Symantec To Partners: Don't Sweat Intel-McAfee


Steady as she goes, partners. That's the message Symantec is sending to its channel in the wake of Intel's monster $7.68 billion bid for McAfee, which some experts are already calling a possible game-changer in the security industry.

No one knows for sure what Intel has up its sleeve with McAfee, but a popular theory is that the chipmaker will embed security into its processors with the goal of extending protection beyond the PC. Symantec shares this goal, but says its approach of securing identities and information on a multitude of devices will give its partners even more opportunities.

"We believe it is important to focus security on identities and the information people need to access, independent of any device they may be using," Randy Cochran, Symantec vice president of North American channel sales, told CRN Friday.

It's been a year of wheeling and dealing for Symantec, which earlier this month closed its $1.28 billion acquisition of Verisign's identity and authentication business, and earlier this year picked up PGP and GuardianEdge. Symantec is also well along in its partner-led services strategy, in which partners handle implementation services that the company used to deliver in-house.

Symantec sees its broad security portfolio, and the partner services it makes possible, as a key point of differentiation from whatever ultimately emerges from the Intel-McAfee union.

"From a partner perspective, we'll maintain our focus on helping our partners differentiate their businesses with innovative solutions, maximize their sales opportunities with increased enablement resources and accelerate profitability with an expanded set of sales resources, tools and incentives," Cochran said.

Although some Symantec partners have told CRN they see some ominous potential in the Intel-McAfee deal, there's another school of thought in the channel that believes Symantec's diversified portfolio will offer the quickest route to the next -- and more robust -- level of security that vendors are chasing.

In addition, while McAfee and Intel gave a target of early 2011 for the first integrated products to arrive, some solution providers believe this timeframe is unrealistic.

"Assuming that the intent is to capture some McAfee IP and integrate it at the chip level, it's hard to imagine that this much chipset and CPU level integration is going to happen over the next year," said Josh Liberman, president of Net Sciences, an Albuquerque, N.M.-based solution provider.

Intel says it plans to keep McAfee intact in the same way that EMC runs RSA, but it's possible that the deal could exert a disruptive influence in the security industry that could drive customers to seek alternatives. After all, not all McAfee customers are necessarily going to want to buy their security from Intel.

Symantec investors seemed to feel the same way after the acquisition was made public driving up shares nearly 10 percent. "The only real competition for Symantec in the enterprise is McAfee, so taking them off the table would strike me as a good thing for Symantec," said Liberman.