How Veritas is getting its cloud on

Bill Coleman, Veritas' CEO, wants to help you find and manage your data -- wherever it resides -- and turn it into a competitive resource

Bill Coleman, a 25-year veteran of the tech industry, became Veritas Technologies' CEO a little over a year ago. He's been leading the charge to help the software vendor transition from selling legacy point storage products to creating an integrated information-management platform. The goal is to provide something that's agnostic -- will work in the cloud or on-premises or both -- and that won't require customers to invest in a constant stream of upgrades to get there.

In this installment of the IDG CEO Interview Series, Coleman sat down with IDG U.S. Media's former Chief Content Officer, John Gallant, and spoke about how he plans to get there and what's next for the 25-year-old company now that it's completed its split from former parent Symantec.

Let's start off by about helping readers understand the split of Veritas from Symantec. What drove that decision, and what does it mean for customers?

I think what drove the decision was that both the security and the data sides were undergoing transformation in the marketplace. Security is a little ahead and data is moving toward information management. I think the Symantec board felt that the synergy between the two was less and therefore being able to execute a business transformation on both sides would be better with them split apart. That's the feeling I got when I started talking to [Symantec CEO] Mike Brown. I'd been on the board for many years -- until 2011 -- and he called me when he became the CEO and we talked about it right from then. I think it was just a practical business decision.

You've had a lot of success in business. Why did this particular opportunity entice you back in?

What really changed my mind was what's going to happen in the next five years in information management as we move from point products -- managing, storing, recovering, archiving data -- to trying to leverage information wherever it is, particularly as we cloudburst to the cloud and into SaaS applications to gain insight so that our customers can transform their own business models to better compete. Twice in my life I've lived through disruptions -- with Sun, when we basically put the minicomputer out of business, and with BEA at the dawn at the internet. And they were the most exciting times I ever had. I never thought I'd get the chance to do it again and with a company at scale. I don't know, I guess it's something of that excitement I've always had for technology that drove me back.

I want to talk a little bit more about the whole shift to this information management strategy but just a couple of quick things before we get to that. What is your number one priority now that Veritas is a standalone company?

My number one priority is to turn Veritas into the leader in the digital transformation age.

Can you expand on that a little bit more? What does that mean?

What has really surprised me is as the quarters progressed, when I meet with a customer the first thing I ask is: Would you mind telling me what your strategies, priorities are? [For] almost every one of them it's digital transformation. One of them was the CTO of a large bank; he actually was a Sun Solaris guy years ago too. His answer was very simple: Digital transformation is taking data, turning that into information, turning that into insight and then turning that into value for our customers that we can use to go beat our competition.

That is what our enterprise customers are focusing on as their number one strategic priority. And my number one priority is to absolutely lead that to provide our customers the best solution with the broadest [number] of choices, without any need to be tied to proprietary hardware or software.

In preparing for this I read some of the interviews with you and things that you've written as well. I get the sense that you describe Symantec's ownership of Veritas as a kind of benign neglect. What have you had to fix because of that neglect?

That separation happened 14 months ago. Like anything, there were things that needed to be tuned up. I basically had three priorities in the first fiscal year. Number one was to gain cloud relevance. Number two was to move our product set to an integrated platform that could address compliance and digital transformation. Number three was to build the leadership team and the culture that can execute on the first two.

There was a different strategy for the company while it was part of Symantec. They were beginning to develop some new products that helped us but they really didn't have a vision on how they were going to become a leader in cloud and an integrated platform company. That's [not] to say that Symantec was doing anything wrong. They were moving ahead on a line strategy on how you improve your products to meet the product use cases as they were evolving. The biggest thing we did was create the vision and the strategy that allowed us to really capitalize on information management.

When you took over and when the separation happened, what would you say was the state of the Veritas product line? What needed to be upgraded and what needs to maybe go away?

Nothing needs to go away. The state was this: We had and still have the highest customer satisfaction in the industry. Some of the senior sales executives I've hired, two of them in particular, including Scott Genereux, have both commented that at their previous companies they'd go in to meet a customer and the first ten minutes or so were all about what you can do better, what you're doing wrong. That doesn't happen here. Customers love our products. They really work and they're the most heterogeneous, the most capable -- but they're legacy. The thing we had to focus on to begin with is, as I said, first cloud.

