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Symantec Experiencing a Time of Profound Meaningful Change

As part of his opening remarks during his keynote on Tuesday morning, Symantec’s CEO Enrique Salem shared a comment that was made to him by a Symantec user, “We are in the middle of a time of profound meaningful change.” Truer words were never spoken as enterprises of all sizes are facing a broad spectrum of technology changes that are unequaled in this modern era of computing. This level of change means enterprises must dramatically alter how they do business and it is this shift and how Symantec responds to it that keeps Salem up at night.

Every area in which Symantec offers products and services is undergoing tremendous amounts of change. Consider:

  • Backup windows are going to zero and, as that occurs, expectations for recoveries to go to zero or near-zero are bound to follow
  • Enterprises are well on their way towards completing the first phase of virtualizing their infrastructure (test, dev, file and print servers and web servers) and are aggressively making plans for phase two to virtualize their business critical applications
  • Cyber attacks are becoming more sophisticated, originating from more sources and becoming more difficult to detect

So while one might assume that Symantec is in a prime position to meet these new challenges (and to a large degree it is,) it cannot rest on its laurels. Any failures to sufficiently update its software, integrate across its portfolio or execute on its plans to respond to these new market forces opens the door for competitors to encroach and take away its significant share of the market. So in the same way that Symantec’s customers are experiencing a time of profound meaningful change, Symantec similarly needs to undergo a profound meaningful change in how it is organized and delivers its products and services.

It was in that context that I viewed the entire Symantec Vision conference in which I was in attendance for the past two days and looking for evidence that Symantec was making the level of change necessary so it does more than just survive in the tumultuous times that we are all facing. I was looking for evidence that it would thrive. Here are two conclusions i reached based upon what I saw.

First, Symantec has most of the resources that it needs to thrive and survive. Broadly speaking, Symantec has information management, data management and data security that are poised to demand a premium over hardware. As both server and storage virtualization contribute to the decreasing value of the underlying hardware (not trying to imply hardware is not important but it no longer carries the same weight it once did,) knowing where the data resides, who has ownership of it, verifying it is secure, finding it when it is needing and managing it short and long terms becomes of greater concern.

In this respect, Symantec already has a significant edge over all of its competitors when it comes to managing data in heterogeneous OS, server, and storage environments. Maintaining that edge and capitalizing on it will be key for its users (current and future) to continue to find value in what it has to offer.

At Vision Symantec spent a great deal of time illustrating how it was delivering on these requirements both internally and externally. Internally I saw more evidence than ever that synergies were occurring between its storage foundation/high availability, information management/data protection and security groups.

By way of example, the security group mentioned it was going to start leveraging deduplication to help expedite scanning of files in virtualized environments. Leveraging deduplication its antivirus software can identify which files on virtualized machines are duplicates of files on other machines and bypass scanning these duplicates.

The storage team also indicated that it plans to take advantage of the same deduplication technology as it builds out is next generation of Cluster File System and FileStore which is not surprising. Already FileStore has components of NetBackup and Enterprise Vault embedded in it so it only makes sense that other data protection technologies will continue to find their way into Symantec’s broader product line.

In this respect, what I found surprising was how the exact opposite is happening of what most analysts predicted would occur when Symantec acquired Veritas some time ago. Most felt that the security technologies would find their way into Symantec’s storage and data protection offerings. Instead it can more accurately be said that features in Veritas’ data protection and storage offerings have found their way into Symantec’s security offerings.

Yet if Salem wants to sleep well at night, this lack of integration has to reverse course and more security features need to find their way into storage offerings. While I saw more and spoke to more individuals on the security side of the house at Symantec (I am a data protection/storage guy by trade) than I have in the past, it was not the in-depth conversations that I would expect.  Further, in talking to Symantec’s own internal folks, they still seemed to indicate that the security team still operates largely outside of its storage/data protecton teams.

Symantec needs to move to address this probably sooner than later. For example, as momentum toward virtualization and the cloud continue to build, security needs to be an integral part of its data protection and storage offerings, especially when it comes to offering secure multi-tenant solutions. And while Symantec may already be moving in this direction, it was not readily apparent to me either in the public presentations which I attended or the individuals to which I spoke with privately.

In regards to building external relationships with its partners, it paraded a steady stream of partners onstage during its keynotes to highlight the stability of these relationships. Dell, HP, Fujitsu, Intel and VMware all were present. While these sessions dragged at times, they were in retrospect probably necessary to demonstrate that areas where there may have been some customer questions about the stability of the relationships (Intel buying McAfee specifically comes to mind) were in fact stable and in good stead.

My second and final thought coming out of Symantec has to do with its V-Ray technology announcement. During the opening keynote, it showed a very humorous but poignant video of how even as enterprises are implementing virtualization for the most critical parts of their infrastructure, they lack visibility into it. As a result, they are being forced to manage this critical part of the infrastructure almost in the dark.

Again, this is another area where Symantec already has all of the raw building blocks to deliver a killer product in this area. Regardless of which Symantec product you point to, ApplicationHA, Backup Exec, Cluster File System, Data Loss Prevention, Enterprise Vault, NetBackup, or Storage Foundation, they all provide levels of insight and visibility into the infrastructure as to who owns the data, where it is, its age and its importance.

But what was not entirely clear coming out of Vision was how enterprises could fully leverage V-Ray or where they could go to get this visibility. Is it Veritas Operations Manager? Is it vCenter? Is it another portal? Or is it some combination of all of these? So the good news is that Symantec has what I believe the right vision in this area. The bad news as of right now is that it lacks some particulars on what it is.

A time of profound meaningful change is upon Symantec as much as it is upon the customers that it services. The good news for Symantec is that it appears to already have much of the software that it needs to ensure that its customers will survive this transition. But what should be of utmost priority to it from my perspective is putting together an articulate strategy in how it is going to leverage the best of what it already has and then executing upon it.


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