Symantec looks to slash costs with backup launch

Amit Walia

Amit Walia, vice president of product management for the information management group at Symantec.

For the recent past, Symantec has kept to a yearly schedule for its twin backup products, NetBackup and Backup Exec. It deviated from that schedule, forgoing a 2011 edition of the offerings.

But it’s back with a vengeance in 2012, and the company has lofty goals, according to Amit Walia, vice president of product management for the information management group at Symantec.

“Our aspiration is that we want to reduce 80 per cent of the operational cost of backup and recovery over the next five years by bringing it all together, making it easier to consume, and controlling data growth,” Walia said at a recent Toronto event for the launch. “We believe we can do that.”

According to Walia, some clients may even be able to reach that figure with the 2012 launches.

“A customer can get to that [80 per cent reduction] within a year or a year and a half, or it can be longer, depending on how fully and quickly it’s implemented,” he said. “Maybe it takes two years.”

The 2012 edition of Backup Exec is the 30th anniversary edition of the software. Walia said that the company’s philosophy for the edition was get every technology possible into the software, but at the same time, make it easier for partners to implement. Especially in the SMB space, Walia said Symantec simply “can’t afford” to have its partners bogged down in the detailed of ordering, configuring and implementing backup technology.

“We want our partners to spend less time connecting the product, and more time selling more backup solutions,” Walia said.

To that end, the company has reduced its list of Backup Exec SKUs (which Walia said used to be two pages, both sides) by 50 per cent.

But while it’s pared down SKUs, it’s added a new product to the family, a Small Business edition of Backup Exec, which targets backing up common Microsoft apps in a one-to-three server customer environment.

Walia said the company is also focused on making Backup Exec easier to buy for customers – for the first time, its products are all available as standalone software, pre-installed on hardware appliances, or as a cloud-based SaaS offering.

The package also adds a sense of disaster recovery for SMB clients – in effect, with Symantec’s hardware-based DR approach, Backup Exec can convert data into a live virtual machine as it backs up, making recovery much easier in many circumstances.

Symantec also tackles the need for SMBs to back up virtual machines with its Backup Exec V-Ray Edition, which it promises to allow IT to offer the same SLAs for backup on virtual machines as it does on physical machines.

Meanwhile, over in NetBackup, the company put the focus on speed. Walia said that through its new NetBackup Accelerator system, it can speed up backups by 100x or more.

It does that by backing up only incremental, deduping at the source and then sending only the unique blocks through the pipe. The result: a 1TB workload might have taken six hours to back up. Add client-side dedup to the mix, and that figure drops to about two hours. But Walia said that with the new edition of NetBackup, that same 1 TB backup can be done in 15 minutes or less, Walia said.

“This is pure engineering innovation,” he said.

The company is also aiming to bring together snapshots and backup in NetBackup, supporting NetApp snapshots through its Replication Director, and is introducing its search technology from Enterprise Vault to help determine what needs to be held in backup and what can be archived out or simply deleted.

Ian Zwirek, network and systems manager for Symantec customer Quadra Chemicals, said that the approach of integrating backup technologies into unified packages appeals to him. “[Backup is] insurance,” he said. “It doesn’t make me any money, so anything I can do to make it cost less, to make it more simple, is great.”

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