We're happy to welcome Jason Buffington, senior analyst at ESG (Enterprise Strategy Group), onto our blog page. Jason will contribute a six-blog series that will focus on key issues related to data and information management, compliance, security and share his perspective on top customer considerations for establishing best practices in today’s changing IT landscape.
Buffington is focused primarily on data protection, Windows Server infrastructure, management, and virtualization. He has actively deployed or consulted on data protection and storage solutions since 1989, working at channel partners, Cheyenne (CA) ARCserve, NSI DoubleTake and Microsoft.
This is the second installment. Read the first installment here.
In 2015 alone, we’ve seen HP separate into two companies, Symantec separate to re-form Veritas and the announcement that Dell will acquire EMC, just a few years after Dell acquired and assimilated Quest – and certainly, the industry is not done expanding, contracting, adding new startups, etc. Each of these events has had markedly different influences on the data protection market within IT, and the Dell-EMC hasn’t actually happened yet (and likely won’t until well into 2016).
At the beginning of the year, my 2015 Data Protection Predictions video discussed some of the changes that were imminent:
At around the three-minute mark, I talk about the anticipated flux in the industry:
2015 ought to be a year with a lot of change. Not only the what's being backed up by the who, but also the who you're going to get backed up with. A lot of the big data protection vendors are going through different kinds of reorgs of one kind or another. You've got a lot of the smaller data protection folks that are really getting pretty feisty and their tech is actually pretty good. I expect for you to see a couple of more closures, a couple of more acquisitions. There's a few folks I'm especially keen to watch because they're either going to explode and just get huge or they're going to implode based on a failure to execute their go-to-market strategy or their message doesn't line up with their products. But I think 2015 is going to be the year where there's going to be a lot of change and that's going to make it interesting to watch.
One company that hasn’t merged, been acquired, split or imploded is Commvault.
To understand the relevance of that, you have to think both big and small:
- In the big picture, most of the other industry leaders acquired or developed their data protection offering(s) through acquisitions, in an effort to deliver a more complete set of solutions to their customers that also included servers, storage, or other systems. Many were successful in those endeavors to varying degrees, though some of those endeavors were later sold off when the ‘whole wasn’t greater than the sum of the parts.’
- In the smaller picture, many of the vendors in the discussion routinely listened to what their customers wanted from a comprehensive data protection solution. When faced with the recurring ‘build vs. buy’ decision, they consistently chose ‘buy’ – often to deliver something to market sooner. The challenge then changes from ‘building’ the solution to ‘integrating’ within a broader portfolio; something that hasn’t always been done well by some of those organizations.
In both lenses, Commvault stands on relatively unique ground:
- In the big picture, Commvault has consistently had a ‘partner-centric’ strategy, meaning a willingness to integrate with a wide variety of hardware and software partners in a complementary way, whenever possible. As such, it has enjoyed a variety of OEM and bundling offerings over the years that would have been far less probable, if they were merely part of a hardware vendors’ software portfolio.
- In the smaller picture, when Commvault’s customers asked for new functionality, the decision was invariably ‘build’ instead of ‘buy.’ This resulted in a continually expanding set of integrated functionality – which likely fueled some of the sought partnerships from the bigger picture, regardless of the tumultuousness of the industry.
As the dust settles for HP and Veritas in their new organizations, each will very likely benefit from the refined focus, though each still has a broad portfolio to bring to market, which may be both a challenge and a differentiable opportunity. For Dell and EMC, each will earnestly endeavor to remain ‘business as usual’ for the next few quarters (since they are still separate), while continually having to fend off ‘what/if/when’ questions along the way – see the ESG blog and video on the Data Protection considerations of Dell & EMC.
As the Dell-EMC merger gets closer to reality, there will inevitably be some hesitation by customers and partners of both product lines to make longer-term bets, because backup administrators are risk-adverse. Our vocational task is to imagine business impacting scenarios that can be mitigated by IT implementations. A modern and comprehensive data protection solution is about removing risk to IT systems and services by enabling agility for remediation, recovery or restoration. So, anything that introduces risk, like potential end-of-life of products, changes in support systems (pre-sales or post-sales), etc. makes us hesitant.
To be clear, I am confident that each of the industry events mentioned, and others that weren’t mentioned, will eventually result in vendors that are more likely able to build from their data protection pedigrees and eventually deliver unique and compelling offerings in market to their segments. But in the meantime, what will be interesting to watch is how more stable vendors that are continuing to evolve their offerings (like Commvault) will benefit as risk-adverse IT teams and their leadership consider who to partner with in 2016.