As expected, Symantec Corp. announced today a streamlined version of its security and availability products, and a new program aimed at resellers working with small- and medium-sized businesses.
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The company also launched a channel program for system builders as a way to help white-box manufacturers and smaller value-added resellers (VARs) who build hardware to go along with custom IT solutions an easier way to package Symantec products.
Many of this week's announcements were designed as much to explain the combined Symantec/Veritas product line for VARs and customers as to address the small-business market in particular, according to Julie Parrish, vice president of Symantec's global channel office.
Parrish said many Symantec VARs and customers tend to misinterpret the role of products from Veritas, which Symantec acquired last spring. While Veritas did bring with it some high-end data-backup and availability products, it also brought a portfolio of products aimed at smaller businesses, she said.
The focus on the SMB channel is a good sign for VARs working with Symantec, especially this long after the merger with Veritas, according to Charlotte Dunlap, an analyst at Sterling, Va.-based Current Analysis Inc.
"We were very concerned with the Veritas direct-sales culture," she said. "It was in the back of our minds that it could be encroaching on Symantec's backing of the channel."
Symantec execs who came over from Veritas were "really interested" in Symantec's Mail Security 8300, an outbound content-filtering product Symantec licensed to give customers the ability to prevent specific pieces of information from leaking out via email.
"That product was always a 100% direct sell, so we weren't sure what the channel guys were going to think about that," Dunlap said. "What we gathered through discussions with [Symantec] is that the Veritas guys are very keen on the channel. But that's something to keep an eye on and to bring up with them."
Symantec's product positioning for SMBs and VARs lays out the combined portfolio in three categories:
"We're focusing heavily on integrating our training programs and, specifically for this launch, to have a methodology for sales enablement and technical assessment in those programs aimed at the SEs in our partner community," Parrish said.
"Our Windows Data Protection marketing campaign will be one of the best funded of the year, so hopefully that will have customers aware of the company and our products, and make it easier for our partners to sell," she said. "And there will be lead generation events that will help direct customer opportunities back to the resellers – seminars where we get the partners trained in the morning and let them invite their customers in for more training in the afternoon, for example."
Symantec has gone a long way to integrate the storage and security aspects of its product line, but is still working on the integration of its service and support for the SMB market, according to Jeff Kaplan, analyst at THINKstrategies in Wellesley, Mass.
"You have to be able to look at its offerings side by side with the competition," Kaplan said. "There are not a lot of unique aspects to that with SMBs."
Competitors such as McAfee Inc. and, especially, Microsoft have the potential to upstage Symantec in the SMB market, in which it's been strongly ensconced for years. Adding more sophisticated products, product bundles and programs to help SMB VARs offer more sophisticated services to smaller businesses can help keep Microsoft or other companies from uprooting Symantec from either the channel or from its installed base of SMBs, he said.
"Symantec has the benefit of being, in a sense, in the managed services business for a long time, in the sense of getting a subscription service that's continually updated," Kaplan said. "So they've been attuned to that fundamental aspect of how to deal with SMBs, for a long time."