Symantec taps Dell to fix e-mail archiving support

Admitting that its support for Enterprise Vault has been a problem, Symantec plans to lean on Dell to sell and support the software worldwide.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Symantec Corp. is reaching out to Dell Inc. to beef up its support capabilities around e-mail archiving, an area the company has been struggling with, according to John Thompson, chairman and CEO of Symantec.

Thompson admitted Monday, during his opening keynote at the company's user show, that its support of the KVS Enterprise Vault e-mail archiving product has been a problem. Veritas acquired KVS in August 2004 before being gobbled up itself by Symantec in Dec. 2004.

"We've struggled to ramp resources around the Enterprise Vault product," Thompson said, replying to a question from a disgruntled healthcare customer. "It's been a challenge finding the

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skills; it's not a funding issue," he said, adding that the company's ability to sell the product outstripped its resources to support it.

"We've had huge problems getting support up as everybody wants something slightly different," said Jamie Clifton, product marketing manager for Enterprise Vault at Symantec. He says there are over 4,000 customers and 5 million mailboxes on the Vault, and while some are using it for compliance, others have implemented it for costs savings and yet another group have deployed it to minimize backup. "We need to manage the expectations of the product, maybe focus it better," he said. For example, he said customers will complain that they can't delete anything from the Vault when that's the way that it was designed.

In an effort to address the issue, Symantec is leaning on Dell Inc. to help standardize the way in which Enterprise Vault is deployed. Next month, Dell will announce a bundle based on Enterprise Vault for Microsoft Exchange users, according to Hilson Mota, team lead in the software support division of Dell Services. He declined to give further details until the product is officially announced.

And who better to standardize on implementation procedures than Dell? "They are renowned for standardization of offerings," said William Hurley, senior analyst with Data Mobility Group. "E-mail is a major pain point for users, it's a workgroup technology that has become mission critical …If Dell can come up with a cookie-cutter methodology to archive e-mail, that will help a lot of people."

For its part, Dell's storage business was the fastest growing unit during its fourth quarter, which ended Feb. 3, with a 41% growth in revenue. Its services revenue grew 26%. Services and storage still represent only 12% of the company's overall revenue, but they are growing fast compared with its other businesses. Dell is expected to report its first-quarter earnings on May 18.

The new Enterprise Vault bundles are expected to target midsized companies and will be sold in a variety of configurations. Packages for other applications like BrightMail and SQL Server are also on the roadmap, according to Mota.

Another area of support that's still bothering Symantec customers is licensing. Thompson said Symantec is still figuring out how to fix this problem and probably always will be. "It's like asking you, do you like your salary?" he said. "How many people are going to say yes?" However, he added, "We can still do a heck of a lot better." The company has a project, referred to internally as "Oasis," that aims to bring together the back office infrastructure at Symantec. It is working on streamlining pricing and licensing under this umbrella and plans to have more news in the December quarter, Thompson said.

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