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CRN Interview: Symantec's John Thompson

Symantec Chairman and CEO John Thompson talked about the competition, the channel and consolidation in the security market In an exclusive interview with CRN West Coast Bureau Chief Marcia Savage at the Symantec Enterprise Partner Summit earlier this month in Chicago.

Symantec Chairman and CEO John Thompson talked about the competition, the channel and consolidation in the security market In an exclusive interview with West Coast Bureau Chief Marcia Savage at the Symantec Enterprise Partner Summit earlier this month in Chicago.

CRN: Anything new with Symantec's channel strategy this year?

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Thompson: Consistency is the critical issue. We must work to develop a stronger value-added reseller channel, particularly for our high-end security products. We expect a lot of the investments we've made in the past six to 12 months will start to bear some fruit for us and those partners. The change we made in our certification program, the change we made in our educational approach, the structure of the various levels of participation of partners in our program,all those things have been done to make sure we attract the right kinds of partners and [they] feel like they can build a profitable business around Symantec's products and services. There's more to be done to educate our partners better about the notion of integrated security technologies.

CRN: What do you think about Microsoft and its acquisition of an antivirus company?

Thompson: At least at the moment, it's much ado about nothing. GeCAD is a small, early stage player primarily focused in the Linux marketplace. I doubt that will be their focus moving forward. So Microsoft has acquired some technology that they will ultimately put into the marketplace, as they say, in a fee-based offering. Until they have an offering in the marketplace [and] until we know what it is targeted toward, we're not going to run around doing high-speed hand-wringing at Symantec.

The pragmatic side of security suggests that antivirus alone is not sufficient to deal with today's blended threats. We've been on that theme for two years or more now. You need a sophisticated collection of technologies integrated at each tier of a customer's network architecture,the network tier, the application tier, the client or desktop tier,to do an adequate job of protecting today's environments. The fact that Microsoft now has antivirus is interesting, but until they do something with it in a way that allows it to truly solve the threat problems of today, it is nothing more than a hollow promise to the marketplace.

CRN: Who do you see as your top competitor?

Thompson: We see the same point-product players across the spectrum,Network Associates and Trend Micro in the [antivirus] space, [Internet Security Systems] in the intrusion-detection space, Cisco [Systems] and Check Point [Software Technologies] in the firewall space. %85 Longer term, there are potential threats on the horizon from the likes of Microsoft, obviously, and the desires of IBM or Cisco to have a stronger presence in helping customers solve what has become a truly daunting problem. It's going to be interesting to see how customers deal with the issues of choosing a security services and software provider. We would argue there are issues around corporate governance that come into play when your network provider is also the person who secures your network.

CRN: Any thoughts on Network Associates and its acquisition of a couple intrusion-detection companies?

Thompson: They at least are starting to arrive at a point of reality about today's threat spectrum: that you need more than [antivirus] to solve the problems of your customers. I applaud them for the awakening they've experienced. The question becomes, do they move to integrate the technologies in a way that creates an effective solution for customers, or do they continue on their theme of point-product solutions, which thrust the integration task onto the desks of customers? %85 The actions of the past couple [of] years would suggest to all of us that the security sector is ripe for consolidation. %85 As the problems have become more complex, as customers have started to demand a more holistic or integrated approach, the little point products that have sprung up like dandelions aren't going to find an easy route to market if they're not a part of a bigger solution set.

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