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Symantec Facing Overlaps With Altiris And Rivals

Analysis: Symantec's $830 million purchase of IT management software maker Altiris is yet another message to rival Microsoft that it intends to be more than just a top security software maker.

Symantec  is positioning for a bigger piece of the software market for managing, patching and configuring laptops, desktops, servers and storage devices. Microsoft , IBM , HP , CA  and BMC  have been offering similar management software for years.

That Symantec would pay a 22 percent premium for the company also reflects the market realities facing traditional security providers. They have to contend with more IT vendors offering an expanding menu of security management features.

"This component added to our portfolio makes us infinitely more competitive with Microsoft or other companies who have slightly similar but different approach to delivering this capability, " Symantec CEO John Thompson said on a conference call Monday.

Thompson said the assets will align with previous Symantec acquisitions in the PC and server management space, including PowerQuest and ON Technology.

Putting the Pieces Together

"This is a clear message to Microsoft that Symantec is in it," said Ronni Colville, who covers IT management software for Gartner. "But it's not a battle that's easily won, if at all." Colville said Symantec will face some challenges in integrating Altiris' assets. "There's good overlap and bad overlap, and they'll have to figure that out."

For example, she expects overlap between Altiris' Deployment software product and assets from PowerQuest, which include imaging and deployment, system migration, and management updates.

Moreover, Colville wonders how Symantec will combine the security management and compliance software it gets from Altiris' own Pedestal purchase with Symantec's Bindview and Enterprise Security Manager assets. Plus, it will encounter some elbow-rubbing between Altiris' deployment software and products Symantec acquired in its Veritas and Relicore purchases.

IDC analyst Fred Broussard called the deal a smart move and a complementary product fit for both companies. For one, it keeps them steps ahead of EMC , which is seen as a possible suitor for a similar IT management software company to complement its Smarts and nLayers purchases.

Broussard also questions how Symantec will rationalize the Altiris assets. "Moving forward, I wonder how much Symantec is going to focus significant R&D and channel money to the ATRS division, given that [Symantec] had acquired ON Technology years ago, and never really did much with it."

Competition Takes Aim...

Sam Curry, vice president of security management at CA, said Symantec has tried moving into IT management before, with limited success.

"Bindview, Accent, ON Technology, Veritas, which had Jareva...what were you hoping to accomplish with this that you didn't accomplish the last 3 or 4 times," Curry questioned.

"This is not a validation of the management approach because we've proved that. "We're out there with a full portfolio and it works. My question to them would be: why so little, so late and why this move?"

During yesterday's conference call to discuss the purchase, Symantec's Thompson said the goal is to rationalize the Altiris assets and tuck them into its existing product portfolios and ultimately Hamlet, the company's widely-anticipated next enterprise security software platform expected later this year.

He also reflected what Symantec, CA and all the vendors adding these capabilities recognize: "You cannot expect a device to be secure if you don't have a sense of what software is running on it, what the configuration of the hardware is, and how you would therefore remediate that device based upon known or unknown exposures in the marketplace."