Symantec shapes its virtualization strategy

Symantec hopes to have a desktop virtualization suite by the end of the year that promises IT control over virtual and physical realms.

Symantec Corp. continues to broaden its virtualization portfolio this week with the addition of a connection broker and thin-client type technology through acquisition.

The company's bid for nSuite Technologies Inc. is expected to close this month and would add those two pieces to Symantec's growing endpoint virtualization group of products which already include Altiris' application virtualization and AppStream's application streaming products.

Altiris' Software Virtualization Solution and AppStream's application and OS streaming technology are logically integrated today, thanks to an OEM arrangement Symantec had with both companies prior to buying them.

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By year end, Symantec said it will unveil a suite that combines Altiris, AppStream and the nSuite products, according to Ken Berryman, vice president of endpoint virtualization at Symantec.

The company will also release a management console for the suite at this time, but it will not have a consistent look and feel across all of the products. A federated console with a consistent interface for administrators is in the works, Berryman said.

Berryman said Symantec is focusing on the next wave of virtualization in which IT will not look to solve specific device problems through virtualization, but on separating information and the user workspace from the OS, applications and physical devices.

"This [separation] solves a conflict between IT and users where IT wants to standardize [on devices] to drive down costs, but users want to be able to use an array of devices," Berryman said.

Giving users endpoint flexibility while still allowing IT to manage virtual and physical environments that are in flux is a promise also being telegraphed by Microsoft.

Symantec vs. Microsoft

Both vendors are heading down the same path in wanting to be the ones to give IT control over data no matter where it resides while also giving users a device of choice. And they have strengths and weaknesses in achieving this.

Symantec focuses more on the IT experience -- giving administrators control of the endpoint from a security perspective -- and the company has the storage technology in place to back up and protect data. But it is not as focused on the user experience, said Andi Mann, research director with Enterprise Management Associates Inc., a Boulder, Colo., consulting firm.

On the other hand, Microsoft has the management piece in place with its System Center suite and is further ahead on desktop virtualization with SoftGrid, but is lacking in storage technology and its security technology isn't as mature as Symantec's, Mann said.

"Microsoft and Symantec are definitely going head to head on this," he said. "There are no other companies really approaching it this way … separating the data and the desktop and collecting all the pieces like endpoint management, storage and security, other than LanDesk."

For now, Symantec is working on bringing its endpoint virtualization suite together. But, over time, it will add security and storage to the point where IT would install less software agents since a security and virtualization agent may be one in the same, for example.

"We have a cross-company initiative to have a much higher degree of integration across our product lines," Berryman said. "This would allow for plug and play and would mean backup products integrated with [desktop] management and some integration with security. And all this ties into virtualization as well."

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