The battle for the desktop security market has become a complex affair in recent years. It's not just about antivirus/antispyware signatures anymore, and it doesn't stop with the addition of a smorgasbord of additional capabilities, such as behavior-based malware detection, host intrusion prevention and even network access control.
Add data protection technologies such as disk encryption and removable media control for good measure. Corporate buyers face a dizzying range of choices of a la carte and suite offerings, giving new impetus to the discussions over the pros and cons of best of breed versus single vendor solutions.
Managing all these pieces is a critical concern; central management issues may be more important than some marginal edge in effectiveness of any particular security component. Many McAfee customers will tell you that the ePolicy Orchestrator (ePO) platform is the main reason they're a McAfee shop.
Symantec's announcement today of Symantec Endpoint Management Suite 1.0, addresses this critical area, leveraging its acquisition of Altiris early last year. The suite combines Altiris Client Management Suite 6, Symantec Endpoint Protection 11.0 and Backup Exec System Recovery 8 Desktop Edition into a central management platform.
The Altiris component is the key now and for future integration of Symantec, as well as third-party products. The release of the endpoint management suite has been an expected progression since the acquisition.
"It's the lynchpin of this suite, because that is really the single pane of glass to other things," said Kevin Murray, Symantec senior director of product management. "The open collaborative architecture facilitates integration today and sets the stage for additional things that we're going to integrate going forward."
The SDK enables integration, for example, with disk encryption partner Credant, and will enable Symantec to accommodate other partners or address customer requests.
Murray said that Altiris gives Symantec a powerful edge over McAfee, because it is a robust desktop management platform, including asset inventory discovery, configuration management and automated patch management, while ePO manages only security applications.
Murray said Symantec's acquisitions with PowerQwest and ON Technologies back in 2003, gave Symantec configuration management capabilities, but it was Altiris that brought a strong desktop management platform for Symantec to build on. At the time of the acquisition, Altiris was recognized as a prime time player in the desktop management space, competing with players like LANDesk, Microsoft, Novell and CA.
Automated desktop management not only saves money and resources, but improves security significantly by reducing the attack surface of vulnerable systems, he said. "Instead of running after the bad guys all the time, through proper system configuration and management, you can reduce the window of exposure dramatically," Murray said.