Symantec Cloud Strategy Slow But Steady

Symantec has been criticized by partners as being late to the cloud. Now the Mountain View, Calif., security firm is revving its cloud prowess with a bigger and more strategic entrance into cloud markets. The going will be slow for a while.

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During its Vision Conference 2013 this week in Las Vegas, Symantec Corp. didn’t announce splashy cloud roll-outs -- but that doesn’t mean cloud isn’t an important issue for the Mountain View, Calif., security company, or that it doesn’t have a cloud strategy.

Going forward, Symantec says it plans to place a lot of its energies on securing the cloud, or what it terms as “safe clouds.”

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“We want to be sure that information is going to be safe, secure and compliant,” said Dave Elliott, Symantec senior product manager of global cloud marketing.

This is a broadly defined, open-ended goal. Before embarking on a cloud strategy, Symantec first had to nail down the definition of cloud. A cloud strategy will entail selling cloud services, reselling hosted services, reselling products being deployed in the cloud and reselling products deployed in the cloud. Going forward, Symantec will tackle the cloud on all of those fronts, Elliott said.

According to him, The company’s strategy is three-fold:

  • Symantec has more than a dozen pre-integrated cloud products on the market that channel partners can resell -- and it plans to add more in the not-too-distant future.
  • Symantec is investing in products companies can leverage to build their own clouds.
  • There are offerings that extend customers’ existing operations by leveraging other third party clouds --  such as cloud file-share and cloud storage -- that help organizations mitigate risk and become more efficient.

Some of the biggest opportunities for partners are in building cloud infrastructure and addressing/troubleshooting issues after initial implementation, Elliott said. Managing partners have the potential to reap margin through comprehensive customer assessments and ongoing consulting services that clear up a the mystery and complexity around cloud infrastructure build-outs.

Symantec’s recent efforts around the cloud come as part of a sweeping overhaul of its product portfolio and an push to invest in relevant technologies. These goals are part of itsstrategic roadmap Symantec 4.0, as was outlined by CEO Steve Bennett in January. Included in the 10 key areas of investment is its SMB-focused Norton cloud product and cloud-based information management solutions.

Stated cloud goals, while lofty, are inevitable for the largest global security firm. According to Gartner, cloud security services are projected to be a $4.2 million opportunity by 2016. It’s likely Symantec doesn’t want to lose more time or market share to its competitors.

While its goals may have been articulated, Symantec has to figure out how to reach them while ensuring plenty of channel opportunity and sustainable margins in the process. Now, it's turning the dial up on its cloud ambitions.

To that end, the company has developed training courses around the cloud -- dubbed CloudSmart trainings -- that detail how partners can incur and increase value by building and extending cloud infrastructure for their customers. The training series also includes how Symantec partners can wean their businesses from a traditional economic model to one that accounts for recurring revenue -- a transition that has represented one of the biggest barriers to cloud adoption.

The firm launched Symantec 0 3, a cloud information protection platform that provides identity and access control, information security and information management. The company is also developing new services for the cloud, including its cloud file-sharing product Norton Zone, consumer-focused but slated for further entrance into SMB and other lower markets. Almost all security products will eventually be delivered as cloud services -- where it makes sense, Elliott said.

If it seems Symantec’s cloud trajectory has been painstakingly slow, you aren’t alone. Partners have criticized the company for being late to the cloud game, and many lead with competing vendors Sophos Ltd. or Trend Micro Inc. for the bulk of their cloud security services.

While Symantec has had a small presence in the cloud space, with a spate of disparate cloud offerings garnered from VeriSign and MessageLabs acquisitions, it historically hasn't kept up with its nearest rivals as the cloud market continued its exponential growth.

Above all, Symantec has lacked a comprehensive channel and integration strategy that ties its myriad offerings all together and exposes new value and high-margin opportunities for partners. Symantec has also fallen short in its voice, Elliott said.

“Symantec has been in the cloud game for quite a while,” Elliott said. “But based on breadth of opportunities, we still don’t have a commensurate level of voice around cloud.”

Elliott said the firm is amping up marketing efforts. New products, a concerted presence at cloud-related events and the proliferation of SmartCloud trainings aim to address that lack of marketing.

But without a doubt, Symantec’s transformation in the cloud, as with its other divisions, will be a slow and steady climb. Partners wanting to jump into the cloud with both feet will need a bit more patience to see this through.

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