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Neuraspective™

Symantec Vision 2014 took place at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas between May 5-8, 2014.

Neuralytix considers the messaging forthcoming from Symantec Vision 2014 as one of the most progressive and successful outline of its future.

While Symantec has consolidated itself down to two major business units, Symantec’s messaging needs to ultimately have one singular and unified message about data preservation, protection, security, classification, governance, search and discovery.

Key Findings

  • Continued consolidation of product families
  • Increased and improved integration of product families to enable data reuse to generate enterprise value and competitive advantage
  • Development of an Information Fabric Platform
  • Symantec probably has the earliest (and arguably the most mature) software-defined storage (SDS)

 

Analysis

Overview

Symantec Vision 2014 took place at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas between May 5-8, 2014.

Despite losing its CEO, Steve Bennett, just six weeks earlier, Symantec pulled together what Neuralytix considers its most progressive and successful vision (pun intended) for its future. The messaging was concise and precise.

Absent a permanent CEO, Symantec still articulated its desire to drive its solutions into two broad business units:

  • Unified Information Management; and
  • Unified Security.

Neuralytix interprets this as a regression back to 10 years ago, when Symantec bough Veritas Software. Essentially, there is information (read: data) management, which is legacy/traditional Veritas; and there is security, which is legacy/traditional Symantec.

Although we use the word “regression”, it is not necessarily in a negative sense. The main problem that Neuralytix believes faces Symantec is that it did not provide a singular message around managing data that included both lifecycle management and managing that data in a secure sense. Neuralytix believes that Symantec needs to focus on this aspect of its messaging (not necessarily, the underlying products, per se) for 2015.

Unified Information Management

For many years since the Veritas acquisitions and many acquisitions thereafter, Neuralytix’s view is that Symantec has struggled to integrate the solutions from these acquisitions.

In its own retrospective, Symantec’s leaders agree. Over the last 12 months, since Symantec announced its 4.0 strategy, Symantec has made great strides in creating relationships and integration between its information management products.

With the exception of its eDiscovery products (from Clearwell), that has limited integration with Enterprise Vault, there are now multiple ways that data (and metadata) can be shared, exchanged or managed between product solutions.

In particular, Enterprise Vault has hooks into NetBackup, Backup Exec, Data Loss Prevention, eDiscovery, and Data Insight.

What Neuralytix believes to be the most exciting opportunity for Symantec since Veritas’ File System (VxFS) back in the late 1990’s is Symantec’s vision for its Information Fabric Platform (IFP).

IFP is still new, and by in large in development. Neuralytix believes that this is where Symantec must be by 2015 to ensure it can have the most opportunities to be in a position to recapture its previous leadership in the information management space.

Symantec describes IFP as “a system for aggregating critical intelligence about an organization’s information assets. The system delivers insights that empower business leaders to take control of their information and make value-based decisions on behalf of the organization.” (See Figure 1).

IFP

Figure 1: Symantec Information Fabric Platform (Source: Symantec 2014)

The IFP is data- (information-)centric. Through APIs and metadata, various information management functions can act independently and collaboratively on any given piece of data in a highly orchestrated and compliant ways. The APIs for IFP is expected to be open such that third party applications can participate with the IFP.

The IFP also removes the location dependency, allowing data to freely flow and reside on-premise, in the cloud or have data services delivered –as-a-Service. Data services would include data preservation, protection, classification, governance, search and discovery.

In more contemporary terms, the IFP is Symantec’s answer to the software defined storage (SDS) and to a lesser extent, the software defined data center. To say Symantec is late to the game is too obvious. But, Symantec’s extensive and very loyal partner network may turn out to be the most valuable asset Symantec has.

While EMC (through ViPR) and others such as Dell (with Nutanix) are touting its SDS offerings, Symantec (through Veritas) has had a 20 year head start on all of them. VxFS and CFS from Symantec have had object-like attributes from the beginning. In fact, Neuralytix argues that VxFS can be considered the first SDS offering for distributed computing.

For end-user customers, the argument for a Symantec led SDS solution can be compelling. NetBackup (or Backup Exec) probably already manages their backup data, and likely some archive data. Enterprise Vault is popular with many Symantec customers. For those running Solaris environments, there is a high likelihood that Symantec Storage Foundations is already the file system of choice. So for these customers, relying on Symantec over a less mature (and in many cases, relatively unproven) solution carries significantly lower risk.

Referring to Figure 1, where Symantec was not explicit is how security is integrated with IFP. It is through Data Loss Prevention (DLP), a product that is developed within the Unified Security unit.

Also not explicit was how its Data Insights (DI) product will bring security and information management together.

Unified Security

The Unified Security business unit will focus on three main aspects of security:

  • Threat Protection;
  • Information Protection; and
  • Compliance.

While network security remains a specific discipline, the protection of information and data flowing in-and-out of any organization should not be distinct from the information management aspect.

We all agree that data lives on an inherently insecure network. Obviously this network has to be made as secure as possible from denial of service attacks, etc. But increasingly, it is not network attacks that generate compliance and governance problems for enterprises. It is both inadvertent and deliberate data leakages.

These “security” issues are not like traditional security issues. These are tied specifically and directly to each and every data object. If data is properly managed with a security paradigm that governs data from creation through consumption through destruction, that is part and parcel of the data flow.

Security must be an integral part of the IFP mentioned above.

One of the closing slides presented by Symantec executive read “How we act defines us to the world”. In Symantec’s case, how it does not act, as in, how it still considers security and information management as separate, defines where Symantec may have missed the point (in its overall messaging).

Neuralytix does not believe that Symantec necessarily views security and information management as distinct as it does through its corporate organization and messaging. If the corporate messaging to customers is such, then customers are going to view Symantec that way.

Product integrations take time. However, the overall corporate messaging must be clear. So far, this message has just fallen short of where Symantec needs to be.

Unified means one, not two

It is ironic that both business unit names start with unified, yet a core differentiator of Symantec is not unified – security and data management.

Ultimately, Symantec needs to weave its story into one story – one very strong story. That story should read, only “Symantec has the ability to use data to accelerate your business through secure data management”. This is a message that can carry Symantec through 2020 and beyond.

Ideally, the IFP should be the instantiation of this story. All the various product solutions should “plug into” the platform. The IFP would become an ecosystem unto itself, providing opportunities by third party to deliver enhanced or unique data services, along with Symantec.

An example of this model would be VMware’s model. The hypervisor would be the “platform”. VMware offers vNetworking, vComputing, and vStorage to some degree, allowing its customers to make a choice between a holistic and collective single vendor approach, and it can take advantage of the specialization offered through the ecosystem.

Symantec can mirror this model. It already has best of breed and leading solutions in many aspects of the ecosystem, making it a leading contender for the various data services provision.

Conclusion

The vision expressed in Symantec Vision 2014 is a clear indicator that Symantec is beginning to understand the contemporary approaches of the data and information management markets. Its leadership in security is separately well appreciated by the market.

Symantec’s leadership has recognized the challenge of the numerous point solutions it had, and over the last 12 months has made significant in-roads to leverage the value of integration of its various offerings.

Nevertheless, Neuralytix believes Symantec falls just shy of the mark. It must not only continue the success it has had in integration and simplification of its solutions, but it must accelerate its development of its Information Fabric Platform (IFP) and even more importantly, its ability to deliver a singularly integrated secure data management platform.

Given Symantec’s talented developers, Neuralytix believes by FY2015, Symantec will achieve this. Neuralytix believes that Symantec must start articulating this one-Symantec message soon, and continue it through 2015.

Note:

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