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Symantec CEO opens up on future with Veritas, page 2

John W. Thompson discusses the merger of storage and security; the problems with Veritas' licensing model; competing with EMC,;and nurturing, not neglecting, new technology.

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Taking the pain out of dealing with Veritas

Storage Media Group: There are two questions I get from Veritas customers most of the time. One is what are they going to do to integrate their products to work in storage area networks since it's still really a host-based approach? And two, is their pricing model going to change? Veritas really hasn't cracked the nut of network-based pricing, to find a way to make money in that environment.

Thompson: Pricing is the bane of every technology company's existence … I'd like to think that there will be a little flexibility that comes from a company that has the scale that we have to tune the pricing model around the margins. That's not to suggest that tomorrow we're going to come up with some whole new gigantic pricing system because we do have a $5 billion combined forecast for the combined companies. Therefore, we'll have to be careful about how we tune the pricing model.

The one thing that I hear from customers all the time…is that the pricing and licensing process, the negotiating process with Veritas is painful. While that may be true for Symantec as well, we don't hear that as much at Symantec. So maybe we can apply some of our disciplines or practices to the Veritas business to make that more acceptable for customers. You clearly don't want to have customers who feel like the experience of buying your products was so horrible that you forget about the value that you derive from using the product because you have to go through this annual brouhaha on renewal, or whatever the renewal cycle might be.

Storage Media Group: Is that about being a kinder, gentler company, or is it about the actual terms of licensing?

Thompson: I think it's about both. The licensing terms clearly have to be relevant to what customer expectations are. But I also think we bring a brand promise…that's all about trust and we don't let our business operations get in the way of compromising that one core value…. So if the negotiating process is less than crisp, if it creates angst with customers, that could undermine relationships, that could undermine trust over time.

Storage Media Group: Do you see any changes in Veritas' business model?

Thompson: One of the interesting things going on in their research labs is using anomaly detection techniques for detecting unwarranted or unnecessary access to databases or storage devices. Think about being able to add that to the foundation layer of the storage infrastructure. Probably not a bad idea, particularly when you think about today's environment where Lexis/Nexus just announced not a 100,000 records, but 300,000 records put in the public domain. So this notion of protecting data at rest and stronger relationships with the likes of HP or NetApp or IBM – people who feel like their competitor is EMC – will be a good thing for Veritas. And hopefully, the combination of the two companies can do something that's uniquely different than EMC could ever do.

Storage Media Group: How do you interpret Veritas' relative lack of success in integrating even storage and systems management?

Thompson: I don't think they've been at it that long…When you buy little things, how do you give them the attention that they really need? When we buy little stuff, we cordon it off and put dedicated leadership and mentorship and stewardship over it, or it gets lost… You have to have a management process that allows you to take little things that you think are strategically important and nurture them. We've learned that the hard way.

It may very well be that the issue you point to with Veritas is whether they took the right management process for nurturing what were really startups that got lost inside a company that's $1 to $2 billion big.

Storage Media Group: Should users be looking for anything along those lines in the next year from you?

Thompson: Ajei Gopal, who was Symantec's senior vice president of technology and corporate development, will lead the business unit responsible for principally the management technologies and all of our offshore development activities…The stewardship of trying to figure out how do we blend these technologies to try to create a true platform where you can integrate storage and systems and network capabilities and security will be stewarded by Ajei.

Chris Hagerman will have to worry about whether the Veritas clustering capability gets more rapidly deployed across a range of platforms. Does the foundation layer for the file system get more broadly deployed? What is the strategy for the Linux environment for the file system technologies? There are very specific strategic questions each team will have to address. I believe out of this the new Symantec can look at an infrastructure and make decisions about how it should be managed.

The concept here is "How do you make the infrastructure as resilient as possible?" And storage is just one component of that infrastructure. Yet we have enormous assets between Symantec and Veritas to deal with the systems layer. We have few assets to deal with the network layer and the question becomes, is that a place where we need to go, near term? I don't think so. Do you want to go and fight Tivoli and Computer Associates for the network management function, or do you want to be in the same business as Micromuse or some of the smaller companies that are doing specific network management capabilities? My answer to that now is "No, we've got enough on our plate."

Paying more attention to the midmarket

Storage Media Group: EMC is obviously the big dog in this space, but do you worry about companies like CommVault?

Thompson: Sure. They paid attention to a segment that Veritas wasn't paying attention to. There is no reason for CommVault to exist.

Storage Media Group: How do you define that segment?

Thompson:Middle market. What Veritas calls the commercial territory. It's just below the large enterprise, a customer who has big data needs, but doesn't have 50,000 users. It's a company the size of Symantec, perhaps. They've done a terrific job in penetrating that market -- good strong and consistent channel focus, very competitive product, consistent pricing. They've done a good job.

Storage Media Group: Do you need to compete with them now?

Thompson: We need to compete with everybody who's doing the same thing we're doing. And we expect to win.

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