Building great products is never an accident. Often the difference between good and great products is not the coolest technology or the meanest performing gadget. It is its laser focus on addressing a pressing customer challenge as quickly as possible with the best of breed technologies.
VMware and Symantec have been working feverishly as one team in doing just that over the past few months in addressing a significant customer challenge around application-aware high availability.
Both companies had individually heard from their respective (and often overlapping) customers about the need for application level visibility, control, and high availability in VMware ecosystem. Lack of a good solution that addresses this need had been preventing customers from bringing virtualization benefits to business critical tier1 application – a significant challenge impacting customers’ virtualization initiatives.
It just took one 30 minute conference call between the right folks at each company’s headquarters to agree that this is a huge customer issue which can be addressed very effectively and quickly if Symantec and VMware were to work together. VMware has the best-in-class virtualization platform and infrastructure availability solution (VMware HA). Symantec has the legacy in protecting business critical applications for the world’s largest IT organizations with its industry leading high availability solution (Veritas Cluster Server). What followed was a string of joint activities between the various functional teams at VMware and Symantec to better understand the customer problem and deliver a well integrated solution.
The first key step was for product managers from VMware’s Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery team and Symantec’s Veritas Cluster Server team to work together closely with a wide range of often overlapping customers to better understand their business and technical challenges -- what were customers doing about it today, and what were the gaps? What was rare – and refreshing – was the fact that the two companies were meeting customers to not pitch a solution but to jointly understand a customer problem. The fact that there wasn’t a preconceived solution being pitched was actually very well received by customers and helped focus the discussion on the customer pain points and business impact. It also ensured that nothing got lost in translation between the two companies – neither the requirement details nor the urgency of it – which in turn helped ensure alignment on their priorities.
Armed with a deep insight into the customer problem and a general idea of the solution, the second step was to get the engineering teams engaged and start working towards a well-integrated solution. Since both companies already had the core technology assets (VMware HA, vCenter, Veritas Cluster Server), the focus was less on building net new technology. It was more on how do we bring these assets to bear in a joint well integrated solution. Throughout the engineering R&D phase, the companies continued their interactions with customers (including beta activities) to continue calibrating the solution both in terms of capabilities as well as usability and address what customers really need.
The third step was to get the marketers from both companies engaged in ensuring how the insights gathered from a select set of customers and the solution that was getting built reaches the broader customer community when it becomes generally available. Nothing is more exciting to a marketer than the opportunity to take a message that is simple, strong, and resonates every single time it is delivered.
What started with a simple probing question from VMware to Symantec is now a full blown enterprise class solution, officially named Symantec ApplicationHA, and ready to become generally available within weeks of writing this blog. How customers receive this solution remains to be seen but it certainly has all the right things that go in the making of a great product – relentless focus on addressing a pressing customer challenge as quickly as possible with best of breed technologies.