Data Protection the Number One Priority for a Growing Veeam
When Veeam was founded back in 2006, the two Swiss co-founders, Ratmir Timashev and Andrei Baronov, couldn’t have imagined that the company would become a giant in the backup and recovery space, with 400,000 global customers by 2020 and about $1 billion in annual revenue. While data protection is still Veeam’s number one priority, the nature of that mission is changing, particularly when it comes to data governance, cybersecurity, and ransomware.
“We are, unapologetically, a backup and recovery company,” Veeam Vice President of Enterprise Strategy Dave Russell says at the start out a Datanami interview this week during VeeamOn, its annual user conference, which is taking place virtually because of the pandemic.
“I say ‘unapologetically’ because it felt like, in the last year or two, a lot of backup vendors are trying to reposition themselves as a data management [company] or some other thing,” Russell continues. “Not to say that we’re not looking at an expanded universe as well. But from our vantage point, we think backup is a very healthy market. We’re taking share. The market is still growing.”
The volume of data that companies are generating, accumulating, and storing continues to grow unabated. We are still in the “big data” era, after all. When your business is ensuring that all of the structured and unstructured data that a company has in all of its various file systems, applications, databases, and clouds is backed up, it goes without saying that the backup business in general is growing, too.
“Within the space we offer solutions today, there’s a lot of room to grow,” says Veeam CTO Danny Allan. “People just assume when they go to the cloud that Azure and AWS and Ali Cloud and GCP will provide backup as part of the service, and as well know, they don’t. Even within the data center, we have massive growth–not just double digits but well beyond double digits–and that’s because data continues to increase in size and scope and height.”
A Broad Customer Base
Veeam’s sweet spot is the small and midsize business (SMB) market, which accounts for about 360,000 customers around the world. In 2020, Veeam was the largest backup and recovery vendor in the EMEA market, and the fourth largest worldwide, behind DellEMC, Veritas, and IBM.
These organizations lean on Veeam and its 27,000 business partners around the world to provide the backup and recovery solutions for physical and virtual Windows and Linux environments, as well as cloud and SaaS applications. (The company also provides connections for AIX and Solaris environments; IBM i and mainframe shops need not apply, Russell says).
Despite the huge opportunity in the cloud and the growth there, about 60% of Veeam’s customers are backing up data and storing it on-prem, with only about 40% storing it in the cloud (Veeam doesn’t offer its own cloud backup and recovery solution, instead relying on partners to tailor solutions for specific industries and geographies).
Veeam strives to make its software as simple to use as possible, no matter what the size or scope of the customers’ backup and recovery needs, Russell says. “The unique thing about Veeam is the ISO code that I run on a very small machine like my Lenovo laptop is the exact same code that a major bank is protecting 19,000 virtual machines and 8PB of data with one instance of Veeam,” he says.
In its recent Magic Quadrant for Data Center Backup and Recovery Solutions, Gartner put Veeam in the leader’s quadrant, with the highest “ability to execute” score out of all the participants.
Veeam’s biggest strengths, Gartner says, are in monitoring, reporting, and diagnostics; its support for Office 365; and its license portability. Cautions cited by the analyst firm include deployment complexity with large installations, as well as a lack of cloud-native backup solutions for applications and databases running in virtual machines in the cloud, as well as vendor-hosted databases.
The $5 billion acquisition of Veeam by the venture capital firm Insight Partners, which was completed in March 2020, gives the company access to additional resources to accelerate growth, which it accomplished in 2020. It also moved its headquarters from Switzerland to Columbus, Ohio.
In the recent version 11 release, Veeam added new continuous data protection (CDP) capabilities, which enables companies to push the recovery point objective (RPO), or the amount of data that a customer is willing to give up in a data loss event, closer to zero. The CDP update was delivered across all Veeam offerings, from the traditional backup data capture product to the server-based product to the 82 different storage integrations that it offers, Russell says.
Staying on top of the ever-changing IT industry is a constant challenge for Veeam, as it is for all software companies that seek to support a wide breadth of systems, but it’s particularly critical for activities like backup and recovery. It’s especially true considering all of the fragmentation that currently exists in terms of the capabilities that platforms expose, Allan says.
For example, AWS has change block tracking, but Azure doesn’t, he says. “If you go to Oracle the admin probably wants to use RMAN (Recovery Manager). If you go to SQL Server, they want to use Snapshot capabilities,” he says. “That’s just on the backup capture. Then if you want to recover back into these systems, a lot of the platforms don’t have good recovery APIs. They have the ability to dump it out, but they don’t have the ability to put in a singular granular element within that subsystem.”
Veeam’s original claim to fame–not to mention the origin of its name–was support for virtual machine environments, particularly the popular VMware hypervisor. Today’s virtualization flavor of the day, Kubernetes, presents its own particular challenges, Allan says.
“If you look at Kubernetes, OpenShift is very different than GKE or AKS or EKS,” referring to Red Hat’s Kubernetes platform, the Google Kubernetes Engine, Azure Kubernetes Service, and Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service, respectively.
“There’s a lot of overlap, but there’s also a lot of nuance to what they provide, and as long as there’s this continued innovation, then there’s always going to be people, especially organizations like AWS, that add newer and newer things,” he continues. “There’s no lowest common denominator. Or if you go back to the lowest common denominator, you’re missing all the cutting-edge capabilities that they’re adding on the leading edge.”
Facing Down Ransomware
The recent spate of ransomware attacks has put IT teams on high alert, and forced them to reconsider whether their backup and recovery plans will pan out or wilt under the weight of a real attack. It’s also given Veeam an opportunity to show what it can do to help customers recover quickly following an attack.
“We have built into the product a capability help facilitate [a feature] called secure restore,” Russell says. “Unfortunately now, the name of the game if you’re a cybercriminal is you enter and dwell for a long period of time. Even if you restore from, pick your timeframe, two months ago—there’s still the threat that you’re reintroducing threats into the environment.”
To prevent restoring ransomware that’s been lying dormant in a backup for months, Veeam allows customers to restore data to a secure environment, where the customers can closely analyze it with cybersecurity software to ensure that it’s not harboring any digital nasties.
“There’s definitely more and more convergence between security and modern data protection,” says Allan, who worked in security before joining Veeam. “We don’t try to position ourselves as a pure-play security company….But in the areas where we provide value in modern data protection and ensuring the resilience of data, we take a very strong position there and I think we’re a leader in the industry.”