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Acronis CEO Serguei Beloussov: Innovation, Visions and Walking with Dinosaurs

DSA’s Martin Lee got the opportunity this week to interview Acronis CEO Serguei Beloussov to get his views on the past, present and future of the Data Protection Market Place.

Serguei came across as a no-nonsense but pleasant business man with an obvious deep technical knowledge. However, we think it’s the rare combination of commercial savviness and thorough understanding of the technology that explains why he is such a successful technopreneur. We started with his views on the opinion that the traditional backup market as we know it is dying or shrinking. Serguei points to analysts such as IDC to reinforce his view that which-ever way you cut it, the backup market is growing.

Serguei explains that when he thinks about backup he is not limiting himself to the old style once a week full and 5 days of incremental; in his words “even CDP” is a form of backup. People are looking for new ways to protect and recover their data, but even so, the “unsexy” end of the market, dominated by what he calls the “dinosaurs and zombies” of old style data protection “like Arcserve and Veritas”, is still growing. Anecdotally Beloussov has heard that since being spun out of CA, Arcserve is still growing.

Looking back, Serguei can see why a company like Veritas was successful. They had a complete solution which at the time was cutting edge. Backup, archive, replication and even an early evolution of virtualised storage with the Veritas file system and volume manager. The products worked well but they were not easy to integrate and for smaller companies the challenge of implementing them to work smoothly together made the solution prohibitive. Moving forward, these products were well suited to protecting legacy data sources and traditional applications, but have much room for improvement when dealing with modern data sources.

According to Beloussov the vision today is to be able to provide a single and “seamlessly integrated solution” for cloud, containers converged infrastructure and the like. At the same time the entire business model has changed. In the days when the “dinosaurs” ruled backup, IT managers pieced together their data protection solution by purchasing a tape device, backup software, a server to install it on and internal effort to configure the solutions and handle the ongoing management. Today, this is shifting and the solution can be handed over to a service provider that delivers this same functionality as a service.

The service provider takes one fee and provides every aspect of data protection required: backup, archive, replication, recovery etc. As the service provider can benefit from economies of scale the cost should come down for the user. An important point that Serguei highlighted is that the service provider should be able to offer a complete and integrated solution and remove complication at the same time. Whilst Serguei can see this shift is happening now he also notes that the historical business is not moving away fast.

At DSA we have been following Acronis and have noted a definite shift in the ASEAN channel approach. We have been supportive of their drive to offer their cloud based solutions via channel partners. Speaking to Serguei we were able to check if this channel policy was closely tied to the shift in market dynamics that he outlined. He confirmed that Acronis was indeed assisting “traditional” partners to become service providers in their own right.

From our perspective at DSA, VARs and SIs need to embrace vendors that take this approach, developing service provider models supported by vendors is possibly the only way they can remain relevant.

So where are things headed? Serguei sees a fork in the road for backup and recovery over the next 10 years or so. In terms of protecting data, Serguei believes the process of making copies of the binary zeros and ones will become a function of primary storage. Backup won’t be something “you do” it will be something that “just happens”. The focus will then be on the recovery. Being able to recover data in an application consistent state, between multiple platforms will be where the value is added.

Wrapping it up, Serguei gave us a tantalising glimpse into the future at Acronis. He hinted that Acronis are working on what he described as some of the “coolest” cloud based software defined storage technologies. To date no one offers primary storage which can also protect data as it is written and archive data all based on pre-set policies.

As he puts it, data can be anonymised and encrypted so why not outsource storage and protection to a third party? Why not indeed Serguei? This is a man who has uncanny ability to predict where the market is heading, leading him to create a global company that continues to innovate. So who are we to argue with his vision?

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