Symantec vows huge push into SaaS market

Symantec vows huge push into SaaS market

But acknowledges difficulty in winning SMB customers

At its Financial Analyst Day event in San Francisco Thursday, Symantec's top executives vowed a major push into software-as-a service and also offered a glimpse at upcoming back-up products.Enrique Salem, president and CEO, kicked off the event with the investment industry's analysts by saying Symantec intends to expand into software-as-a-service, an area in which it already has experience (the company now backs up 32 petabytes of customer data in the cloud with continuing growth at 5 petabytes each quarter). Salem predicted SaaS, in which Symantec will have new offerings, could comprise "15% of total revenues in the next five years."

Symantec's detailed announcements pertaining to its SaaS strategy may not come until later this year, but executives told industry analysts from the financial world that Symantec is developing a "cloud storage platform" it will offer based on what it has learned hosting massive amounts of data.

Symantec is pursuing some of these cloud-based storage efforts through its joint venture with Huawei in China, mainly to be able to deliver cloud-based storage systems to firms based in that country. Symantec also can be expected to detail various types of host- and hybrid cloud-based SaaS offerings in the area of messaging security from this fall into next year.

Adrian Chamberlain, senior vice president in Symantec's Software-as-a-Service Group, which absorbed the products, services and development team associated with the $700 million MessageLabs acquisition last year, said the objectives over the next fiscal year would be to '"develop new hosted and hybrid security solutions."But Symantec also acknowledged to industry analysts it has not been as successful as it would hope in selling security products and services to customer in the small-to-mid-sized business market.

"We've fallen short on delivering on the needs of small-business customers," admitted Greg Hughes, group president of Symantec's Enterprise Products Group. A specially-designed version of Symantec's Endpoint Security product for SMBs, released in May, is the vendor's latest attempt to woo these customers.

Separately, Symantec gave more specifics about upgrades to existing products. NetBackup 7.0, expected out the second half of the next fiscal year, will include deduplication and application recovery for Oracle, while Backup Exec 2010 will include a light version of Enterprise Vault in it.

And on the prickly question of the $375,000 fine slapped against Symantec (and McAfee separately) this week regarding the automatic charging of customers for software subscriptions without their permission--Symantec has an automatic renewal-by-default policy but was accused of burying that information too deeply in contracts--Symantec today indicated it would be making changes to its method of charging customers through the opt-out approach.

Although Symantec has grown to be a US$6 billion company by making about 30 acquisitions, it may not be done with buyouts, Salem hinted.

But instead of entering wholly new market segments through acquisitions, Symantec's strategy next time around is likely to be targeting companies in areas where it already is strong in order to drive consolidation, Salem said.

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