Symantec takes on MS, connects security and storage at Vision 2006

SAN FRANCISCO – Symantec CEO John Thompson took shots at Microsoft, made a mea culpa to customers and talked about the security company’s plans for continued growth during his keynote address at his company’s Vision 2006 conference.

“Symantec is synonymous with security. Microsoft is synonymous with a lot of things, but security is not one of them,” Thompson said during a keynote.

He said Symantec would put more money into marketing and research in its bid to keep Microsoft from taking away its business.

Microsoft isn’t much of a threat to Symantec in the short term, but will be in the long term, said Christian Christiansen, program vice-president of security products and services at IDC in Framingham, Mass. Microsoft is already a major player in the anti-spam space.

In order to keep its position over Microsoft, Symantec must integrate its products more, which the company is already in the process of doing, he said.

During a Q&A following Thompson’s keynote, a customer complained about the quality of support his company was receiving for an archiving product, and Thompson admitted the company had failed its customers, blaming the difficulty in finding skilled support staff.

Symantec is a “victim of (its) own success,” he said. The company was in the process of training more staff, he said.

There are two critical areas of focus – message management and compliance, Thompson said during his keynote. When e-mail goes down, industry comes to a halt, he said. The company wants to be able to protect organizations from not only incoming, but outgoing communications, monitoring outbound instant messages to ensure they don’t contain any confidential information.

Symantec also made a number of announcements at the event, including its new IT Compliance solution, the Symantec Data Center Foundation, Storage Foundation 5.0 and Veritas Server Foundation. Data Center Foundation is designed to be a software platform on which companies can standardize heterogeneous applications, databases, servers and storage platforms. Storage Foundation is its storage management and virtualization technology.

The ability to consolidate storage has led to a dramatic reduction in cost for Statistics Canada, according to the assistant director of its IT services division, Guy Charron, who is based in Ottawa and attended the conference.

The IT division is an internal cost recovery organization – it starts with a zero budget at the beginning of the year and the other departments buy services from it.

In 2004, it put together a business case for Stats Canada consolidating all of its storage. As a result, IT absorbed a 289 per cent increase in storage and a 75 per cent increase in backup. The organization put the right information on the right media, Charron said, and used Symantec’s Enterprise Vault product. As a result of the consolidation, it was able to reduce cost from $15 per gigabyte per month to $1.50 per gigabyte per month.

“It’s the economies of scale,” he said, adding that storage has become a commodity.

Although the amount of data Stats Canada’s IT department was backing up grew by 75 per cent, its backup window stayed the same and it was able to meet the growth while maintaining its window.

There was initially a lot of concern about the proposed consolidation, but Charron said he now gets nothing but good feedback.

As for Symantec, there was very little positive feedback when it first announced its merger with storage firm Veritas, IDC’s Christiansen said. However, in a few months, the merger will put the company in a better position, he said.

“It will see the fruits of the merger in the fall,” he said.

However, the merger did initially hurt Symantec because Wall Street didn’t understand it.

“It’s been a difficult transition for them.”

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