Symantec Moves Into Endpoint Virtualization

Symantec today announced that it is buying nSuite, a privately-held virtual workspace management company, in a move some analysts see as a bid to ensure its future. The acquisition, scheduled to close later this month is for an undisclosed amount in cash.

As Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) moves into the antivirus and security market with its recently announced Equipt software as a service (SaaS) offering, Symantec (NASDAQ: SYMC) has shifted gears toward a new endpoint strategy.

The purchase of nSuite is the third in a series of purchases around endpoint virtualization. It follows the acquisition of Altiris and Appstream earlier this year.

All three will form the nexus of Symantec’s newly established Endpoint Virtualization group, whose charter is “to look at virtualization technologies that can run on the laptop or anything that looks like a Windows desktop,” Brad Rowland, Symantec’s director of enterprise marketing, endpoint virtualization, told

The new emphasis on endpoint virtualization at Symantec “almost looks like a Plan B,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told

Symantec’s move into endpoint virtualization “gives them increasing breadth so, if the antivirus stuff goes south, they’ll have a space in virtualization, which appears to be the next big thing” Enderle said.

Microsoft is treading hard and heavy on Symantec’s heels with the Equipt program, which consists of applications and security in software as a service (SaaS) mode. Equipt, available only in Circuit City stores, includes antivirus and antispyware software in Windows Live OneCare; Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 applications; and Microsoft Office Live workspace, which gives users a dedicated online workspace to share documents.

The nSuite connection broker and presentation virtualization technologies will let users access data and applications stored on servers at any time, from any device. This is the thin client model that’s been around for years and is experiencing a resurgence as virtualization takes hold, observers say.

Symantec’s goal is to enable anytime, anywhere computing through virtualization. “As a user I don’t have to know or care where the applications are coming from, I just want to compute,” Rowland said.

Yes, we need change

“Applications should follow users, instead of being tied to the desktops or user devices,” Rowland said. “Where I’m connecting, how secure I am, what function I’m trying to perform — these should all be governed by policies,” he added.

CIOs “should be able to take any computing building blocks and use them without having to use a vendor-specific toolset for the most critical pieces, which are application delivery and information management,” Rowland said. Eventually, underlying technologies such as hypervisors will become commoditized and different vendors’ hypervisors will coexist, Rowland added.

Symantec’s vision of anywhere, anytime computing is shared by Google, (NASDAQ: GOOG) with Google Apps; Microsoft, with Equipt; VMware (NYSE: VMW); Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ), which unveiled three new thin clients in February; and IBM (NYSE: IBM), which “got rid of its PC division in anticipation of this,” Enderle said. “There’s likely to be a huge position in this direction and Symantec’s positioning itself to take advantage of it,” he added.

After the deal closes, Symantec will continue to sell the nSuite products in their current form. It will announce product updates at ManageFusion, a hands-on lab and training event held in various cities worldwide.

ManageFusion 2008 will be held in October. The event was co-founded by Altiris, now part of Symantec.

While nSuite focused on healthcare, and Symantec will continue selling to that space, it will also target other selected vertical markets. “We’ll deliver the applications based on the user,” Rowland said.

Will Symantec succeed with its move into the thin-client market? Quite likely, Enderle thinks. “You have a bunch of major players in this space, and Symantec’s moving in validates the market,” Enderle said.

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