Yesterday Symantec announced that they were buying Altiris.
I was speaking with a colleague yesterday (ironically before we knew about the Symantec thing), and we were talking about the fact that Citrix didn’t really have any competition. I mean sure there is point product-level competition here and there, but there is no broad competition, especially if you think about how they can start to integrate their fringe products together (WANscaler + EdgeSight, etc.).
Anyway, our conversation turned to "what companies could pose a threat to Citrix in the long run?" Of course Microsoft is always looming just over the horizon, and surely Citrix and Microsoft compete in as many ways as they cooperate, but I just don't see Microsoft becoming a hard core, fully fledged competitor to Citrix.
So if not Microsoft, then who?
My first pick was Cisco. I first wrote about Cisco competing with Citrix in 2005 (the whole “application-oriented networking” versus “application infrastructure”). I also asked Mark Templeton about the competition with Cisco in a podcast I recorded last month. The "Cisco versus Citrix" thing could be a whole article unto itself, but the short version is that in today's world or high quality, very low cost networking gear from companies like Dell and Hauwei, Cisco needs to find some other way to make money. A big part of their plan is to move "up" the stack into the application space out of the networking space.
Citrix, on the other hand, is firmly entrenched in the application space and is starting to move down into the networking space.
Getting back to the point of who might compete with Citrix, outside of Microsoft and Cisco, who else? My colleague and I thought for a bit longer and came up with “maybe Symantec.” They’re kind of focusing on securing the connection between the users and the applications, and they’re certainly doing more than “just” firewalls and AV these days. So maybe as Citrix evolves into the broader “application delivery” space, so might Symantec?
Imagine my surprise when I got home last night to find the press release about Symantec buying Altiris. Wow. Did I say “maybe Symantec” earlier when talking about competition with Citrix? I meant “definitely Symantec.”
Of course Altiris is a kind of big company (at least in terms of number of products). They have all sorts of products for managing workstations and servers, including the SVS product which is a software virtualization solution not unlike some of the plumbing that makes up Softricity or Citrix’s Tarpon streaming server. In fact I recorded a podcast with the SVS product manager a few months ago.
So while Altiris isn't front-and-center in the application delivery space--they seem to focus on the management of the endpoint--they certainly are becoming more relevant in the space.
And what about Symantec? In the enterprise space, Symantec’s products are broken into two broad families: Information Security and Information Availability.
On the security side, they have all the “traditional” stuff like antivirus, firewalls, VPNs, anti-spam, etc.
In the Information Availability department, however, things look a little more interesting to us as application delivery people. They are starting to dabble in the application performance management space, and they have several different high availability and server management products.
Today's press release was centered on whole “managed endpoint” thing, although it did briefly mention SVS:
“In addition, Altiris has also introduced innovative software virtualization technology critical to providing faster, simpler and more manageable deployment of PC applications. This technology helps to reduce support costs and streamline software operations.”
Who knows whether Symantec will play up the SVS technology or whether it will take a back seat to their more mainstream security and availability products? It's possible that Symantec "only" uses SVS as a mechanism to deliver their other core products to desktop endpoints. Then again, it's also possible that Symantec--now with complete endpoint control (management, configuration, and security)--will start to think more about what people use these endpoints for (accessing applications), and that could point them directly at Citrix.
I really like the "availability" angle that Symantec takes with regards to applications. (This is the argument that an application must be available in a secure way at all times.) Imagine the argument that Symantec could make about multi-modal availability for applications and endpoints (server-based computing, streamed, VDI). It could be interesting.