Symantec's Security-Storage Vision Coming Into Focus

It has been two and a half years since Symantec first announced its plans to acquire Veritas. During that time, Symantec Chairman and CEO John Thompson has fielded all kinds of questions about the merger and been steadfast in his insistence that a beneficial synergy would develop between the security and storage products, which would, in turn, create new opportunities for partners.

As Symantec gets ready for its Vision 2007 event this week in Las Vegas, there are clear signs that Thompson's strategy is paying off.

Legacy security partners are seeing healthy margins on storage products such as Backup Exec and Enterprise Vault. Symantec's efforts to train legacy Veritas partners how to add security to storage deals have enabled some to move up a level in the vendor's channel program. And the marketplace, driven by compliance pressures, has woken up to the value that combinations of security and storage products can bring, helping Symantec channel partners generate new and lucrative revenue streams.

Along the road, however, there certainly have been some potholes. Last November, Symantec launched an ERP system that combined its own system with that of Veritas, and at the same time rolled out new buying programs and changed its software licensing terms. This "perfect storm" of channel confusion caused partners to flood Symantec phone support lines with calls, leading to long hold times and sending administrative and labor costs through the roof. However, Symantec executives say they've righted the ship, and have learned valuable lessons from what has been, to date, the biggest glitch associated with the merger.

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After the merger, some Veritas partners, accustomed to comfortable, predictable revenue streams from storage and availability deals, were concerned that Symantec's more channel-focused route to market might put a dent in their margins. And some Symantec partners wondered how Veritas' more direct-sales-oriented culture would affect their businesses.

However, success stories have emerged on both sides that suggest these fears may have been unfounded.

"We had an expectation of how things would play out after the merger. I thought it would be worse than it was, that Symantec's off-the-shelf software would lead to everything being commoditized, and that this would fit the model of the CDWs of the world. But that hasn't happened," said Pat Edwards, vice president of sales at Alliance Technology Group, a Hanover, Md., legacy Veritas partner that didn't work with Symantec prior to the merger.

Symantec, Cupertino, Calif., has been stepping up its training efforts to show legacy Veritas partners how to represent security, storage management and availability solution deals, training them to ask the right questions to get deeper into accounts. Closer interaction with the local sales teams and channel manager has, in the past year, helped Alliance Technology Group grow its annual sales volume to move from Gold to Platinum status, according to Edwards.

"If you present Veritas NetBackup on a sales call, and you've identified that this is in fact what the customer is going to procure, we're now asking them what they're doing for the security side of the house. In some cases, we've been able to leverage a larger-sized solution because we're also picking up the security business," said Edwards.

Another crossover success story is En Pointe Technologies, El Segundo, Calif., which has integrated storage and availability products into its lineup by changing the makeup of its sales force and professional services group. The VAR's efforts have paid off in the form of a large and growing business around Veritas products, said Matt Gair, client solutions director for information security and professional services.

"We're a success story in terms of being able to go the other direction and pick up the Veritas availability products," said Gair.

Symantec has demonstrated to partners and customers how synergy between storage and security leads to logical combinations. For example, the vendor is pulling together what it says is a natural set of offerings for compliance by talking up the combination of Enterprise Vault and Control Compliance Suite (formerly Bindview), according to partners.

Making Progress
Symantec also has made great strides in the past year in hammering out support issues, which flared after the botched ERP implementation. Julie Parrish, vice president of global channel sales and strategy, said Symantec has listened to partner feedback over licensing issues and has already released seven updates to its licensing portal, which whittles down the number of steps necessary to obtain a license.

Symantec released a second major upgrade to the licensing portal in early June that addressed usability issues and improved overall performance, she said.

The way Symantec handled problems with the rollout of Backup Exec 11D, which was launched last December, illustrates the progress in supporting Veritas products, said Dave Fry, project manager at IQ Systems, a Reno, Nev.-based solution provider and Symantec Gold partner.

Next: Does Synergy Matter To VARs?

"They've had several bumps along the way in releasing and supporting the Backup Exec 11D product, but they've been pretty responsive in getting workarounds until the next hot fixes are released. In general, they have overcome their major issues and become a better-managed support organization," said Fry.

Channel conflict was another concern of partners on both sides. But Symantec has been able to keep partners from butting heads by implementing a tiered channel program as well as a system that rewards partners with deal registration and margin for learning its products, Parrish said.

"In the Veritas days, we weren't protected from other partners selling the same solution, and that led to us having margin issues selling Veritas at the end," said Edwards. "Symantec is saying if someone snakes the deal from you at the last minute, we'll make it right. They'll throw in extra margin on the back end to compensate."

Does Synergy Matter To VARs?
Although support issues that affected Veritas partners before the merger have improved somewhat, a number of issues still remain, some solution providers say.

"There has been a miniscule improvement in customer and technical support, but it's not where it needs to be yet. You still get semblances of the Veritas support problems that were legendary before the merger," said Darrel Bowman, CEO of AppTech, Tacoma, Wash.

And, despite some legacy partners' crossover success, others still don't see the value of picking up both product lines.

"They personally have not shown me a solid strategy as to how they will integrate and what benefits it will provide the customer," said Fry. Parrish anticipates there will be partners that stick with the competency they had before the merger. "I'm not sure it's necessarily an objective of ours to have every partner out there selling both security and availability," she said.

Indeed, some Symantec partners who said they don't see— or care—about the security/storage synergy also said their faith in the vendor remains strong.

"I can see some synergies, but not very strong ones. But the fact is, Symantec and Veritas were both very well-respected companies, and as long as they maintain their technology edge, and support their customer base and innovate, the issue of synergy becomes moot, in my opinion," said Reza Zarafshar, president and CEO of Advanced Computer Concepts, a Symantec Gold partner in McLean, Va.