Symantec plans by buy Altiris. Will this affect Citrix?

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.

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.

Don't blink.

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.

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I do not see Cisco getting up on the OSI model. Certain companies have such a rigid and slow moving culture that makes this kind of change very hard (or costly). After all Cisco has the networking knowledge and skills and if Dell and others are selling $50 routers, they can do it as well if they want to. I do think they will not do anything until their revenue/profits start to erode, giving their slow pace way of doing things. This includes changing their longtime focus to something like the software space/market.
Companies like Symantec are in a much better position to tackle Citrix (and others) in this market. They have the software-focused mentality already and it is usually much easier to go down on the OSI model than going up. A simple acquisition down the road will do the trick (like Microsoft did by acquiring Whale Communications) especially because now, giving the advance and cost reductions on off the shelf hardware, all these so called appliances (Whale Communications and Coyote Point are very good examples) are redesigned PCs running some sort of x86 OS (Whale ran Windows). Ok you can go fancy with custom ASICs and such but you may not survive long in times of $200PCs (Cisco will change in this respect, trust me).
So if Symantec acquires someone like AEP Networks later on, they will have pretty much all bases covered. And to wrap it up, if they want to compete in the SBC world as well, a simple acquisition - and probably much cheaper - like ProPalms and others, will do the trick. If they go this route (AEP, Propalms) they will have, at least on paper, all that takes to take on someone like Citrix.
The question is, will they do that? Citrix is known as the company that started x86 SBC. SBC is at the heart of Citrix. Yes, they are changing to address the market needs outside SBC (Tarpon is a good example). But still, this is new in a way to them. Symantec is the opposite. They are known for dealing/addressing this PC (in the client/server sense) market and have nothing to do with SBC. For sometime I think Symantec/Citrix will not clash. But as Citrix releases itself from the pure SBC market and starts to gain market share on the client PC end (with application delivery products, SSL VPNs - these may ultimately lead to PC quarantining products - etc etc) then we may see what you described.
Someone taking on Citrix. It is about time.
I wouldn't be so quick to exclude MS off the list. If they had no intentions of completing then why is there some much work being put into Terminal Services under Longhorn? Wouldn’t they just leave TS as a base (limited) presentation service? Surely the offerings that come with Longhorn TS will complete with Access Essentials and even potentially with some SME Presentation Server sites?
Also, the acquisition of Softricity and Whale weren't opportunistic buys in my opinion. Application delivery is changing and the thing Citrix have been good at for quite some time now, Presentation Server, may well be staring down the gun barrels in light of technologies such as application streaming.
One of the main issues with Softricity for quite some time now has been price. MS slashed the licensing costs of Softricity in recent times. The SoftGrid concept is fantastic. It can deliver applications streamed, over TS and even over ICA. Yes, I know you’re saying that’s the direction Citrix is going but what I’m questioning is where they are placed in that race. Did MS buy their way into the leading spot through the Softricity acquisition?
Whilst not an immediate threat I do think MS are positioning themselves to complete more aggressively. Like Mark Templeton said; no-one wins with Microsoft.
Just my 5c.
The main thing behind Microsoft is simple. When they see they can make more money directly than through a partner, they say 'customers have been asking us for so long for such features' and go out and buy a company to fill the gap or they develop whatever the 'customers were asking' and release as part of Windows or Windows Server (or sometimes as a product like Microsoft Softgrid).
Longhorn server is an example of that. According to Microsoft the most wanted features on Terminal Services were seamless windows (with application publishing) and load balancing. So here we go, Longhorn gives you that and yes, some small shops will simply use that instead of PS X (X can be any number equal or greater than 4). The thing is Citrix still gives MS a lot of money. When MS can bypass the middle man (Citrix) and get all the money directly they will do it (if they are certain they will not put themselves in another anti-trust thing). Just wait to see what will happen with AV vendors now the Microsoft Live OneCare is up and running...
So basically what you are saying is correct. Microsoft has it all (Remote Access with the Whale acquisition, Application Streaming with Softricity and SBC with TS/LHS).
In the application delivery arena the main difference I see is Microsoft has a much, much larger customer base than Citrix. And I do not mean that because 95% of the OS market belongs to them. I mean that because Citrix (as I said before) was always focused on SBC. Application streaming is different. You are now dealing with the desktop market. Seems to be the same but they are not. There are differences when you are addressing a company, or trying to sell a solution that deals with applications running on the desktop (streamed or not) and when these apps are installed and running on a server (SBC). The sales cycle is different, the sales pitch is different, the market is different. Can Citrix adapt to that? Only time will tell.
But the bottom line with Microsoft is always money. For now Citrix is a cash cow for them.
As soon as the cow cannot produce that much milk anymore, it will end up as steaks. That is the Microsoft way, isn't it?
Those thoughts tend to be aligned with my thinking. I've heard the arguement that Microsoft would not knock off Citrix because 'for every Citrix CAL there is a TSCAL sold' etc. but I think it's just a matter of time. Bear in mind that if MS can get the price for the TSCAL and the 'other/citrix' CAL then they are making twice the money all of a sudden. MS can afford to bundle the TSCAL and 'other' CAL and undercut Citrix.
There are interesting times ahead.
I would have to agree with that as a risk - there's no reason why M$ couldn't decide that it will offer standard and enterprise versions of their TSCALs. They could even bundle some parts of Softricity with their enteprise TSCAL, so that if you want Softricity for TS you will need to get enterprise TSCALs.

