This blog was co-authored with David Warren (@DavidWarren), Sr Princ Product Manager, Enterprise Data Protection.
Licensing is a challenge for software companies and their customers alike. For software companies, it is the balance between avoiding loss of revenue and being fair. Software companies want their investment and innovations to be compensated. For customers, it is a balance between affordability and meeting the requirements. It is no different for the data management industry.
Before we look at the pros and cons of Front End Terabyte licensing versus Back End Terabyte licensing, let us quickly define what each of those means. Front-End Terabyte licensing measures the amount of data at the source. The data source could reside in data centers in physical machines, virtual machines or stored in storage arrays, or, in the cloud, in forms of cloud instances or various Platform-as-a-service applications such as databases. All this data is summed up in size to arrive at the amount of total data in Terabytes, and then it is charged per Terabytes.
Back End Terabyte licensing, on the other hand, looks at the amount of backed-up data stored post backups.
The most common argument leveraged to sell BETB as the cheaper method talks about deduplication. An argument in favor of BETB is that 100 TB of deduplicated data can fit into, say, 10 TB of storage, and hence you are paying much less than the FETB licensing. On the face, this argument looks perfectly logical. But once you start looking at some other aspects, the balance tends to shift.
Typically, each customer has a different security posture, which governs how many failsafe copies a customer keeps. But would it be fair to charge those customers higher who have more defensive failsafe posture? A question does arise. FETB licensing charges customers only once. Meaning it does not matter how many copies of the backed-up data exist. You pay the same amount. For instance, one BETB licensing vendor charges 33% of the primary backup capacity for each replicated copy.
Now, there is another aspect to consider. While all data and applications are not created equal, the criticality of those workloads may still be similar. Different workloads or applications have varying data management and protection needs. Take an example of VMWare workload, which has varying needs such as instant access, continuous data protection, VM to cloud conversion. Workloads such as SharePoint Exchange need support for complete restores and granular restores. Now, for FETB licensing, it is all-inclusive. Just because one application has different needs than the other, FETB licensing does not charge more for special requirements of different workloads. In a nutshell, X+Y+Z amount of FETB data needs protection, irrespective of the protection method and restore requirements. That argument disappears for BETB licensing. Once the data lands in the solution, it becomes the same. Hence, BETB licensing-based companies seem to feel compelled to charge customers for specialized backup and recovery methods such as continuous data protection and granular restores. Moreover, these vendors may be reluctant to develop support for different storage mediums such as Tape and may sell third-party solutions to fulfill that need.
One more advantage of FETB pricing is predictability. Front-end data added over time attracts the charges in the same proportion as existing front-end data. It is simple math. On the other hand, back-end Terabytes are a complex calculation even with machine learning-based prediction. Machine learning can hardly predict accurate levels of deduplication for data that will be added in the future. Hence, customers may be preparing to purchase just 120 TB of BETB capacity for 1200 FETB but may end up buying 360 TB, which is a 200% increase. On the other hand, they may purchase 360 BETB capacity to be safe but then use only 60 TB and waste power/cooling on the unused purchased capacity.
These were some of the straightforward points. Now let's take the discussion to some of the unknown and the grey areas. Many vendors these days come up with Tech preview features that are not production-ready. If one comes to think of it, if BETB licensing is in place, capacity is being utilized for features that are not sellable yet. How is it in the customer's best interest?
Some of the BETB solutions have temporary needs for restores. It means the capacity which customer has bought is reduced for some period. How is that reflected in the pricing? In some scenarios such as customers enabling encryption in the primary data source, the incremental backups consume large capacities. In these scenarios, FETB pricing suddenly looks attractive, since the actual size of FETB data hasn't changed that much.
Another disturbing trend with BETB licensing could be as follows. BETB licensing vendors may focus only on use cases and workloads which increase capacity by a reasonable amount. Workloads such as Kubernetes may not be of interest to them since those could be small to begin with, and due to compression and deduplication, they may not get a sizable share of the wallet from the customer.
So, is BETB licensing all bad? As Eric Thomas quote says, "When you find your WHY, you don't hit snooze no more! You find a way to make it happen!" BETB licensing makes sense when the value of the service offered is de-coupled from the special data protection needs. NetBackup Recovery Vault is an excellent example. NetBackup Recovery vault provides efficient cloud capacity for customer backups with consistently defined and observed SLAs for ingestion and retrieval. This service also includes Immutability from various forms of Ransomware threats. The value isn't about the special needs of multiple workloads, but it is purely about the capacity to store all types of workload backups.
As we have discovered here, both BETB and FETB licensing have a role to play. The critical thing for customers to decide is, are they being allowed consistent, fair, and logical choices? Bottom line, the quote you have in front of you may not be telling you the whole story. Find out more about the value of NetBackup Recovery Vault and simplified licensing with predictable costs. If you are ready to talk with a Veritas Channel Partner or Veritas Account Manager today for a demo, and be sure to ask them how Veritas subscription can support your digital transformation.