Symantec Makes Channel Partners A Big Part Of Its Cloud Strategy

Symantec plans to move most if not all of its storage and security applications to the cloud while making sure the cloud becomes a channel-friendly place in which to do business.

The company is planning to make its cloud strategy more clear during its Symantec Partner Engage conference, held this week in Las Vegas.

Symantec's three-part cloud strategy includes making most of its products available as part of a hosted solution, providing the ecosystem to help partners take advantage of those hosted solutions in a cloud, and providing the parts needed to bridge that cloud to what customers are doing on-premise, said John Magee, vice president of product marketing for the company.

However, Magee said, solution providers should not expect the adoption of cloud computing to happen quickly.

"Symantec believes the cloud will have a significant impact on our business and the industry," he said. "But this will happen over several years. No one is flipping a switch."

Next: Turning Software Into Hosted Solutions

Symantec plans to turn much of its portfolio of software and appliances into products which can be offered as part of a hosted service, Magee said.

The move stems from customer requirements for pay-as-you-go technology combined with uncertain IT staffing levels and uncertain IT skills, he said.

For Symantec, Magee said, making sure solution providers are involved in its cloud strategy is a priority, even though he admitted that not all partners will be able to make the transition.

"We doing more than anyone else in this space to leverage partners," he said. "I won't say no one will be displaced. But there are opportunities for partners to help customers get to the point where they can take advantage of new technologies in the cloud like dedupe and data loss prevention."

Magee said that solution providers who require more time to build their cloud expertise will continue to find opportunities with Symantec. "It's not an all or nothing (situation)," he said.

Next: Providing The Cloud Ecosystem

Symantec is also building an ecosystem around its hosted offerings to make it possible to use them as part of a cloud solution, Magee said.

Whether an MSP is building a public cloud, or a solution provider is helping customers build private clouds, they require the tools needed to ensure that customers' operations and data remain secure, he said.

"Confidence is really the enablement for the model," he said. "Enterprises are handing data to a cloud service provider. They require trust based on SLAs and on what their lawyers say. On the service provider side, they have to reassure customers that data will be secured and encrypted, and can be brought back to send to another service provider if needed."

Randy Cochran, Symantec's vice president of channel sales for the Americas, said that because of his company's dependence on the channel, solution providers will have a part to play in building the infrastructure for the cloud. "We don't have enough feet on the street," Cochran said.

Cochran said that Symantec this month plans to start rolling out new cloud training for partners as part of upcoming new channel program offerings. However, he said, the company will not make cloud a separate program, he said.

Next: Interoperability Between Cloud And On-Premise Operations

When helping customers deal with cloud computing, it is important to provide interoperability between the clouds and the customer's on-premise IT infrastructures, Magee said.

"No one is just flipping the (cloud) switch tomorrow," he said. "For example, our NetBackup has an open interface to both (the cloud storage service of) Nirvanix and to our own Enterprise Vault."

On the storage side, customers will require federated information management, which provides them visibility into on-premise and cloud storage, Magee said.

On the security side, sending information to the cloud will require it go through the same data loss prevention filters or gateways as data which is stored on-premise, while e-mails stored in the cloud will need the same security, availability, archiving, and e-discovery features as data stored locally, he said.

All this will have to be done with automation in mind to give customers time to focus on their more immediate tasks, Magee said. "SLAs will be very important," he said. "There will also be tools to make sure SLAs are being met."

Next: Bringing Rogue Clouds Under Control

Magee also cited the need for enterprises to get control of SaaS adoptions by specific departments. "A lot of enterprises are running into issues from a security perspective when departments sign up for a new SaaS offering," he said. "A lot of chief security officers are looking at tools to make sure they know what's going on."

Those chief security officers also need to articulate very clear policies related to adoption of SaaS and cloud computing in their businesses, Magee said.

"They have to because a lot of organizations have information scattered all over," he said.