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Symantec Moves Endpoint Services into the Cloud

Being the security giant that it is, Symantec has been providing endpoint security -- making sure, for instance, that nobody sneaks stuff into or out of an enterprise network improperly on a laptop or memory stick or whatever -- for a while now. This week, the mega-vendor took the notion a step further and launched new endpoint-protection capabilities into the cloud. (Oh, OK, so "launched into the cloud" isn't the cleverest turn of phrase you've ever read in RCPU. It's been raining here in Greater Boston for days on end, and our phrase-turning abilities rely on some amount of sunshine. Speaking of clouds...)

Symantec Managed Endpoint Protection Services takes endpoint protection to new heights (better?), adding hosted monitoring and management capabilities: "In the same way we're able to monitor network-based security incidents, the service will allow us to monitor what's occurring at endpoints," explained Grant Geyer, vice president of managed services for Symantec, in a chat with RCPU this week.

In other words, if something is amiss with an endpoint device security-wise, Symantec can find the problem and alert the customer. And on top of the monitoring component Geyer mentions, Symantec can also manage the endpoint-security system in the cloud so that a company doesn't have to pay IT pros to do that work. Geyer says that the management capability will be especially helpful for companies that are losing headcount (or need to lose headcount) due to budget cuts and don't want to dedicate IT folks to keeping endpoint security up to date.

Architecturally speaking, Symantec deploys a software package (including the Symantec Endpoint Protection software product) at a customer's site. The package includes a management console and a small agent. The agent reports back to Symantec's datacenter via the Internet, allowing the vendor to remotely handle threat monitoring. The product's management capabilities are hosted, too -- Symantec can, via the cloud, log into a customer's system at any hour should a problem arise and can also provide services such as lifecycle management and configuration management.

Thanks to Endpoint Protection Services' hosted management capabilities, "the customer may not need to take a trip into the office at 3 a.m. on a Saturday," Geyer said. Also, since it's just the management and monitoring services that are hosted, companies that decide to ditch the hosted services can keep the security software (such as Endpoint Protection) that they've implemented on-site and not lose any of their up-front investment.

It sounds like a pretty nifty offering altogether, a more comprehensible and perhaps more useful version of what Microsoft might call Software Plus Services. But how do partners fit in? Symantec has a popular partner program, but the opportunities for the channel around this new service seem a bit slim at first blush.

Geyer said that partners can provide deployment services...if they have enough expertise in deploying Symantec applications. (Symantec will also provide deployment and consulting services.) However, the hosting will be Symantec's domain, he said, and that doesn't seem to leave partners in line for the kind of recurring revenue stream that can make the cloud model attractive to the channel.

Symantec will offer its hosted management and monitoring services on a subscription basis, of course, and while Geyer said that the company would charge by blocs of 2,500 users -- this stuff is for big enterprises, not for SMBs -- he didn't put a dollar figure on how much companies would pay per month for the services. Geyer assured us that, given that we're talking cloud computing here and that cloud computing is all about saving money and resources, Managed Endpoint Protection Services will be a good deal for customers.

For partners, it's harder to say how good a deal it will end up being. Uncertainty has been a major part of the cloud-computing picture for the channel thus far, and this new service seems to offer more of the same. Nevertheless, Symantec has not generally been the type of company to leave its partners out in the rain (see, another "cloud" reference...not bad, huh?). We'll have to see whether that changes or not with this new cloud offering.

What's your take on Symantec moving endpoint security into the cloud? Sound off at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on 06/23/2009 at 1:22 PM


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