Symantec chairman and CEO John Thompson granted an interview earlier this week to InfoWorld. I found a few of his comments noteworthy.
Let’s look at them, one by one.
Network World: Cisco just announced a partnership with EMC’s RSA division to make use of the data-loss prevention technology based on Tablus, a company RSA acquired last year. Any comment on that?
John Thompson: It’s a little bit ironic. Cisco had a wonderful and profitable relationship with [data-loss prevention vendor] Vontu before we bought them. Cisco was a Vontu reseller. It shows Cisco would rather work with anyone other than Symantec. Cisco has a philosophical point of view that if you compete with me, you can’t partner with me.
That’s not true. Cisco has a complicated relationship with Microsoft, for example, in which the two companies both cooperate and compete against each other in various markets. Increasingly, Cisco’s relationship with Microsoft is a competitive one, but there remain areas where Cisco is more than willing to partner with the software giant. That’s because Cisco, in certain markets, cannot afford not to partner with Microsoft. There is no alternative, and the relationship is purely one of practical necessity.
As for Symantec, Cisco obviously does not feel the same need. Put simply, Cisco doesn’t need to cooperate with Symantec in the DLP space.
NW: What’s Symantec doing with Vontu, which it acquired last December?
JT: The DLP technology Vontu brings to a company specifically makes policy-based decisions about information flowing over a network, an area important to highly regulated financial services, health care providers, or the merger and acquisition transactions at a company. The Vontu acquisition was important for us since we will now integrate that policy engine into the storage and network tier in what Symantec researchers internally are calling Project Huggie.
Project Huggie? Do the researchers at Symantec say that with a straight face? I can’t even force myself to type it again, though I realize it is an important mashup of Veritas and Vontu technologies, the fruits of Symantec’s two most important recent acquisitions.
NW: What do you think of McAfee, often viewed as your rival?
JT: It’s a nice little company and they do a nice job. The industry needs competition. But we don’t see their portfolio as competing directly with ours. We help customers manage their infrastructures better.
Could Thompson have been more condescending toward Symantec’s smaller rival? Answer: No.
NW: What about Microsoft’s entry into anti-virus about two years ago?
JT: It’s been much ado about nothing. Their results have been fairly abysmal, although Microsoft has done a lot to make Vista a secure operating system. Customers like the concept of diversity. Products like McAfee, Sophos, Panda, and more serve as part of the ecosystem.
I don’t know whether I agree that Microsoft’s results have been abysmal in data security, but I concede that the company should have performed much better than it has done. Data security on and for the Windows enterprise environment is an area where Microsoft can and should dominate. The company must execute better. Secretly, Thompson is thanking the heavens that Microsoft has failed to get its act together.