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November 22, 2010

Megatrends, Microsoft and McAfee: Q&A with John Brigden, Symantec SVP EMEA

CBR catches up with John Brigden from the security giant's EMEA division and talks about cloud, acquisitions and issues with Microsoft

By Steve Evans

John Brigden, Symantec SVP EMEA

You joined with the acquisition of Veritas. Some have criticised the integration but how has it gone from your point of view?
We’re five years on, the integration was over two years ago from my perspective. Our products are now integrated in many ways, the messaging and strategy around protecting and securing information and identity has been validated by the success we’re having. All of the megatrends – cloud, virtualisation, mobility, consumerisation of IT and data volume explosion – make it even more obvious and critical that everyone needs to think about their information so they can deploy it securely across all different devices and platforms, physical or virtual.

One mega trend you mentioned is cloud. We spoke to the CEO of Qualys a while ago and he said that a lot of competitors – such as yourselves and McAfee – are "in denial" about cloud computing, believing that you can simply move your desktop products to the cloud. How are you approaching cloud?
Let me start by saying we’re the largest supplier of cloud-based services today. I think we’re looking at the market as a key driver and enabler for businesses and consumers. Fundamentally we’re looking at areas where the cloud provides a highly differentiated benefit for customers. On the business point of view, let’s look at messaging. You don’t want spam or malware in your mailbox; you don’t even want it on your premise. So it’s a pretty easy sell to a customer to say, "don’t buy hardware or software, just pay for the service and we will keep it out of your four walls".

If your solution works, as ours does, you have an opportunity to grow that business significantly.

We have the largest market share and are the leader by all measures in this part of the market. We’ve added to that offering – we have 14 additional offerings that tie-in to that through acquisitions and organic development.

Our on-premise solutions have benefited as well. As customers look at our cloud-based offerings around messaging and mail and web security, and become more familiar with it, they then look at what else they need. For example they might want to keep parts in-house and send others to the cloud, and we offer all that through one transaction and one dashboard. So we’ve seen an increase in penetration of on-premise security as part of a consolidation play where cloud was the driver.

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Is that hybrid model likely to be the future?
For the mid-and large-sized companies we believe that’s going to be critical for an extended period of time, until you get complete ubiquity of broadband. If you look at most emerging technologies, rarely do you see other technologies just disappear quickly; there’s still a thriving mainframe business in the world, for example.

We’ve added our end point security to our cloud-based technologies, so a small business running our on-premise software and a server to manage all the end points now can manage those in the cloud. It gives you the benefit of on-premise but is tethered to the cloud, which improves update capabilities and management. The same goes for data loss prevention (DLP) and archiving.

Microsoft recently decided to bundle Security Essentials in with Microsoft Update. What did you make of that?
We’re always looking carefully at what Microsoft does given its market share of the operating system world. We’ve had issues with them in the past as they’ve tried to introduce products and bundle them or price them in ways we felt were unfair. We certainly have a dialogue with Microsoft and the regulators to discuss these matters on a regular basis. So it’s one of the things we keep a close eye on and do question their tactics from time to time.

One potential solution suggested was for Microsoft to offer a choice of security platforms, much like it now has to do with browsers. Do you like that suggestion?
I think choice is always the right answer, and it’s something we’ve asked Microsoft to do over the last few years when they’ve tried to introduce some of their security technology as a de-facto requirement. I think choice is always the better course and regulators have always come down in that direction, particularly when they do things to preclude users from easily taking advantage of higher quality security tools. Microsoft has increased its security capabilities around the Windows platform but by no means would anyone consider that or their browser robust and secure.

Recent news articles suggested shareholders wanted Symantec to be broken up. Why have they said that and what’s your reaction?
These sorts of stories are always out there. This story arises from a shareholder that would like to go back in time. That’s their view. Our view is that we’re a healthy, growing, thriving, profitable, independent software company. We’re seeing our strategy resonate with our clients. Our business is growing and there’s great demand for that.

You mentioned the fact that you’re still independent, unlike McAfee now. What did you make of the Intel acquisition?
I wasn’t surprised that McAfee was acquired, it was clear that they were for sale, but was surprised about Intel.

Why is there so much consolidation in the security industry at the moment?
I think the notion of buying a bunch of different point product solutions to become secure is somewhat of a flawed idea. The idea that security is all about building a firewall and trying to keep the bad stuff out while everything inside is safe is not valid any more. That’s not the right way to think about security.

The better way, and the reason why we’re seeing lots of consolidation, is that one step of security is the perimeter, and if you can have that done more holistically, intelligently and consistently that’s better than buying a bunch of point products. But you also need security inside the firewall to protect your information. Employees with bad intentions get through, employees make mistakes and if the data is laying there unprotected, then it’s a risk.

With the security consolidation, do you think you’re likely to be a target for acquisition?
I think if you look at our size and market share, we’re not your average private company or small company, we’re the world’s largest security vendor and have a significant storage and storage management business. There are not many people that would even be able to make the acquisition.

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