Symantec 4.0 No Easy Road to Recovery
Symantec's massive overhaul, detailed in last week’s product and channel strategy unveiling, will be instrumental in turning around the vendor suffering from stagnation, increased competition, product deficits, questionable mergers and acquisitions, and an unclear go-to-market strategy. Is the plan bold enough to succeed?
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Symantec Corp.’s massive overhaul, detailed by company officials in last week’s product and channel strategy roadmap, will be instrumental in turning around a vendor suffering from stagnation, increased competition, product deficits, questionable mergers and acquisitions, and an unclear go-to-market strategy.
The sweeping overhaul of the Mountain View, Calif., company’s portfolio by honing, consolidating and culling product categories has been dubbed Symantec 4.0 by company officials looking to kick start innovation and growth. The rejuvenated product push will result in 10 key categories: mobile workforce productivity, Norton protection, Norton cloud, information security services, identity/content-aware security gateway, data center security, business continuity, integrated backup, cloud-based information management, and object storage platform.
All of the new product categories fall under one of three tenets: keeping customers’ data protected online at home and at work; keeping businesses safe and compliant; and keeping businesses up and running.
While this blueprint fills in holes in Symantec’s strategy, questions remain about its ambitions that include its network security focus, cloud and virtualization prowess, security and threat intelligence endeavors, and its ability to adequately serve the SMB. The real test for Symantec will be in how well Symantec 4.0 stacks up against the competition in practical, real-world applications. Let's look at how the reformed company stacks up in the areas of network security, cloud, virtualization, ISS, compliance and SMB offerings:
Network Security: In this area, Symantec’s nearest competitor, Intel Corp.’s McAfee division, will likely represent one of the most formidable challengers.
By most accounts, McAfee’s product portfolio is vastly more comprehensive, containing robust offerings in just about every security product category ranging from endpoint, DLP and network security to more specialized areas around compliance, SIEM and security management. By comparison, partners have told Channelnomics that Symantec has a few good products in a number of categories, along with numerous others that have fallen well short of competitive benchmarks.
By the looks of the Symantec 4.0 roadmap, the vendor will be placing more emphasis on its networking security portfolio in the coming months, with investments, for example, in a content-aware security gateway. A few years prior, Symantec revived its appliance ambitions under former CEO Enrique Salem, but later discontinued the effort, leaving partners scrambling to shoulder the fallout and fill support and service deficits for their customers.
The new product push notwithstanding, Symantec will likely continue to struggle to fulfill comprehensive end-to-end network security demands as thoroughly as McAfee and others in the market such as Juniper Networks, Cisco Systems Inc., Check Point Technologies Ltd. and Fortinet Inc. and even emerging players such as Sophos Ltd..
While Symantec might bolster efforts around the network perimeter, it’s doubtful the company will dedicate the same resources to comprehensive firewall, application control, IPS and even SIEM appliances as competitors in this space.
Cloud and Virtualization: Ostensibly, Symantec has a broader portfolio than competitors like Trend Micro Inc. However, Trend Micro, third largest security company in the world, continues to boast a broad number of offerings.
Among them is its cloud portfolio. Trend Micro Inc. jumped on burgeoning cloud security trends in 2008, and has since emerged as one of the market leaders in the space, touting a comprehensive portfolio that includes its Worry Free and Deep Security Lines.
Symantec maintains it will focus its energies on its consumer cloud offerings with its flagship Norton line, but how far those offerings will extend into business markets remains unclear. Also uncertain is how Symantec will enable and train its channel as cloud services gain traction, and facilitate their transition to a recurring revenue model while maintaining their profitability in the interim.
Symantec has a long way to go to regain ground in this arena as it squares off against Trend Micro and other competitors firmly entrenched on the ground floor of cloud trends, and building out related offerings with a robust and thriving cloud channel over the last five years.
