One of the big news items from Symantec ManageFusion this week was that Symantec is finally releasing Altiris Client Management Suite and Server Management Suite 7. (Most people just refer to these collectively as "Altiris 7.") If you believe (like I do) that VDI will evolve into just "the way" desktops are done in a few years, then you probably also believe that when that happens, traditional agent-based management tools are toast.
The new Altiris Client Management Suite has all sorts of great features that are important for the *old* way of doing things--features like inventory, discovery, patching, software distribution, imaging, and remote control. But the whole point of the "New Desktop" of the future is to get away from that.
When we were recording our Brian Madden TV episode from ManageFusion this week, I got a chance to talk to Randy Cook, the inventor of SVS (Symantec's app virtualization product). Randy was working on SVS for Altiris when they were acquired by Symantec. He joked that the "real" reason Symantec acquired Altiris was for their virtualization products, rather than for their traditional client management stuff. Of course we shared a laugh to that, since that's what his little group did within Altiris. But after thinking about it, I'm not sure Randy's joke is too far off base.
With regards to the desktop, Symantec is the epitome of an "old school" desktop management company. The desktops of the future will change that. When we explored this topic in this week's show, I talked about Symantec's longer term challenge, which they are facing from two fronts:
First, of course, is that Symantec needs to transform themselves from managing the chaos of distributed physical desktops into a company that manages the New Desktop. And like every "desktop virtualization" vendor today, Symantec doesn't have any real history in this space. The New Desktop will reset the race with all vendors essentially starting from scratch in 2010 or so. (Maybe around June? ;) Of course companies like Microsoft, Citrix, VMware, and Symantec have strong brands now, and they hope that those brands plus good products will propel them to leadership in the New Desktop space.
That leads us directly to Symantec's second challenge: Today, most desktop virtualization projects are viewed through the lens of server virtualization. Even though the two are not directly related (apart both having the word "virtualization" in their names), desktop virtualization is seen as a logical extension of server virtualization. (And vice versa, also incorrectly.) In the server virtualization space, there are what, fifty? one hundred? vendors offering "virtual endpoint management?" As the *server* virtualization people start to think about *desktops*, they will try to bring the *server virt* vendors with them. (VMware, anyone?)
In other words, Symantec is fighting it on two fronts. The traditional desktop people who love them are the ones who don't really believe in the New Desktops of tomorrow, so Symantec's equity there won't help them. And the server virtualization people of today who believe in the New Desktops of tomorrow don't have any loyalty to Symantec.
The only respite is that time is on their side. (Well, it's on everyone's side.) June 2010 will be when the technology that can deliver the New Desktop will be ready. The next two or three years after that will be when people start to implement this stuff in mass, and Symantec needs to make sure that those people are thinking of them, whoever they are.