Just look at Exchange 2007's new CAL system. If you want the Exch2007 unified messaging you have to get the Exchange enterprise CAL which automatically means that you buy their hosting services and antivirus/antispam product. I honestly don't understand why any ISV partners with Microsoft these days. What makes anyone - including Citrix - think that they'll be the exception to the rule...
I tend to agree with you.  I don't think that Citrix is even on Cisco’s radar screen.  Symantec however is another story.  They use the same channel partners, and have a sales staff that talks to the same people that Citrix sales people talk to.  They are very well suited to take on Citrix.
I don't think anyone is going to try to compete with Citrix in the application publishing space.  Citrix has been doing this for a long time, and is very good at it.  I don't think that anyone is willing to spend the big bucks it would take to develop a (non-streaming) application publishing product and try to compete with Citrix; at least not in the near term.  However, it looks like there is at least a ground swell of competitors in virtual desktop space.  It is only the beginning, but if people figure out a way to publish desktops without all the hassles of publishing applications, Citrix would have there hands full.  Citrix has never really hand any viable competitors and it would be interesting to see how they would fair.  Symantec and EMC could both play in this space, as well as Microsoft.  The other thing to watch here is that the Big Boys (IBM, HP) like virtual desktops.  They can sell blade PC's and if that turns out being a money maker for them, the industry will try to push things that way. 
At this point in the game, it looks to me as if Microsoft is playing a wait and see game.  They have products ready to launch big time if they feel that they should.  The have a VM product, a streaming product and an application publishing product.  All of which are bubbling under the radar.
It should be an interesting 24 months.


I think the people from Provision Networks, Ericom and 2x would disagree with you about no one trying to compete in the application publishing space.  None of these products is as mature as Citrix, and don't offer every single feature that Citrix PS4 does, but Provision Networks has a compelling product for a cost that is about 1/4 to 1/3 that of Citrix, and has some features that Citrix does not. (including a Universal Printer that is superior to the one in PS4)

I use, recommend and deploy both Citrix and Provision Networks products, and the decision sometimes has to do with money, and sometimes by the need for specific features that one or the other has.
I think the people from Provision Networks, Ericom and 2x would disagree with you about no one trying to compete in the application publishing space.
Ok, but that is not from the Citrix perspective.  I am sure that Citrix looks at Provision as more of a pest than a competitor.  After all, they (EOL) were once the largest Citrix reseller in the DC Metro area.  I don't see big enterprise customers buying from Provision.  That may change, but I kind of doubt it. 
I am saying a real threat to Citrix dominance in this space would be if Application Publishing became irrelevant.  Could, it?  I am say that; Yea, it could, my guess could be far off, but then again these types of things have happened many times in the past.  At which point Citrix would have their hands full. 
All that being said, I think it takes a company with the resources of a Symantec or EMC to compete on a meaningful scale with Citrix
1st off I'm not happy with Symantec buying Altiris, they have a reputation of poor technical support and dropping the ball on development within the product.  Its simply just a buy for revenue and dump when the product is milked enough and drops off the radar.

Good example:  Powerquest

As for MS getting a piece of the Citrix market.  I highly doubt they will restructure the TSCAL model.  MS needs Citrix, they need independent companies that help them innovate and create markets.  MS dominating these specialize market will just end up killing off innovation.  They know very well that internally MS is suffering in the innovations dept, its up to other free enterprises to establish niche markets where MS can explore business options.

MS, like most other corporate giants, does need the innovative niche products to be around. The big challenge is that once MS understands the niche and how to cater for it they will take it upon themselves to fill in that niche.

The MS Exchange example is a good one. About a year ago MS was singing the praises of Commvault for their Exchange replication technology. Today Exchange 2007 has that same functionality built into their offering and 'who's Commvault again?' VMWare is another point in case. A few years back the MS technical guys used VMWare extensively; that was until Microsoft released it's own virtualization products. Now VMWare is a swear word at MS.

It's a fact of the business world. Brian makes a good point around the enteo summit partner of the year award ( Bigger companies work with smaller (more innovative companies) until they've gotten what they want and incorporated it into their products. That's how big companies grow their product offerings. They are too big (and slow) to have the same levels of agility and innovation as their smaller 'partners'. It's the business equivalent of an endless summer'. It's great while it going but ultimately it won't last. Sooner or later the big fish will eat the little fish.