Symantec's Salem Outlines Impact Of Merging Personal, Business Technology

Technology is gradually merging the business and personal lives of its users, and this is having a profound impact on Symantec's security and storage product strategies.

In an interview prior to the Wednesday opening of Symantec's PartnerEngage conference in Las Vegas, Symantec President and CEO Enrique Salem discussed the challenges of adapting his company's broad product portfolio to emerging industry trends such as mobility, social networking and virtualization.

"While we have great products, I want to stop talking about how do we catch one more virus, how to do one more backup, because ultimately for the partner community, for our customers, that's not their view of the world. That's a tech company's view of the world," Salem said.

Consumers' choice of devices such as smartphones and tablet PCs, and the blurring of lines between personal and business environments, is one trend Symantec has been tracking.

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The consumerization of IT and the emergence of new devices such as Apple's iPad are putting pressure on IT departments, said Salem. Industry estimates that between 11 million and 14 million tablet PCs will ship this year is accelerating this trend, he said.

Next: Consumers And Business Users Merge

"IT shops of all sizes are saying, 'How do I manage all these new technologies?'" he said. "Consumerization is real. It's putting pressure on IT, because we went through a world of trying to stand fast. Our goal is, let's try to make every machine as similar to the next one as possible with common software."

The second trend Symantec is watching is what Salem called the "IT-ization" of the consumer. Consumers are getting more devices in their homes, but typically don't have a systems administrator to handle the complexity that this brings.

"Home users don't have the technical sophistication," he said. "We need to think about what we are going to do as a company to help."

The third trend, mobility, plays off the fact that there are currently 1.4 billion PCs and 1 billion smart devices connected to the Internet. That number is set to rise dramatically in the next few years, according to Salem, who quoted estimates from American Express that there will be 10 billion smart devices connected to the Internet by 2014.

"What this means is, if you look at the traditional mobile phone, it wasn't that intelligent of a device," he said. "Every handset going forward will have Internet capability, and will have smart interconnects."

Next: Mobility And The Social Enterprise

Another trend Symantec is tracking is the growing adoption of social media by businesses that are looking for a more efficient alternative to email, Salem said.

"Before you know it, hundreds of emails have been generated to get one simple answer," he said. "We think that model is fundamentally broken. Companies that take advantage of what we call the social enterprise will drive meaningful productivity improvements over companies who use traditional communications tools."

Server and storage virtualization has seen rapid adoption, but there is much yet to be done as customers start adopting cloud computing, Salem said. "Virtualization is just pooling resources," he said.

The bigger challenge, Salem said, is figuring out how to take the various compute and storage resources, put them in a pool, and more effectively utilize them. "We're aggregating resources and delivering applications to customers big and small over the Internet," he said.

Symantec is also watching the evolution of the regulatory environment, but signs are pointing in an ominous direction, Salem said. "Unfortunately, we're going to see more regulation, not less," he said.

Next: Tying All The Trends Together

More immediate to Symantec's own plans, Salem said, are signs of growth in the storage and security markets. He cited IDC estimates that storage requirements will grow 400 percent by 2014 while IT budgets will grow only 20 percent and IT resources by 10 percent during the same period.

On the security side, the threat landscape is continuing to change, Salem said. "We've been predicting for a long time [the emergence of] very targeted attacks," he said. "And we're seeing now with Stuxnet that it was a control system of the critical infrastructure around power generation that was attacked. And that's not new. We all kind of expected that. But the attacks have become very, very targeted."

Salem connected all these trends with a story about a hypothetical employee who wakes up in the morning via an alarm clock app on her smart device, and then uses the device to check her business and personal calendars. She then gets an alert from her boss and sends out queries via the company's social network for more information.

The employee then goes to the office and places her smart device down on any open desk where, because her information follows here wherever she goes, she gets the answers from her queries. As she is walking into a meeting with her boss, she collides with a colleague and drops and breaks her device. However, her boss logs out of her device and hands it to the employee who then logs back into her information to do a presentation.

In this situation, Salem said, a lot of things are happening in the data center which are invisible to the user. For instance, if there is a problem in the data center, operations seamlessly switch over to a backup data center. "And that's how the world has to be in the future," he said. "Users cannot have their work interrupted because something happened in the back office."

Next: Implications For The IT World

Such a scenario has major implications for the IT industry, Salem said.

First, the world will be about people, and not the specific devices. "With all due respect to [Apple CEO] Steve Jobs and the big company he's running, the device is irrelevant," he said. "I will tell you, tomorrow, if somebody hands me a new Android device that has a couple new bells and whistles, I'll be using it. Because it's about my productivity. It's not about the device. It's about people."

The second implication is the continual merging of users personal and business lives. "If I ask you, how many of you check your email in the first half-hour after waking up, everybody will say it's usually in the first five minutes," he said. "If I ask, how many of you check your email when you're supposed to be on vacation, everybody does. It's unfortunate, but our business and personal lives are merging.

Furthermore, making back-end systems more scalable and cost-effective have become primary concerns among organizations, Salem said.

Salem said there are a couple of enablers which will make those trends become reality.

Next: The Enablers

The first enabler is identity security, or technology which ensures that a user is really who he or she says they are. Symantec wants to invent new ways to provide positive identification across the Internet.

For instance, Symantec, which in August acquired VeriSign's identity and authentication business, has done a lot of work in user authentication, such as moving from hard tokens to soft tokens.

However, Salem said, there is a lot of work to be done.

"If you believe there will be 10 billion smart devices in 2014, and these smart devices have geolocation capabilities, there's a set of things we think about privacy," he said. "Think about it this way. I have this device in California, and somebody tries to log in from New York as me. If you geolocate a computer in New York and a device in California, now you know there's a problem. Ask them a challenge question."

Symantec is also looking at security of individual devices as well. "A four-digit PIN is not sufficient," Salem said. "We need to have better ways of securing this device."

Next: Finding Relevance In All That Information

Symantec sees a fundamental shift towards attributes being associated with a company's people and information. To achieve this, Salem outlined a strategy he calls the "three I's."

The first part of this strategy is invincibility, which includes such functions as availability and disaster recovery along with the level the protection needed for a specific applications.

The second is invisibility of the infrastructure to end users so that they are not required to change the way they work in the name of security and availability. "IT shouldn't force you to change because they need to do something," Salem said.

The third "i" is inexpensive, which Salem said comes from finding efficiencies from both the acquisition and the operation of new technology. For instance, he said, security which is set too high can cause a false positive, which requires assigning personnel to check on too many problems.

For Symantec, this means focusing on people and information, on making the data smart, and on having user attributes which can be used in writing policies, Salem said.