Symantec (Altiris) and Dell, Better Together?

At Symantec's Vision conference in Las Vegas held June 9 to 12, Symantec Chairman and CEO John Thompson said in his keynote address that "Dell is adopting and building on the Altiris platform and will be releasing the Dell Management Console as part of their OpenManage strategy later this fall,

At Symantec's Vision conference in Las Vegas held June 9 to 12, Symantec Chairman and CEO John Thompson said in his keynote address that "Dell is adopting and building on the Altiris platform and will be releasing the Dell Management Console as part of their OpenManage strategy later this fall, based on our technology. The Dell management tools also integrate with our systems recovery and endpoint protection solutions, enabling you to install and manage them from a centralized location."

When desktop managers consider Lenovo systems, they are also getting a healthy dose of the venerable LANDesk Management Suite along with the ThinkVantage technologies that come with their systems.

Just because a hardware maker such as Dell or Lenovo has a close connection to a particular management vendor doesn't mean that desktop managers don't have good choices when it comes to the management tools they can use. At the end of the day, the chips and operating system used to build these systems are basically commodities. An Altiris agent will work as well on a Dell system as on a Lenovo, HP-Compaq, or other desktop or laptop.

What you as a desktop manager get when you go with the management platform "provider of choice" is presumably better service, more complete information and cooperation between the hardware and management maker. With the Dell/Symantec marriage this is all possible, but also get ready to be deluged with endpoint security offerings along with on-site and in-the-cloud backup products too. If you don't carefully manage the relationship, unwanted trialware could show up on your Dell.

I also attended the general session on endpoint security and management. Kevin Murray, senior director of Product Marketing, Brian Foster, vice president of Endpoint Security, and Steve Morton, vice president of Endpoint Management (and formerly vice president of Marketing at Altiris) had a session that revolved around the theme of "management and security, better together." Echoing CEO Thompson's sentiment, if you get one you might as well get the other for a centralized, integrated client management experience.

Now, I agree with and advocate the idea that a well-managed system is much more likely to be a secured system. And for small organizations with a need for IT but not a lot of budget for IT staff, the tight linkage between a hardware and management vendor might yield "good enough" endpoint management. However, organizations with even a modicum of talented IT staff and even a bit of volume purchasing power can still make independent endpoint security and management decisions and get good results.

Symantec is clearly moving toward combining and consolidating functionality into fewer agents. During the presentation, there was much talk of Client Management Suite 6 using only one agent for all management functions. The same was true for Symantec Endpoint Protection 11.0, which combines anti-virus with a range of threat protection tools all using (another) single agent. Fewer agents is a good thing, and that's not new. So, the fact that at least two agents are needed in the Symantec model means that desktop managers still have the responsibility to consider the field before deciding which technology brand will protect and manage their systems.

An audience member asked if there was going to be a time when these two Symantec products would use the same agent. To their credit, the Symantec presenters were candid and said no. The functions, and likely the product development efforts, are still different enough that combining the agents would be no small task.

However, it's clear that any desktop manager who comes close to the management capabilities provided by Symantec is going to get an earful about how endpoint security should be a part of the desktop strategy. And that should be a conversation. I advise desktop managers to keep their options open and consider the best solutions for their business needs. Even if a hardware maker has a deal for management from this or that partner, the product landscape for endpoint protection (and vice versa) is still far from limited.

When the desktop rodeo comes to town, make sure you see all the riders, not just the one sitting on your favorite bull.