Symantec Still Reviewing Altiris Unit, Partners Unclear On Future

Symantec is still reviewing its Altiris endpoint management platform after trying to sell it outright but failing to find a suitor, CRN has learned.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company had been reducing the visibility of the Altiris platform and reportedly was shopping it last year while former CEO Steve Bennett was overhauling internal sales and product management teams. Symantec executives revealed a historic breakup of the company last week with plans to spin off the storage and data management products and the security business into separate publicly traded companies, Under new CEO Michael Brown, Symantec's new security business would consist of its Norton endpoint and mobile security software, its encryption, SSL certificates and authentication, data loss prevention and managed security services.

Symantec acquired Altiris for $830 million in 2007 and has further developed the client management suite with additional management tools, including support for virtual desktops, laptops and mobile devices. Security experts say the platform, designed for configuration management, provisioning and monitoring clients and servers, neither fits into its security business nor its data management business.

[Related: Symantec COO: Partners Will Benefit From Breakup]

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Customers say they are generally pleased with Altiris but are looking for some modernization of the platform that could position it more solidly against competitive platforms. Research firm Gartner has long named Altiris a market leader for IT life-cycle management, which includes client, server administration and asset management. The platform had suffered some stability issues and customers and longtime Altiris partners have been questioning Symantec's commitment to the product. Gartner and other research firms note that customers are giving newer platforms a look, including those from Absolute Software, Dell Kace, IBM-BigFix, Kaseya, Landesk or Microsoft ConfigManager, which includes a SaaS offering.

Organizations can benefit by improving efficiency and being proactive about systems configuration, said Andrew Sherman, security practice lead at Eden Technologies, a New York-based security consultancy and Symantec partner. Sherman said he is optimistic about the Symantec breakup and said it could enable the company to build out a more integrated portfolio and foster more innovation in threat detection and analytics.

"I’m one of those guys of the opinion that strong systems management is essential to good security, but Altiris has not been traditionally sold as a security product," Sherman said. "The ability to roll out security on the endpoint is enhanced by its presence out there in the environment or another systems management platform."

Symantec partners are meeting in Phoenix this week to hear about how their business may be impacted by the company's breakup. Symantec COO Stephen Gillett told CRN that the company was committed to the current channel program through the end of 2015. Gillett said there would be "no big reveal on change of strategy," at the partner summit this week but he would not commit to each company's sales strategy or channel commitment when the split is completed next year.

Partners with full security practices or with businesses that sell the company's storage and data management products are optimistic about the breakup. Other longtime partners who have sold from both sides of the portfolio say the move could put the company's channel strategy in jeopardy.

"My gut tells me this is a shortsighted decision to appease the market," said one partner who declined to be identified. "This may explain why Symantec has made recent changes to the partner program that are making things more difficult for us as a partners. We have all [the required] competencies but they raised revenue requirements and that reduces our pricing advantage."