Information security management battle pits Symantec, McAfee

McAfee says its ePolicy Orchestrator information security management platform gives partners strong integration opportunities, while Symantec says its upcoming Symantec Endpoint Protection console will be easier for partners to sell.

McAfee's announcement last week of its ePolicy Orchestrator 4.0 (ePO) sets up an information security management market battle with Symantec Endpoint Protection 11.0 -- two products with very different approaches and potential effects on channel partners.

Symantec announced that Endpoint Protection will ship Sept. 27. The product integrates antivirus and antispyware software, firewall, host-based and network intrusion prevention and more in a single console, using technologies collected from the acquisitions of Sygate, Veritas and Whole Security over the past two years. McAfee's ePO manages a similar feature set, and also does so in a single console, but is designed to support other vendors' security products.

These two companies are taking "pretty divergent approaches" to information security management, according to Andrew Braunberg, principal analyst with Current Analysis in Sterling, Va.

Natalie Lambert, senior analyst with Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass., agreed.

Information security management resources
McAfee introduces security management platform

Symantec integrates antivirus, endpoint protection and data leak prevention

Creating security policies for an enterprise customer

"McAfee wants to be a management platform, while Symantec can offer holistic solutions," she said.

McAfee said the vendor-neutral interoperability of ePO will make deployment easier and create more opportunities for value-added resellers (VARs) and systems integrators (SIs) to integrate different point products into one information security management platform. Braunberg said he would agree with those claims, but McAfee as of yet has no technology partners working with ePO. (McAfee said announcements will be "coming in the near future.")

"They're touting [its interoperability], but they didn't have any partners to announce," he said. "That's the big question for me."

Still, McAfee's approach could help channel partners and customers adapt as new security technologies enter the market. Whereas Symantec would have to develop its own version of that new technology or acquire an emerging vendor, McAfee could probably sign up an emerging vendor as a technology partner and add its products to its information security management platform more quickly, Braunberg said.

"In theory that would be the advantage," he said.

McAfee opted for its vendor-neutral approach because "even a company like McAfee isn't able to provide all the elements that a company would need," said Kevin LeBlanc, McAfee's director of product marketing. Symantec went the integration route because "even the best management platform ... still doesn't eliminate the complications of deploying and buying different technologies," said George Myers, Symantec's director of product management.

Symantec introduced Endpoint Protection in June, after an 18-month testing and development period under the code name Hamlet. At the time of that announcement, Symantec, VARs and SIs said the simplicity of an integrated information security management console would make it easier to sell -- and more than compensate for the loss of integration work on their end.

"We're seeing the opportunity in the integration," Myers said. "We had separate products. We offered them separately. But the uptake wasn't as strong."

According to Forrester, only 34% of enterprise customers have consolidated their IT security on a single vendor's information security management system. That gives the advantage to McAfee for now, but most every enterprise will consolidate within four or five years, and the advantage will shift to Symantec, Lambert said. By then, McAfee will either have to acquire another vendor or be acquired itself to be able to match Symantec's integrated product, she said.

"Because Symantec is so big, and Symantec is Symantec, they have the ability to do this," she said.

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