IT security technology vendors needed to change their businesses to respond to new requirements, such as making products that not only protect from attacks but detected them before they hit, Symantec chief executive officer, John Thompson, told a packed audience at the RSA Conference.
In a keynote address at the annual security show, Thompson justified his company's recent merger with data backup company Veritas Software.
He said that Symantec and other security companies needed to expand into areas such as storage and systems management to remain relevant.
Thompson offered a strong argument for his company's planned merger with Veritas, defended his company's traditional security business and took shots at Microsoft, just one hour after that company's chairman and chief software architect, Bill Gates, announced plans for new security products and features that could eat into Symantec's bottom line.
Thompson said he applauded Microsoft's security initiatives, but that they were "insufficient for large enterprises", because they did not provide security for heterogenous computer networks that used different operating systems and technology platforms.
Unlike Microsoft, Symantec was a company that sold tools which worked in environments with disparate technologies and wasn't distracted by "computer games and a lot of other, unrelated stuff", Thompson said, to applause from the audience.
Companies were being squeezed by data privacy regulations on one side, and by virulent and costly threats such as SQL Slammer on the other, he said.
To protect them, IT security companies had to redefine their roles by making products that integrated with hardware clients and that reduced the cost and complexity of enforcing security and regulatory compliance.
Simply protecting the network perimeter was no longer adequate because network administrators and chief information security officers needed tools that could detect attacks before they hit an organisations' network and make sure that corporate data was protected, he said.
"In the old world, security was different from storage and systems management," Thompson said. "Under the new paradigm, those silos go away."
Symantec will use its merger with Veritas to move beyond security and stake out a place as a provider of information management technology, with better ability to manage issues such as system availability and network access.
Wall Street investors and customers have been skeptical of Symantec's strategy in agreeing to acquire Veritas for about $US13.5 billion in December. The company's stock price is down by about 30 per cent since the Veritas merger was announced.
Industry experts have raised concerns over a lack of obvious integration between the two companies' products, fears of layoffs at Veritas and technology overlap with PowerQuest, a storage management software vendor Symantec bought in September 2003
Thompson brushed aside those nagging doubts, and said that his company and others like it would profit handsomely by recognising the shift in the security technology industry and redefining their role to accommodate it.
"Leaders don't follow," he said. "Innovators see ideas where others can't and fortune favours the bold."