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Seagate's Cunningham unveils strategy in bundling with Win NT

With much fanfare, Seagate Software recently announced that its backup and disaster recovery software was selected by Microsoft to become part of Windows NT 5.0. IDG sent Ephraim Schwartz to talk with Terry Cunningham, president and chief operating officer of Seagate Software, about the announcement and other NT 5.0 issuesSchwartz: Seagate Software recently announced that Microsoft will include part of Backup Exec in NT 5.0. What are the details?

Cunningham: Actually there are four pieces to the storage-management solution in NT 5.0, and if you look at the four pieces, we deliver two of them: disaster recovery and backup. The other two are delivered by High Ground and Eastman. Well, obviously, they become de facto standards. Whether they're the best or not is irrelevant now that NT or Microsoft will ship them.

Schwartz: And the other components?

Cunningham: Veritas will do the volume storage management; High Ground will do the media management; and Eastman Software, formerly Avail, will handle HSM [hierarchical storage management].

Schwartz: What will the new Seagate Backup Exec offer to NT 5.0?

Cunningham: Probably the most significant architectural issue with the product is that it's all COM-based [Component Object Model] architecture. We're the first [management] product to support Microsoft's COM architecture, and so the whole product is built on it. I think that from our standpoint it's something that allows us to add in other things very quickly. It also gives us the support of Microsoft, because of course they like partners that go off and play the game according to their rules.

As these new standards evolve, they tend to be political, but from a technical standpoint this was one of the few that was actually good for the product, so we're very happy with the fact that we did it.

Schwartz: NT 5.0 will not ship until sometime in the second half of 1998. Will IT managers wait or will they turn to other solutions?

Cunningham: No, I don't think that they'll wait. I think that what will happen is - and we're like most vendors - that we [will] use the NT 5.0 relationship to state a direction, basic-ally. For the vendors these are the products that Microsoft has dubbed as being the standards.

Well, because of that, it makes the IT manager's job a little bit easier in choosing "what product do I buy today? Well, at least I know where Microsoft's going, so I should check these things out."

What it does for us and what it does for the IT manager, I believe, [is to help] set the direction. But given that, the direction of NT 5.0 is a while away. So do you sit there and wait, or do you go buy the pieces? Well, we're shipping our Backup Exec, our COM-based version of Backup Exec, now.

Schwartz: From whom will it be delivered?

Cunningham: By us and sold to our customers. As much as a lot of this is NT 5.0, those are just simply the bundles that these vendors, including us, did with Microsoft. But in the meantime, we're all out to ship product now. And it's NT 4.0 that we're shipping it on. So they don't have to wait until NT 5.0, but from a bet-your-job type of decision that these IT guys have to make every day, at least they know that Microsoft has already chosen these specific vendors and their technologies to be in the next version of NT.

Schwartz: How does Seagate plan to leverage new features in NT 5.0 such as Intellimirror?

Cunningham: With Intellimirror you're going to be staging data from your client machine onto a server. Well, once that data is sort of mirrored, if you lose a machine, you can get a new machine that can bring you up right away. We, of course, can take advantage of all that data that's already moved to a server and then protect it. So now we can do better backup for the client's data that is now mirrored.

That's what we refer to as our "embrace and extend with Microsoft".

Schwartz: The perception out there is that NT is still not ready to run mission- critical applications. If you took a picture today, at this moment, is that true?

Cunningham: I think it is. What you've got are a lot of solutions applications and systems software that [have] been built for Unix because of its maturity. So if you have to take a snapshot today, yes.

Schwartz: When do you think NT, your products, and the whole of integrated product solutions will be up to that speed?

Cunningham: It's kind of hard to say, because, of course, Unix is moving fast as well. And I'm just considering from the standpoint of clustering technology, fail over, backup, redundancy systems - all these kinds of things. What you've got is NT taking the mass part of the market, but as Unix servers and Unix solutions continue to go up in terms of capability, just like the mainframe continues to coexist, I don't think it's an NT replacing Unix thing.

But what you used to buy Unix for, which was a typical run-of-the-mill sort of everyday application server, you won't have to buy for anymore. You'll be able to buy NT, and it will easily do the job.

Schwartz: So the market for Unix products is going to narrow?

Cunningham: Yes. When you're a bank and you've got a serious number of transactions, then you might invest more money to get a Unix solution.

We see a three-tiered coexistence where you've got NT taking the mass market if you're looking at servers only.

Unix being there and all the way up to MVS. You know [what] IBM is now talking about . . . looking to do in OS/390 . . .

Schwartz: You mean putting the NT kernel right in OS/390?

Cunningham: Yes, to wrap NT. Well I think it's a brilliant move; it's a great idea. So you have this coexistence, which I think is healthy. And it's not one wiping out the other.