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Big Yellow loses its head... again: Symantec, we need to talk

Enormo security firm needs to get serious about acquisitions

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Symantec largely operates within its installed base comfort zone, making minor tweaks to existing products to preserve their revenue streams, and seemingly afraid of doing anything to disturb those revenue streams.

These assets are seen by some as overvalued, while many users are moving to mobile devices, their take-up of security products is simply not keeping pace.

Judging by the lack of information on new tech, Symantec's security and storage product pipelines appear to have dried up. In terms of security:

  • It is still selling a reactive antivirus product line
  • It continues to have little presence in mobile device security
  • Symantec, like its competitors, appears to have no answer to NSA snooping

The firm has found, like EMC, that pairing security and storage products does not create many synergistic opportunities. Looking for them and encouraging them effectively hobbles both the security and storage sides of the business.

Its storage assets – Backup Exec, NetBackup and the Storage Foundation product sets – have been around for a long time, but revenues are down. It has also suffered from a declining PC business which has damaged its desktop security product sales.

What should the board do to fix this sorry situation?

Symantec should, in El Reg storage desk's opinion, recognise that it cannot leverage its existing assets to turn the company around. It must get new assets, meaning new products using new technology to solve today's significant security and storage problems.

It's obvious that building such products from scratch will take too long and Symantec has to become a new technology incubator and acquisition factory. It is ill-organised to do this.

We recommend that Symantec should split itself into a holding company running two businesses: a security business with its own CEO, and a storage business with its own CEO. These two businesses should be set free of each other, allowed to compete with each other and, most importantly, should be encouraged to get new products and technology that disrupts existing products.

Make an acquisition shortlist: CommVault for new-style backup and archive; Actifio for copy management; Veeam for new-style virtual server backup, Delphix for database virtualisation, Scality or Cleversafe for object storage; Palo Alto Networks and FireEye for security; Data Gravity, Box... come on, you can make your own list.

Symantec needs energetic, technology-savvy CEOs for these two businesses, the storage and security ones, to take them by the neck, change their culture and raise their games. It also needs a wise and wily old hand as a group CEO to keep them running and incentivised. The board needs refashioning to get rid of the dead wood that has self-evidently failed to get Symantec growing again.

Symantec was broken two years ago and the board didn't fix it. Now it says it's broken again... should an incoming CEO really trust that it has the smarts to fix it the second time around the block?

Big Yellow needs to get out of its comfort zone, rock the boat and make some waves. ®

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