Symantec's Altiris Buy Raises Questions For VARs, Analysts

acquire network client management vendor Altiris

VARs say the Altiris buy raises further questions about Symantec's commitment to the channel, while industry analysts say the Cupertino, Calif., security software giant may have bitten off more than it can chew at this time.

"I'm not very big on Symantec's channel program right now," said Neil Medwed, president of Preferred Technology Solutions, a Richardson, Texas-based solution provider and Symantec partner.

Medwed said Symantec's partner support has waned lately -- so much so that Preferred Technology no longer taps Symantec as its go-to security vendor, choosing instead to offer products from Symantec, McAfee and Trend Micro. He said he's unsure if the Altiris acquisition will be something that Symantec partners could benefit from or end up having to compete against.

Wade Wyant, program manager at ITS Communications, a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based solution provider and Altiris partner, said Altiris' product portfolio will strengthen Symantec in the areas of proactive network management and system virtualization. Still, he said he sees Symantec's partner program as an unknown, and it might be tough for the vendor to stay focused considering its broad product lineup, which spans security, storage and soon network client management.

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"That's the only thing that really concerns me. I don't know [Symantec's] partner model at all. We are researching that right now," Wyant said. "What I'm worried about is the second half of this year. Symantec sells so many products through so many channels. It could get rough."

Symantec and Altiris also have OEM relationships with Dell, which could create channel conflict between Dell's direct-sales force and resellers of Symantec and Dell products, Preferred Technology's Medwed said.

The Altiris acquisition, too, comes as Symantec has its hands full trying to boost its financial performance, according to analysts Daniel Ives and Michael Bauer of Friedman, Billings, Ramsey (FBR), an investment banking group in Arlington, Va.

"We believe the timing of this acquisition is not ideal," the analysts wrote in a brief released Monday. "With [Symantec] just coming off a very disappointing quarter, coupled with weak guidance, we believe now is the time to get [Symantec's] own house in order, not to start acquiring more technologies in tangential product areas."

In response to FBR's criticism of the timing of the Altiris deal, Rob Clyde, vice president of technology at Symantec, said, "We are doing the things that need to be done to put the house in order."

The product road map is still being worked out and won't appear until the second quarter, when the Altiris acquisition is expected to close, according to Clyde. Virtualization products will be a big part of Symantec's product play once it has all of Altiris' tools in-house, and new products that address the needs of MSPs also are a possibility, he said.

Steve Morton, vice president of product management and marketing at Altiris, told CRN in late 2006 that the vendor planned to introduce multitenancy capability to its network client monitoring product line later this year. The move would essentially position Altiris to compete against popular MSP platform vendors such as N-able and SilverBack, he said.

All of Altiris' channel management will remain in place at Symantec, said Steve Madigan, vice president of corporate development at Lindon, Utah-based Altiris.

About 35 percent of Altiris' sales run through OEM deals, 24 percent are through direct sales and 41 percent come via channel partners, according to Morton.