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A Secret Mission in Uncharted Space

Attending Symantec’s Vision 360 summit in London at the end of last week left me with several observations.

The big yellow box company was using the event to launch its new “Integrated Security Management System” to potential and existing Enterprise customers and bought in some big guns, in the shape of NISCC’s Steve Cummings and Sir Andrew Wood, the former British Ambassador to Russia, to help Symantec COO John Schwarz articulate the company’s latest approach to keeping the lid on a growing global information security problem.

For Schwarz there are many different problems tugging at his development team and above them all, “The sheer complexity – of increasingly blended threats – creating an unmanageable situation for most of us”. He compared the present, disjointed state of the industry with the early days of Client-server computing, pointing out, that different generations shared a systems management challenge in common. In such complex and increasingly multiple device-type environments we’re surrounded by “Dozens of highly specialized ‘point’ products that don’t communicate”.

You might think of this condition as a kind of ‘points failure’ and with statistics suggesting confidence in corporate information security to be rather less than that in Railtrack, solving the systems management problem, in the wider security sense is, as Microsoft’s Chief Security Officer, Stuart Okin, would agree, a fundamental problem to be overcome.

As you might expect, Symantec has, what it believes to be a new solution to this a ‘Tower of Babel Effect’ of the industry’s own making and I’m sure they’ll tell you about it if you ask. Just as interesting perhaps, from my point of view, is how, in the space of eighteen months, the company whose strategy was once derided as “a blizzard of yellow boxes”, has suddenly emerged, almost unchallenged as the dominant player in the Enterprise security space.

Undoubtedly, the other security giants will point to the latest Gartner or IDC report on who offers the best anti virus solution or who happens to be strongest at the perimeter of the network. Symantec however, through a number of swift acquisitions and a ‘Buzz Lightyear’ style, is attracting the attention of both business and the public sector with a mix of clever marketing and brand management. It strikes me that Symantec and Enterprise security are becoming increasingly synonymous and unless the other players’ sit-up and pay attention, the lucrative Enterprise security and managed services space could find itself wrapped-up inside a series of yellow box solutions.

Does that matter? I don’t think so because what this sector of the industry needs is more professionalism and the tighter product integration that John Schwarz describes. What remains to be seen is whether companies like Symantec which started in the security ‘commodity’ space, can succeed and thrive in the same managed services space as companies such as Unisys and IBM.

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