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EMC bans Retrospect 8.0 from the big Dantz

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You all know that EMC redefined the storage business, but did you know that it has also redefined definitions?

Our sources claim that EMC's has killed plans to advance the Retrospect backup software line – part of a larger move to slash costs across the Insignia SMB (small- and medium-sized business) business group. EMC's public relations team has countered such suggestions by saying that Retrospect remains a key part of Insignia's "maturation." All of which leaves us wondering when "maturation" started to mean "end of lifed."

EMC and our sources agree that significant cuts were made recently at the Walnut Creek, California offices where the majority of the Insignia group worked. Last week, EMC stated that 40 people in marketing, sales and other spots were fired.

That's accurate, although it leaves out some key items.

EMC's Insignia group largely consisted of workers it acquired with the $50m purchase of software maker Dantz back in 2004. Over the years, the group swelled to more than 100 workers.

Forty of those workers have been let go, as mentioned. Although EMC has in fact made more cuts to the group. A large number of the Insignia staff have found new jobs at VMware – also part of EMC.

The internal departures could spell trouble for customers who use EMC/Dantz's flagship backup product Retrospect. Our sources indicate that a skeleton crew has been left to oversee the release of a point upgrade to Version 7.5 of the software. That code due out this quarter will include updates for Microsoft's Vista and Apple's Leopard operating systems.

The engineers, however, who were working of the flashier Version 8.0 of the product due out at the end of 2007 have left the company on 10 weeks' severance or gone to VMware, according to our insiders.

EMC refused to address directly whether or not 8.0 will ship.

"There are dedicated engineering resources focused on advancing Retrospect," an EMC spokesman said. "You will see enhancements coming this quarter."

Of course, we weren't asking about the 7.5 enhancements due this quarter but rather the very existence of the 8.0 product.

When pushed again on this point, EMC assured us that the SMB market remains a priority for the company and that Insignia will live on in style. "You will see more hardware and software products for the SMB space at this time next year than you see now," the spokesman said.

But that message comes as EMC admits that only 30-50 of the Insignia/Dantz staff are left – a figure confirmed by our sources.

These workers have been pushed into a corner at the Walnut Creek office, while EMC has moved to rent out their old cubicles.

"They closed three quarters of the office and even the kitchen to EMC workers," one source said. "They put up walls and moved everyone out."

These changes shocked the Insignia staff who were told of the moves in December by current EMC VP and former Dantz CEO Larry Zulch.

"The engineers were halfway through 8.0 in December and then all work ceased," one source said.

"From what I understand, the new version will not even be released," said another source. "Everyone had such high hopes for the product. It had a polished interface, and I think it would have been a success."

EMC clearly suffers from some manner of SMB chaos. Of course, it won't let on to such gyrations if you want to purchase a one-year Retrospect support contract.

Those of you looking to stick with Retrospect for the long haul should push EMC on the 8.0 release. Otherwise, it's time to give Symantec a call. ®

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