Curiously absent from Symantec’s product forecast, meanwhile, was virtualization – another area where Trend Micro is well ahead of the pack. Trend Micro identified virtualization trends out the gate, and has since launched a comprehensive and well-established line of offerings that secure virtual data centers and endpoints.
Symantec has plans to refresh its data center security capabilities, which could incorporate virtualized offerings. But how, or if, that technology will manifest in specific products has yet to be revealed. Subsequently, virtualization security appears a space where Trend Micro will retain the market lead.
Threat/Information Security Services: Symantec is going up against both RSA and its parent EMC Corp. on both the storage and security fronts.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Symantec plans to stay true to its competencies in storage, backup, disaster recovery and business continuity.
Meanwhile, Symantec has made it clear that it intends to place a renewed focus on information security services. It’s an area where RSA is itching to go toe-to-toe against competitors in an attempt to emerge as a market leader in the space. In the last six months, the security division of parent company EMC has come out with serial launches that include threat monitoring analytics, and rogue app detection, while unveiling a new anti-fraud center that aims to further expand its own threat services play.
Symantec might still show how it can better leverage intelligence and threat analytics into threat detection and other services. However, it’s an area where other competitors have gained ground.
Trend Micro has been bulking up its custom defenses with threat intelligence and analytics capabilities. And even Dell Inc.’s Secureworks is emerging as a credible player in threat intelligence arenas on the heels of a series of service launches.
Symantec claims it will put more emphasis here, but the company is undeniably late out the gate and has significant work to do to catch up in this space. RSA remains a serious contender in security information services and threat analytics– an advantage it won’t easily surrender any time soon. And others have intelligence services well underway. For Symantec, its presence in the threat intelligence market in the near term remains a bit of an enigma.
Compliance: Symantec was curiously silent on where it planned to stand in terms of compliance offerings, suggesting that Symantec’s underperforming GRC products might well be culled from the product line. That means that Symantec will inevitably be taking the backseat to RSA, McAfee and others in crucial areas of security for the foreseeable future.
To that end, McAfee and RSA both have viable SIEM offerings – a solution gaining market traction in light of cloud and intelligence-based technologies, the proliferation of advanced threats, and the enactment of increasingly stringent compliance regulations. Symantec’s reticence on the topic, however, suggests it might focus its investments elsewhere.
SMB Offerings: It’s often difficult to compare Symantec’s broad, sweeping portfolio to the offerings of endpoint-driven firms such as Kaspersky Lab ZAO and Sophos Ltd. However, unlike Symantec, the latter two have a decided advantage in being able to focus their efforts more acutely on SMB market segments.
Symantec is staying true to its endpoint security focus that will inevitably touch on the SMB. The firm last year released its SEP 13 geared for the SMB, catering to its loyal SMB customer base. And some of Symantec’s future cloud offerings and services will likely gain traction with SMB audiences.
But other competitors, particularly Kaspersky and Sophos have consistently played well here and appear to be keeping the upper hand with a wide array of dedicated SMB endpoint, network security and management offerings that seem missing from Symantec’s forecasts.
Over the last several years, partners have complained that Symantec had lost its way, citing a disparate and depleted product portfolio, along with a confusing and frequently directionless go-to-market strategy that prompted many to turn to competitors.
Symantec 4.0 is designed to turn that around. The guideline, while short on actual details, does provide a bare bones outline for the company going forward. Getting all the products to sing together harmoniously is a process that will be developed and implemented over the next six to 24 months, the company says. And the company also plans on placing more of its energies in research and development to create innovative and competitive products that it hopes will fuel organic growth. In product areas where the company is deficient, the company will make strategic partnerships and alliances.
That said, Symantec has its work cut out for it. Like many of its peers, Symantec is in the process of a reinvention as it attempts to transform its disparate moving parts into one fully functional, streamlined and optimized machine. Kicking off 2013, its strategic outline has come as series of New Years resolutions – a wish list of ambitions and goals that have yet to be put to a test that will determine how feasible they are to achieve.