Symantec execs reflect on antivirus business

After 16 years of running Symantec, Gordon Eubanks (right), is getting ready to relinquish day-to-day control of the company to an as-yet-unnamed president and CEO. In a conversation with IDG's Sandy Reed and Michael Vizard, Eubanks and Enrique Salem, Symantec's chief technology officer, outlined the company's overall strategy at a time when the company is posting record revenues.

IDG: Why did you decide to relinquish the CEO title to become chairman of Symantec?

Eubanks: I think after 16 years, you have to think about doing something different. Having a couple of different hands on the wheel is a useful thing in an organisation. It's a long time not to make a change like that.

Three years ago, we really focused hard on changing the company and made a lot of changes in the management team, and the business is going great.

The biggest challenge facing Symantec appears to be competition from Network Associates in the utilities business. How goes that battle?

The momentum in corporate markets is with us, because we have both the superior engine architecture and the partnership and technology with IBM and Intel to deliver customers what they want.

There's a really big difference between Network Associates' [strategy] and Symantec's in the corporate market. Symantec's strategy is [to] have best-of-breed and content security, and partner with [companies] like IBM, Intel, and leading firewall vendors. The suite strategy is certainly not a slam dunk, and probably is a failure.

If you have best-of-breed solutions, how do you manage the products together?

Salem: What you find when you talk to the largest corporate customers is that they've all standardised on their way of managing their company. We were the first to integrate our solutions with Tivoli's Enterprise Manager framework and their IT Director framework. Our goal is to consistently integrate with the different policy management platforms that customers are using.

If customers say they don't have a way to manage a system policy management solution, we will have something out of the box [for them to use].

So how are Symantec's various business segments linked under a single strategy?

Eubanks: What's happened over the last three years is that there are now two forces really driving the business, not one. One is the continual driving of the processing power and the capability of the computers, and the other is the bandwidth. In all three of our businesses, all of our effort is based around building solutions for customers in a world that is seeing more computing power and more people connected to the Internet. The intersection of connected users and computing power is the common denominator across all our businesses, whether it's security or protecting data, things like telecommuting and support for remote workers, or the Java development tools where larger organisations are building an e-business infrastructure.

How exactly does Java fit in?

Java is becoming the glue to provide e-business architectures for corporations. It's becoming the de facto language for application server integration with legacy data and relational data. And what's most important in the Java tools arena is the distributed nature of the applications. How you debug, maintain and manage that architecture is really what our Java tool organisation is focused on. The Java development tools are there because we've been in the language business historically and we feel that by having this group, we get an incredible view of what customers are doing in a connected world. Java tools have been slow to develop, but the insight [we get from] customers is tremendous.

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