Symantec's CIO on piracy, new licensing portal

Thompson explains Symantec's new licensing system that he expects will save the company more than US$10m per year

Users have reported that they are experiencing long waits when it comes to getting technical support. Have you had to put more of your manpower into the merger with Veritas than in servicing customers?

Thompson: There are three specific things happening at once. One, it's year-end and a lot of clients are doing a lot of work, and we typically see a high call volume near year-end and around the holidays. The [second] thing is that as we were deploying these new capabilities to the new licensing portal, we realized there was going to be some noise within our customer base as we implemented these new processes. So we were expecting a higher call volume related to customers learning the new licensing process. The third thing, and this is the thing you're honing in on, is that the Backup Exec 11d upgrade hit right around the same time. So in preparation for that, we've been [meting] out those upgrade notices. If we'd sent out all those upgrade notices all at once, we would have had a tremendous amount of change occurring in our customer base. So we've been sending those out and will have those completed by the end of February.

Paden: So the customer base is big enough that even if we're trying to roll it out on a batched basis, it still has created an initial glut.

Does that have to do with the process of rolling out the license upgrade notices themselves or the new portal itself?

Thompson: In the past, the customer who received these [upgrade notices] were immediately able to use the product, but now they're being asked to register and obtain the keys. So customers are interacting with a new process. It's not a performance issue with the new system, and it's not a performance issue that I can see at this point in time with our support group; it's just a volume of change occurring in the customer base all at once. It's unfortunate that customers are impacted here, but I think the benefits are pretty good for the client. In the end, hopefully we'll reduce piracy in this area.

Do you think you made a mistake integrating the two licensing models at the same time you were rolling out a major upgrade of Backup Exec?

Thompson: We wanted the client to see the benefits of seeing a combined licensing portal, the new buying programs and the ability to interact with Symantec and Veritas as one company. We've been seeing the higher call volumes. But clients like the consolidated view of all their licensing and to see all there financial data in one place.

We're dealing with hundreds of thousands of users here that need to get licensing keys and register. We've been batching them in fairly small batches of 20,000 or less, and we expect we'll have all those batches sent out to clients by mid-February. If a client wanted to see one earlier, we could probably facilitate that one client receiving it earlier.

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