Symantec Streamlines Security Biz

Cuts investment in its hardware business amid plans for next-gen security software

June 27, 2006

3 Min Read
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Symantec is the latest IT supplier to overhaul its business model. It looks to be a trend that could pave the way for new all-singing, all-dancing security software from the vendor.

Today, Symantec confirmed its plans to reduce investment in its Gateway Security family of appliances as well as in its Network Security 7100 device and its Advanced Manager 3.0 hardware offerings.

In an email, a Symantec spokesman explained that the vendor will continue to sell and support these products. "However, we have changed our strategy on how well deliver these technologies," he asserted. "Instead of designing the hardware ourselves, we’ll look to partners to help us do that."

The Gateway Security hardware represents just half of Symantec's security appliances, which include its Mail Security, Network Access Control Enforcer, and Security Information Manager products. The Symantec spokesman confirmed that these offerings will be unchanged by the vendor's decision to cut its Gateway Security hardware investments.

Indeed, the fact that Symantec is not cutting investment in its Network Access Control Enforcer offering adds weight to recent hints that Symantec is looking to claw its way into the Network Admission Control (NAC) market. This move could be made off the back of the technology it acquired last year with its Sygate purchase. (See Could Sygate Get Snapped Up?.)Still, Symantec's news indicates a clear directive to reduce dependency on hardware. It follows word last week from Network Appliance's sale of its NetCache business to Blue Coat. The sale was prompted by NetApp's desire to refocus its efforts on data management and the enterprise data center. (See Blue Coat Grabs NetApp's NetCache.)

In both cases, the goal appears to be a consolidation of effort on core competencies. Hardware appliances of any sort are no longer a cash cow for vendors. Increasingly, data center equipment is becoming commoditized, from servers and semiconductors through to low-cost, high-capacity drives. (See Sun Stokes Server Price War, What's in Store for 2005?, and SGI Drives Down Prices.)

The vendor's move away from security hardware may also have been prompted by stiff competition from big-name appliance vendors, such as Cisco and Juniper. (See Chambers Shouts About Security, Cisco Sets Out Security Strategy, Force10 Breaks Into Security, Juniper Intros FIPS SSL VPN, and Juniper Touts Security.)

Both Cisco and Juniper are already touting their own network access strategies, which enforce security policy compliance across different devices at a time when users are looking to lock down their internal systems. (See Cisco Announces NAC for Mid-Market, Cisco Expands NAC Framework, Cisco Shores Up Security, Juniper Intros Enterprise Infranet, Juniper's Infranet Takes Baby Steps, and Cisco Heckles Infranet Initiative.)

All this may have discouraged Symantec. "If you're used to having a PIX firewall from Cisco as a device, it's not a stretch to buy an identity management appliance from Cisco as well," says William Hurley, senior analyst at the Data Mobility Group.Hurley thinks Symantec is clearing the decks in order to refocus on its software business. "Symantec wants to be a software company," he says. "So if you go to market with an appliance, you sort of become a hybrid. My suspicion is that they have an announcement that they are going to make. That could be security software combining the likes of identity access and encryption."

Symantec has already confirmed that it is working on a new product, code-named "Project Hamlet," which is scheduled for launch in early 2007. Although the vendor has not revealed the specifics of the software-based offering, it is said to combine technology from Symantec's Sygate and WholeSecurity acquisitions as well as its existing anti-virus offerings. (See Symantec Sets Out Roadmap, Symantec Strolls Off With Sygate, Symantec to Acquire Sygate, and Symantec Buys WholeSecurity .)

— James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Blue Coat Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BCSI)

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • Data Mobility Group

  • Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR)

  • Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • Sygate Technologies Inc.

  • Symantec Corp.

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