No matter whether Symantec is withdrawing or being chased, it’s exiting the cloud backup market beginning in January 2014.
In the hours before Americans started serving Thanksgiving turkey dinners last week, Symantec Corp. began informing distributors and resellers that it would discontinue Backup Exec.cloud, the cloud-based version of its popular SMB backup product, effective Jan. 6, 2014. Customers can use the service for another year, but support will cease at the end of 2014.
“As we align with our new offering strategy and efforts to streamline our product range to provide fewer, more integrated solutions for our customers, Symantec has made the decision to retire Backup Exec.cloud. Existing customers will have use of the service until the end of their annual service period. We are firmly committed to doing everything we can to help our partners and customers successfully navigate this process,” Symantec wrote in a statement to Channelnomics.
The discontinuation of Backup Exec.cloud comes as the market continues to migrate toward cloud-based backup services over conventional on-premises hardware and software solutions. According to a recent study conducted by backup vendor Intronis and The 2112 Group, more than one-half of solution providers offer some form of cloud-based backup solution and more than three-quarters earn up 20 percent of their revenue and profit through backup services.
“There is no question that cloud backup represents a huge opportunity for MSPs to assist their SMBs with making the best choice for their backup and recovery needs. But cloud backup and recovery is also increasingly complex, requiring continual investment, innovation, and most of all focus on our part to help our MSP partners meet this massive opportunity,,” said Neal Bradbury, co-founder and vice president of channel development for Intronis.
Symantec continues to dominate the backup software market with its Backup Exec and NetBackup products. However, Symantec been under pressure by next-generation backup service providers who are nibbling away at its market share with low-cost and scalable cloud products.
“The fact that Symantec is shutting down its cloud storage offering points to how difficult it is for companies relying on legacy technology to fully grasp the changes that cloud computing is bringing to the enterprise. Companies serious about disaster recovery and business continuity require more than simple file storage in the cloud, they need a way to recover their applications and ideally to continue working at all times, even in the face of a disaster,” said Justin Moore, CEO and founder of cloud backup vendor Axcient.
The holiday timing of the announcement was not lost on competitors. Already Zetta.net, a cloud-backup service, is offering contract buyout and mitigation support to Symantec Backup Exec.cloud customers.
“Symantec Backup Exec and Backup Exec.Cloud customers have endured one jarring surprise after another,” said Gary Sevounts, vice president of marketing at Zetta.net. “First Backup Exec 2012 was released to universally negative reviews, then patches were released that didn’t provide support for mainstream platforms like Windows Server 2012, and now the cloud backup component is being shut down. Stability is a fundamental pillar of enterprise backup, and it is critical for backup vendors to give business customers confidence their critical backup data will be available for recovery.”
Zetta.net is likely the first of many displacement initiatives. When Zenith Infotech, a one-time leader in managed backup services, fell into its debt default, competitors such as eFolder, Datto and Axcient pressed conversion programs to capture partners and customers.
The larger questions are what Symantec’s withdrawal from the cloud backup market means for its other services and what this means for the greater cloud backup segment.
First, the Symantec question. For nearly a year, CEO Steve Bennett has been laboring to transform Symantec from a low-growth behemoth to a nimble, profitable and growing company. Under the Symantec 4.0 initiative, Bennett has overseen layoffs and reorganization as Symantec works to trim itself to a more agile organization.
Symantec 4.0 hasn’t overlooked its channel. The security and storage software specialist is trying to core down its primary partners, believing going to market with fewer, more focused solution providers will result in better returns. It’s doing this at the same time as competitors, most notably McAfee, continues to attack its channel with well-supported partners.
Working against Symantec is continued declines in PC sales. Many of Symantec’s security and storage products are tied directly to the PC paradigm. More than 40 percent of Symantec’s revenue comes from endpoint SMB and consumer security products; the PC decline is dragging performing, as noted in Symantec’s most recent disappointing quarterly report, in which revenue and profits shrunk.
The demise of Backup Exec.cloud could also spell bad news for Symantec’s other cloud services, Symantec Endpoint Protection Small Business Edition 2013 and Enterprise Vault.cloud. If cloud backup, a noted bestseller among solution providers, isn’t producing results for Symantec, it’s hard to believe the other services are faring much better.
Symantec is giving few clues of its products future, saying that it will continue investments in existing and legacy products.
“Symantec will continue to invest in its core backup and recovery offerings, including on-premise Symantec Backup Exec and NetBackup software and appliances, as well as innovative cloud-based storage, sharing and synchronization platforms,” Symantec said in a statement.
What does all this mean for the greater cloud backup segment? Chances are the demise of the Symantec service had more to do with conflicting internal priorities between its conventional software and cloud products. However, competition among other cloud backup vendors is fierce. More than four dozen companies offer cloud-backup solutions. And despite some of the marquee names, including Carbonite, NetApp, EMC and Mozy, none can claim market leadership or first-mover advantage.
Symantec is likely not indicative of a broader shakeout in the cloud backup market. That said, signs are pointing to a period of consolidation in the crowded backup segment.
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