Symantec Partners Welcome MessageLabs Deal


"Symantec, with this merger, is finally starting to step into full support of small and medium business," said David Sockol, president of San Carlos, Calif.-based Emagined Security. "I see a huge opportunity for organizations of that size to take advantage of these offerings that in the past were too difficult to manage on their own."

Symantec announced Wednesday that it signed a definitive agreement to purchase MessageLabs for $695 million in cash, giving the Cupertino-based company a leg up over many of its competitors in the online messaging security market and a hefty boost to its existing Software as a Service portfolio, execs say.

"MessageLabs extends our investment in the Software-as-a-Service segment and will allow us to offer our customers unprecedented choice from a single provider of message security solutions," said Symantec CEO John Thompson in a written statement.

In general, partners said they weren't surprised at the news, maintaining that the most recent acquisition reflects a growing trend of market consolidation. Scott Olmstead, senior systems architect for Incentra Solutions, based in Boulder, Colo., said that he was surprised Symantec didn't add online messaging services to its portfolio earlier.

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"It was a welcome announcement. They're now going to have a full hosted offering. That rounds out the picture," said Olmstead. "I expected this move even sooner than it happened."

Partners also maintain that MessageLabs' online messaging security offerings will likely add a much- needed Software-as-a-Service component to Symantec's existing core competencies of portfolio. The growing popularity of subscription-based Web security solutions could possibly open up new markets for channel partners, who could expand their service offerings to include some SMBs and midmarket companies.

Jeff Tye, partner with Tucson,Ariz.-based GMP Networks, said that that the added service element will likely resonate with many of his company's SMB customers, who tend to gravitate toward subscription-based services to fulfill many of their security needs.

"We've actually had some success with smaller companies in this area. That seems to be a pretty popular, and it will probably be a good thing for Symantec as well," said Tye.

Sockol said that in that in the past, Legacy products had been "challenging" for small and medium businesses to operate. However, wider distribution of MessageLabs' Software-as-a-Service solutions could dramatically increase SMB adoption of Symantec's core competency offerings, including its data loss prevention and endpoint security products.

For his own business, which primarily serves enterprise level customers, Sockol said that the acquisition could have the potential to change his business model to incorporate other market segments.

"It's been more difficult to handle and take on SMB and medium businesses because I can't be there all the time," he said. "This may be the thing that allows me to change my approach, to be able to service small and medium businesses in a uniform way."

Olmstead echoed his peers by saying that hosted services for online messaging, malware and other Web-based threat protection are becoming increasingly attractive for smaller businesses looking for cost-effective and reliable security solutions.

But how the merger will pan out in the long run for the channel remains to be seen. Olmstead also contended that he didn't see any immediate drawbacks, but added that he planned to take a "wait and see" perspective.

"I think it was a smart move," he said. "Like all of their other acquisitions, it remains to be seen how the merger will fit in to the larger company."