Veritas customers fear postmerger licensing issues

IT managers at Veritas Software's annual users conference this week complained that the storage software company has done little to improve its licensing models, which they view as confusing and difficult to track. And many expressed concerns that those licenses could become even more difficult to manage with the buyout of Veritas by Symantec.

"The biggest problem we're running into right now is license reconciliation and tracking and renewal, and whose got them and where are they," a storage administrator from Banknorth Group told Veritas CEO Gary Bloom. His comments came during during a question-and-answer session following Bloom's keynote address yesterday at Veritas Vision.

Douglas Britz, a storage administrator for farm equipment manufacturer Deere & Co agreed, saying Veritas needs to do more to improve its tracking of software licenses, which his company is often forced to recheck after Veritas sends its bills. Britz is in charge of managing Veritas' NetBackup software for Deere.

Britz and others also expressed concern that service would suffer after the Symantec buyout -- mostly because of a perceived reputation for poor service at Symantec.

"I've had 10 different sales account representatives already," Britz said. "It's a constant headache for us."

During his keynote, Bloom acknowledged that his company has issues with its tracking of software licenses but said a team has been established to address any problems. "It's hard to articulate exact changes on the road map here," he said. "This is not an effort that's going to stop by any means ... after the merger."

Britz also lamented the number of mergers between storage companies and compared them to Taco Bell, where so many companies have merged under one brand that product differentiation and competition have suffered, he said.

"I'm just hoping Veritas keeps a lot of what they already have, especially in support," said Todd Warfield, a systems administrator at Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.

During his speech, Bloom tried to reassure users that service would not change after the merger is completed at the end of June. "You're still going to call the same number, and probably for 99 percent of the people in this room, you're still going to be talking to the same [sales] people you always talked to," he said.

Bloom spent much of his keynote explaining his company's recent merger-and-acquisition history as well as its buyout by Symantec. He pointed to the acquisitions of Ejasent Inc., Invio Software Inc. and KVS Inc. over the past year, saying they have yielded utilities to track performance and increase automation in storage-area networks.

"What we're trying to do, and what we continue to focus on, is delivering one set of tools from one vendor to solve this problem in a heterogeneous world," Bloom said. "One of the things that happens when you do a lot of M&A activity is people start getting the perception that 'Gee, all you're doing is buying companies and putting that technology into the marketplace.' "

As he has at recent Veritas Vision conferences, Bloom also focused on the company's utility computing road map as a way to reduce storage costs and complexity.

Analysts at the conference said that Veritas has done a poor job of explaining how its utility computing model will be improved by the Symantec buyout, particularly in the areas of directory and identity management and access control in the network. "They have not articulated how they will achieve those stated goals," said William Hurley, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.

Bloom acknowledged that synergies between Veritas and Symantec are few but said the merger would boost Veritas' utility computing road map. He estimated that it will take 12 to 18 months for Veritas' storage backup products and Symantec's products to be integrated on a granular level.

Kelly McDonald, an IT manager at Perfect Commerce, said he simply couldn't grasp the "whole picture" between two companies as different as Veritas and Symantec are. "I love Veritas, but I really don't know much about Symantec," he said.

Hurley suggested that it could take Symantec and Veritas more than four years to combine their products into single storage offerings with security and risk-mitigation features.

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