Our products weren't consistently operating in cloud as well as on-prem. We had to fill that out. We adopted a strategy that says we want to be not just hybrid cloud but multi-cloud, where [with] one single integrated platform you can manage consistently through policy across any combination of private and public cloud providers, giving our customers a choice, and we did that. The second was they really hadn't introduced a new product in over five years, a new organically developed product. In this last 14 months we have shipped four products that provide an integrated framework with [a] RESTful API interface that allows all of that to be run and managed as an integrated set through a software-defined storage policy framework.

Those were the big things we had to do, and I'm very proud of the team. We announced it at our Vision Conference in September and we introduced it in December, and we're building out more and more as this year proceeds.

Just to be clear, when you say you introduced it in December, specifically what was announced?

We call it the 360 Data Management Platform. It is our NetBackup product with a RESTful API interface that allows us to integrate other products. Then our Veritas Access product, which allows you to allow all network attached storage wherever it is and it includes the policy frameworks -- and now we have the software-defined storage framework. It includes Information Map, which gives [the] metadata for all your data ... so you can visualize all your data wherever it is, categorize it, then use Access to manage it.

It's our Veritas Resiliency product, which is meant for disaster recovery. But what it actually does, of course, is automate migration of data and applications and that allows for migration to and across clouds of data and applications based on policy.

Then we announced our Velocity product for copy data management. By integrating all those together we have now the only single integrated platform that can address all your data wherever it is, whether it's compliance or digital transformation.

Where this is such a critical concept and so central to the strategy, can you talk a little bit more about what exactly you mean by a software-defined data management platform? I want to make sure that people really understand what you mean by that and what it will deliver for them.

In this platform, our 360 Data Management Platform, the primary software-defined storage capability we're providing is the policy framework and the workflow orchestration. That's what makes it an integrated platform. Based on policy you can look at all the metadata of all your information categories like the general data protection regulations for the European Union, determine where all the personal identifying information is, analyze that, be sure it's stored appropriately to meet those regulations and manage, move or delete it as necessary and then, of course, report on it. That's where we are now.

We also announced last year that we're building a full microservice, container-based end-to-end platform that will . . . provide a management framework for our products and our competitors' products that will complete the software-defined storage capabilities, adding the control plane so that you no longer have to use any proprietary hardware and other capabilities. So it's a two-phase strategy.

At the end of this, the upshot is that people have essentially a data management and control plane that operates in the cloud and across any infrastructure that they're using. Is that the goal to get to?

That's exactly the goal. We'll be basically there as we build out the rest of the platform capabilities [of] the 360 Data Management Platform capabilities between now and the end of September. We have a set of releases.

That was my question. When would people have the completed platform? When do you see this being fully rolled out?

It will culminate with our NetBackup 8.1 release this fall. Along the way, we're expanding the data sources that you can visualize. All of the SaaS apps, whether it's things like Salesforce or Oracle or any combination, wherever your data is you can visualize it. We've announced we're extending to include an entire hyperscale volume-management capability across all of your private cloud. We're containerizing all of our products so they can be moved in any combination even more effectively.

These are all capabilities we've announced as part of our strategy. And with a set of releases culminating with 8.1, we will fully encompass all of that. The reason September is so important is there will be less than three quarters then to actually fully meet the GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation] compliance and we have that automated for all your data sources with all the actions that you need to be able to perform at least six to eight months before you have to go forward. We have a practice to evaluate and determine what the plans are. We can begin to visualize data right now, but no one else can do this at scale or even has announced a product set that can do it at scale. So we're really, really focused on it.

If I'm an existing Veritas customer, what will I have to do to get to this platform? What will I have to upgrade? What will I have to buy to get to this completed vision that you're talking about?

The good news is we're trying to make sure that it's always the customers' choice, where you're heading with your strategy and what steps you can adopt without having to throw anything away.

The basis of this starts with NetBackup 8.0 and completes with NetBackup 8.1. The rest of the capabilities, as you adopt them, are integrated. It's just taking advantage of incremental capabilities. You're never going to have to replace what you currently have, you're just going to have to be able to upgrade as you need the newer capabilities.

Information Map, for instance, has been integrated with NetBackup since last summer. We're seeing increasingly customers adopt that to be able to do compliance on the data that they have. It started with NetBackup and now it's into other capabilities.

Sky, one of Europe's largest leading entertainment companies, basically adopted that last year without having to change NetBackup. All they had to do was add incremental capability of Information Map to give them visibility of their data environment to better understand how their customers are buying and using their entertainment capabilities.

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