SaaS, not shopping, is focus of Symantec's new CEO

In five years, SaaS revenue will triple, Enrique Salem predicts

CIOs think of Symantec as a company that buys its way into new markets. Over the past decade the Cupertino, California, vendor has snatched up about 30 companies as it's evolved from an antivirus and tools seller to an aspiring enterprise infrastructure vendor.

But longtime CEO John Thompson retired in April, handing over his job to Enrique Salem, who says he wants to run a more focused company that spends less energy on acquisitions and more on integrating existing products.

And Salem sees software-as-a-service (SaaS) playing a much larger role in the next few years as the company builds on its US$700 million acquisition of Message Labs.

Salem first came to Symantec as the eighth software developer hired by Peter Norton 18 years ago. After leaving to pursue new ventures, he returned when Symantec bought his antispam company, Brightmail, in 2004.

Symantec's president and CEO met with the IDG News Service recently to lay out his vision. Following is an edited version of the interview.

IDG News Service: You've said that software-as-a-service will make up 15 percent of Symantec's business in five years. What percentage is it now?

Enrique Salem: It's probably 5 or 6 percent.

IDGNS: How are you going to get there? What's the next thing that's going to roll into this Message Labs product line?

Salem: Improved archiving, so you don't have to archive everything locally. End-point management, end-point security, data loss prevention, there's a whole range of stuff.

IDGNS: How is it going to roll out?

Salem: Today we have messaging security, we have Web security, we're upgrading our archiving capabilities. We will add the end-point security, centrally managed, which I think is a big deal. What's important is that our customers are in a situation where they don't have to worry. They don't want to run it themselves. They'll say, "Symantec, you do it."

Think about this too. This is applicable not only to your traditional things. We deal with hospitals that are taking CAT [Computerized Axial Tomography] scans. These CAT scans are multilayered; they're gigabytes in size. They have patient records that need to be secured and managed. So why not do that as a service?

IDGNS: There are a number of reasons why people might not want to move into SaaS. What do you see as the biggest barrier?

Salem: Let me give you the categories and then I'll come back and talk about each of them: Security, availability -- is it going to be up and running -- and integration.

Security: If I put my customer data into Salesforce.com, is it going to be safe? If you and I are running a company, the last thing we want is for our customer list to get stolen.

Availability is if you and I have our sales force on it, it had better be up and running. If we do backup as a service and you need to recover some data, it had better be available.

And number three is integration with everything you do. You can have an ERP [enterprise resource planning] system; you can have legal discoveries. First you get a legal hold and they say, "save all the e-mails." Everything you talked with Enrique about. You know that "15 percent" comment he made. When did he make it?

The point is, imagine all my e-mail is off in the cloud somewhere. Your legal team is going to want to say, "OK, how do I do e-discovery?" So you've got to be able to integrate with the existing systems, which maybe aren't delivered as a service.

And psychologically, there are a lot of people who think about control: "I don't want to give up control. If I put it out in the cloud, I can't see it, I can't touch it. Maybe it's not going to work." There's that mentality. That's dying down though.

IDGNS: Let me ask you about some of the changes you're making. What is the biggest change in the Enrique Salem Symantec.

Salem: Org structure. We have an enterprise product group with a group of people focused on security, and we assigned the CTO in the enterprise group to focus on integration and quality. So new org structure, new security group, new CTO focused on integration and quality. We've got to bring the portfolio together so we can create a better value proposition.

Two, we've got to speak with one voice. People know us for everything. Some people know us for antivirus, some people know us for backup, some people know us for Altiris systems management, some people know us for Norton. We've got to consistently talk about one thing: We're going to secure and manage information and we're going to commoditize infrastructure.

The third thing is as an internal company, we've got to drive innovation. Things like, what's the next generation of security -- this notion of reputational security -- we have to drive these big profound changes in how people secure what they do.

IDGNS: Are you focusing more on internally developed technologies as opposed to acquisitions?

Salem: Yes. Because I have to integrate all these great things we bought over the last 10 years. We bought 30 companies. We've got enough breadth. Now we need more depth and better integration so we can cross-sell better.

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Tags SaaSsymantecCEOsmergers & acquistions

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Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
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