Symantec: Looking like a security company again

I attended the Symantec WorldWide Industry Analyst Conference earlier this week. Here is the "net" of my impressions / takeaways from the event, not necessarily reflecting any specific statements by Symantec.

  • Symantec is more pointedly focused on being a security company. Symantec is re-orienting its strategy and position on information protection foremost, with systems management (Altiris, etc) and information management (Veritas, etc) being subservient to that broader mission.

Security took center stage at this event. The storage and availability management portfolio was mentioned quite a lot, especially de-duplication, but most of it was subservient to the broader security context. There was hardly any mention of Altiris solutions until a deep-dive on the second day. Security is certainly Symantec’s strength, even as its Storage and Availability Management portfolio is a major component of its overall revenues and profit.

  • Symantec’s articulated unique value proposition is in providing coordinated security in a world of complex threats. Symantec’s management heritage and breadth of portfolio lends itself to this .

As Symantec competes on the plane of security against Kaspersky, LANDesk, IBM ISS, McAfee, Microsoft, Postini/Google, and Trend Micro, that makes sense.

However, as security develops into a more embedded offering – through broader adoption of cloud or managed IT services, or through integration into broader IT products – Symantec will compete not only against mega-vendors EMC, Google, HP, IBM, etc., but also against many cloud and service providers who will rapidly emerge as major forces in the IT market landscape. This raises all sorts of issues of disintermediation with the enterprise base, technology aggregation and integration moving out of the enterprise, and even channel conflict (since Symantec will continue to focus on selling security services directly). Moreover, in the context of the 21st century IT services landscape, security will inevitably devolve from cross-sell opportunity to competitive differentiator to table stakes.

In short, it will soon be a very different world in which all security companies will compete. We've got some numbers coming out soon in a report that detail both the pace and degree to which security solution spending will shift from product to services.

Note: All these other companies mentioned here are named competitors from Symantec’s 2009 Annual Report.