A reader writes that Symantec is laying off about 60 people from the division formerly known as Veritas:

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about Symantec downsizing the (mostly) Mountain View storage group, cancelling some projects and moving others to India. One of the fallouts was a soon-to-be-rolled out object-based file system, along the lines of a software version of Panasas. There is a lot of technical detail behind the project but ‘software Panasas for the commodity servers of your choice’ is the 35,000ft view.

Too bad. That file system sounds pretty cool.

Not enough numbers
Looking at their latest 10-Q filing it is clear that their storage business has taken a revenue hit – but it still has the highest margins of any of their businesses. The reason for the revenue drop is the falloff in Sun server sales, where Veritas products are near mandatory.

With Oracle offering its own storage software stack, the suits concluded that this revenue wasn’t coming back. And they’re right about that.

Management is also cutting storage group expenses faster than revenue is dropping. Combine that fact with the shutdown of the new file system it is evident that they have decided to treat the storage group as a cash cow.

The StorageMojo take
I was mystified by Symantec’s acquisition 5 years ago. As I wrote in Veritas goes quietly into that good night:

One of the pay-for-play “analysts” (useful for their role as floaters of trial balloons) was told to opine that mixing security expertise with storage expertise would result in more secure storage, but that is unconvincing. The basic problem with highly secure storage is that systems need low latency access to it, so the opportunity to secure storage through software is fairly limited.

No, Veritas is MBA smart and marketing stupid. Does anyone believe that customers are happy with storage management software today, when 40% of backups fail, data disappears every day, and storage is far from a commodity based on the margins of storage system vendors? This all suggests a massive market opportunity, if only marketing can get their arms around it. But Veritas, despite excellent resources, smart people, great margins and a broad penetration into the F1000, couldn’t figure out what to do to grow their business.

Nor is Symantec likely to provide the missing expertise. Securing corporate PCs against viruses and malware is simply not core expertise for improving storage management.

While they done good work continuing to enhance NetBackup, Symantec is right to retreat from storage. As a company they just don’t have the chops. What happened to the OpenVision sales and marketing crew?

No system vendor today will be as short-sighted as Sun’s McNealy was when he refused to invest in storage software development, forcing the storage group to turn to Veritas for basic functionality and making them a major player. The next Veritas will have to win on a vertical-by-vertical basis.

The good news: the expanding world of massive file-based workflows is wide open to new solutions. We’re at the beginning of the revolution in massive storage – not the end.

Update: Symantec issued a nuanced corporate confirmation denial. I’m quoting the version published by Chris Mellor in the Reg, as Symantec analyst relations didn’t copy me:

The bottom line is — Symantec is not exiting this [Storage and Availability Management or SAMG] space, and we remain committed to helping our customers who face significant challenges in managing storage growth and ensuring the availability of their critical information. … Symantec is 100 per cent committed to our SAMG product portfolio. None of the SAMG products that we offer today are being discontinued.

As Chris pointed out this is not a denial that they canned the S4 product. Nor is FileStor, which they did release last year, competitive with current scale-out products. In this market if you aren’t moving forward you are moving backward – and Symantec isn’t moving forward. End update.

Courteous comments welcome, of course.