As I’ve been preparing for today’s EMC World 2012 super-session with BJ Jenkins, president, EMC Backup Recovery Systems (aka ‘my boss’), I’ve been thinking about some of the lessons I’ve picked up while speaking to customers. None is more poignant than my first…
I was a 25-year-old engineer, and I had just walked out of my first customer meeting drenched in flop sweat. The customer had closed the meeting just 25 minutes after it began. Where had it all gone wrong? I was an engineer. I’d written the code for the products we were selling. I knew more about disk-based data protection than most. So what happened? When the customer had asked if the product supported encryption, I’d said simply, “No.” But, according to the sales team, that’s where I had gone wrong. Never, ever start an answer to a customer with “no,” they said.
Years later, I now spend 50% of my time with customers, and I have to say I still haven’t learned this lesson…thankfully. I’ve seen too many companies produce a ‘Powerpoint strategy du jour’ to jump on the latest hype-worthy trend, chase after a new market or placate a company with a litany of yeses.
However, since most technology visions stretch out 3 to 5 years, engineers and customers need strategic consistency and focus to execute. A company that says ‘yes’ to everything never finishes anything; you have to have the confidence in your strategy to say ‘no.’.\ The best companies sound like a broken record because they don’t concoct a new vision, year after year. They simply incrementally expand the vision, as the engineers deliver, product release after product release. But to define the right strategy you have to understand the trends that matter.
The three trends that drive the data protection market are at least a decade old:
- Backup/recovery window pressure drives the market. Backup/recovery is often a deferred investment for many organizations until a forcing function occurs. With customers, backup is not a funding priority until it affects the velocity of the business. If backup/recovery window limitations constrain the rate at which a company can virtualize, they’ll soon be investing in backup. If backup/recovery window limitations constrain the growth or consolidation of applications, they’ll soon be investing in backup.
- Backup appliances (or purpose-built backup appliance (PBBA)) continues to displace tape. The backup appliance market is larger than tape and growing much more quickly. Backup appliances have improved the performance, reliability, security and manageability of backups. The topic is already so talked out, that I’ve already sworn to stop talking about disk vs. tape.
- Everybody wants more visibility. First, everybody realizes that data is the heart of their world. VMs, applications and servers without data don’t do much. So, everybody wants to know that their data – primary and protection copies – are safe. Second, as consumer products and cloud technologies advance, people expect to be able to do things themselves. They don’t want to make three phone calls just to set up backup for a new server or wait 48 hours for somebody to run a restore. They want everything to happen now.
While these core trends have been around for a decade, trends #2 and #3 have really accelerated over the last 12+ months:
- Accelerated backup appliances adoption. There have been two drivers behind this trend. First, products like Data Domain have added features (e.g., Extended Retention)to enable cost-effective, reliable 10+ year backups to disk. Second, backup teams are using disk to create sensible backup retention policies. (“What? You mean we’re liable for those unrecoverable 30 years of tape backups?! How about a 30-day retention?” A lawyer will do anything to win a case… even be rational.)
- Accelerated visibility and control. Everyone wants visibility and control of their data. Backup teams are not only allowing their DBAs to protect their own data, they’re enabling it with tools like Data Protection Advisor. We’re seeing more storage teams leveraging tools (like RecoverPoint or SyncIQ), and we’re seeing VM administrators selecting their own backup application (e.g. Avamar), regardless of the backup team’s legacy tool. And this is just the beginning.
Clear, stable trends drive the backup market, which makes it relatively easy to create a clear, stable strategy. We want to help backup teams transform their environments, so they can accelerate business by providing value-added services to meet consumers’ needs seamlessly. And we continue to execute on that vision – our focus driving success.
In retrospect, I did learn a critical lesson in that first sales meeting. It wasn’t “Never say ‘no.’” It was, “Without trust, there is nothing.”
If you’re at EMC World, I hope you can join BJ and me today. If you’re not, check out all the activity at EMCworld.com online.