix the technology underpinnings. There's a new release of the portal that is forthcoming. … I've kind of lost track where we are timing-wise … but we threw an awful lot of head count at this wait-time problem. Wait times from their peak of well over an hour are down to now under two minutes. I think we have addressed it; if your readers say we haven't, then I'd like to hear that [see "Piracy ring hits Symantec, slows Veritas license rollout "].

When can customers begin to see true integration between Symantec and Veritas products? I think you already see that with Backup Exec System Recovery, where we've taken the system recovery tools out of the Symantec portfolio and embedded them into Backup Exec so you now have a seamless recovery process either for the data or the application or the operating environment. Also, Symantec Endpoint Protection incorporates file systems technology from Veritas that allows us to get at rootkits, which are one of the most daunting challenges in the security realm. We'll continue to do those kinds of integrations where it makes sense. But to say I'm going to take NetBackup and tie it to our malicious content-scanning capability -- I don't think the market needs that. We have to be thoughtful about where can we integrate these technologies, and that's been the path we've been on. At the time we announced the acquisition to the marketplace, we said it would take us 18-24 months before we start to ship converged integrated products. Well, that's exactly where we are. Now if there are other things customers would like to see us do, we're all ears to listen.

How does Storage United and its proposed software integration approach solve overlapping responsibilities within the data center? Our initiatives around Storage United and data center automation or our standardization story around what we do in the data center are all about trying to get a horizontal view where I have common technologies that run on all these disparate systems. Then I'm able to optimize the human capital because I can train a storage administrator once on my software and he or she can manage a device from EMC, a device from NetApp, a device from Hitachi, a device from Dell, a device from HP -- you pick it -- because they now have a common interface and a common set of tools across all those disparate operating environments. I think that's a better way of thinking about data center optimization and what [organizations] are currently doing.



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