Cohesity CEO on customer choice following Veritas merger

Sanjay Poonen, CEO of Cohesity, talks about his company's recent purchase of Veritas, what customers should expect in the year ahead and if other mergers are possible.

Cohesity's acquisition of legacy vendor Veritas' data protection business marks a massive consolidation in that market.

The newly combined company, also to be called Cohesity, is valued at an estimated $7 billion and will now offer both Cohesity's SaaS protection platform with Veritas' on-premises products. A handful of other Veritas products and assets will become part of a separate company, DataCo.

Sanjay Poonen, CEO, CohesitySanjay Poonen

Cohesity CEO Sanjay Poonen, who joined the company in the summer of 2022, will lead the new company. The deal is expected to close by the end of 2024.

Last year, Poonen described Cohesity as a midsize company with about 3,500 customers. Now, the combination of Cohesity and Veritas brings a collective 10,000 customers under his domain.

In this Q&A, Poonen discusses how the deal with Veritas came about, what changes existing Veritas and Cohesity customers should anticipate, and if there is any veracity to other acquisition rumors.

Editor's note: This interview has been edited for clarity, length and style.

What brought about this deal with Veritas and what's the reaction been like so far?

Sanjay Poonen: I talked to all the industry players and kind of got a sense as to where they're going. But one of the most intriguing conversations I had was with the CEO of Veritas, Greg Hughes, and [the company's] board of directors about possible ways in which we could collaborate.

Shortly thereafter, our advisers came up with the structure. Certainly since Data Domain got acquired by EMC [in 2009], this is the biggest deal. I think it's the most transformative deal in the data protection [and] data security space.

We have been public about our product strategy roadmap for [both] companies. The key statement is, 'No customer left behind.'

Technology-wise, are there pain points for backup you're hoping to address in your newly combined portfolio and are there changes existing customers should brace for?

Poonen: There are three core vectors that we've been talking to the public about [that we think will] go faster in the future in a combined company. The three vectors are multi-cloud, data management [and] data protection.

Why would I want to go and tell those customers we've got to change [their product]? If you're using it and you're happy, we will make you successful doing that together.
Sanjay PoonenCEO, Cohesity

Multi-cloud data protection is [about customer] workload proliferation and requires a scale of engineering. We will have [twice the] engineering team size compared to our closest competitors, [which] will allow us to [meet that scale].

The [vectors of products] that our customers really want to see from us is groundbreaking innovation in security and in AI. ... You're going to see us partnering with the public clouds and Nvidia.

We put that product strategy roadmap on our website to say, we will absolutely, unequivocally support Veritas products like NetBackup in the future.

I am told 60% to 70% of Data Domain customers use NetBackup as the preferred backup tool. Why would I want to go and tell those customers we've got to change it? If you're using it and you're happy, we will make you successful doing that together.

Before the Veritas deal, rumors of Cohesity's acquisition by IBM, Cisco and Rubrik among others were being discussed. Any truth to those? Do you anticipate any partnership changes with such companies, such as with IBM's Storage Defender?

Poonen: I'm a diplomat who wants to partner with everybody, but partnerships are very different from mergers and acquisitions.

I would love it if our competitors wanted to OEM our technology today. If Rubrik and Commvault and Veeam want to OEM Cohesity, ... we'd welcome that, no problem.

We've been working on [this deal for] 12 to 15 months. Every one of our competitors were throwing up rumors that we were getting acquired. I had not had any discussions to sell the company to anybody else, and no one was coming to us.

Those [rumors] were false, but [the public was] probably picking up some of the rumors of this deal and didn't know the facts.

The Cohesity-Veritas deal is one of the largest consolidations of the backup market, which has typically been fragmented. Do you expect further consolidation among partners or competitors in 2024?

Poonen: I stay more focused on our core customers than our competitors.

I think there are three or four independent players [in this space], and there's some big players. The independent players have been Rubrik and Commvault, [while] the bigger players are Dell Technologies or IBM.

My attitude is, I want to partner with as many people to get Cohesity technology used by them.

Tim McCarthy is a news writer for TechTarget Editorial covering cloud and data storage.

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