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Cohesity: We won’t abandon NetBackup customers or force migration

Cohesity won’t abandon any NetBackup product, force migration to Cohesity or leave any NetBackup customers behind. And all that while the backup giant aims to become a leader in security and artificial intelligence (AI) data management.

That’s the promise of Cohesity CEO Sanjay Poonen and finance director Eric Brown, who were interviewed recently by Computer Weekly’s French sister site LeMagIT.

It comes in the context of the news that long-established backup software maker Veritas is to be bought by relative newcomer Cohesity.

The acquisition – valued at $3bn – will see Cohesity’s annual turnover go from around $700m to $1.6bn, going by the company’s 2023 results, with customer numbers increasing from around 3,500 to more than 10,000, with most in large enterprises.

Despite suggestions at the time of the initial announcement, Cohesity won’t buy all of Veritas. Developments around Kubernetes (InfoScale), analytics functionality, and even Backup Exec for PC will remain the property of the Carlyle Group investment fund, which bought Veritas from Symantec in 2016. It will have to create a new company to assure the future of the parts of Veritas that Cohesity doesn’t want.

And what now for the largest NetBackup customers? Should they fear for their relationship with the supplier, of changes to contracts and options available? How will NetBackup be integrated into Gaia, Cohesity’s new AI-based analytics and content creation platform?

LeMagIT: Why did you buy NetBackup?

Sanjay Poonen: To make the most creative deal in data protection since EMC acquired Data Domain deduplication appliances in 2009. We were number eight in this market and, thanks to this acquisition, will be number three. We will address 96 of the 100 biggest US enterprises – compared to 44 now – and 80% of the 500 biggest in the world.

We found Veritas to be the best candidate to help us deploy our new strategy. It is becoming the leader in “security and management of data based on AI”. It’s a mouthful – and I haven’t found a shorter way of saying it – but it sums up the idea well” Sanjay Poonen, Cohesity

But why Veritas rather than another? We worked for 15 months on this. We found Veritas to be the best candidate to help us deploy our new strategy. It is becoming the leader in “security and management of data based on AI”. It’s a mouthful – and I haven’t found a shorter way of saying it – but it sums up the idea well. The key backup players are diversifying as they orient towards cyber security (because of ransomware), data management (which is very fluid owing to flash and object storage), analytics (due to ChatGPT). We aim to offer a platform that unifies these three areas of functionality.

But how can you get the best experience in the field, the best knowledge, unless you base yourself on a historic player of 40 years in backup like Veritas? Over the years, Veritas has developed dozens of connectors to ingest all types of content – from structured databases to unstructured files – for all applications that count in the market, recent and historic. That’s the key that allows us to assure security, data management and analytics for all content.

Eric Brown: What we’re getting from Veritas is the global presence, customer service that has been widely praised, with a very high contract renewal rate. They have customers that have been with them 20 or 30 years.  

LeMagIT: Why buy just NetBackup and not the rest?

Sanjay Poonen: Our market is the enterprise market. We don’t want a BackupExec for the PC. Regarding the rest – like infoScale for file systems, like analytics modules – we’ve already got them. We already have a modern approach to these subjects that will benefit NetBackup users.

In file systems, the ancient world is where applications are backed up and stored on hardware like DataDomain that can last as long as the capacity of its disks as it deduplicates content. We have an elastic approach. Cohesity inherited a hyper-converged approach that its founder, Mohit Aron, developed when he co-founded Nutanix. You can extend as you want with capacity devolved to backups, on-site or in the cloud.

But above all, our hyper-converged file system allows us to attain performance 10 times that of our competitors when we restore data. Our customers choose Cohesity so they can recover activity an hour after an attack, not 10 hours.

On analytics, we have announced Cohesity Gaia. It acts as a chatbot that allows interrogation of backup data to generate clear and useful information in decision-making for the realisation of commercial objectives. For example, you can ask it to sum up historical relations with a customer.

The key benefit of Cohesity Gaia is that it guarantees security and compliance without ever copying data to machine learning for training. Our system is one of the first to be based on RAG [retrieved augmented generation] technology. It works by sending extracts from your backup to the chatbot at the moment you put the question to it.

I would add that, concerning security analytics, we work with the key attack detection suppliers: Microsoft Sentinel, Splunk, Zscaler, [and so on]. We know how to integrate their signals into our software so they modify access rights in real time or trigger restoration processes.

LeMagIT: Will you let NetBackup fade away, to be replaced by a Cohesity enriched with NetBackup functionality?

Sanjay Poonen: Absolutely not! We won’t abandon any NetBackup product. We won’t leave any NetBackup customer by the wayside. This acquisition will not be other recent ones in the market.

The question that torments me above all is to know if we can convince NetBackup customers to continue working with us. Are we already meeting 100% of their expectations? We’re in the process of discussing with all Veritas customers to find out. In any case, if they want to migrate to a more modern backup solution, they know that we will be experts in the two products and it will be much simpler to move from NetBackup to Cohesity than to another product.

“We won’t abandon any NetBackup product. We won’t leave any NetBackup customer by the wayside” Sanjay Poonen, Cohesity

Eric Brown: Our roadmap is conservative. We will continue to sell, maintain and support existing products. We won’t force anyone to migrate. We won’t stop any NetBackup product. We will just present the value of Cohesity to Veritas customers – our hyper-converged architecture, our cost of ownership, the possibility of accessing our security offer and AI engine.

Our model is subscription-based, while 10% of NetBackup turnover is based on perpetual licences. Within this, there are also hardware appliances on which Veritas has sold NetBackup pre-installed. Our software is also sold via hardware appliances, but our approach is rather to sell our software to integrators who install it on an appliance of their choice. We are going to convert the marketing of NetBackup appliances to a similar system.

LeMagIT: What’s going to happen in the coming months?

Eric Brown: We hope the transaction will be realised between now and the end of the year, after getting the green light from the regulation authorities. Veritas, for its part, also has to prepare to split in two. NetBackup represents about two-thirds of its activity.

We are often asked if we plan to go public as soon as the acquisition is completed. That won’t happen before the second half of 2025. The market has, in effect, generally a need for a year of observation to make an opinion on the sustainability of a merger.

Staying with the financial aspect, we have calculated that our annual turnover was $1.6bn in 2023. According to the same calculations, we estimate that our global turnover will be $1.8bn in 2024 and $2bn in 2025.

Concerning product marketing, as we have already said, we will maintain all products that currently come under NetBackup.

Finally, it is too early to say exactly how NetBackup and Cohesity’s functionality will integrate. We can’t say any more today about whether the product will be called Veritas NetBackup or Cohesity NetBackup. All these questions are being studied right now and we’ll communicate the details when the various teams have completed their work.

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