Security software market leader Symantec and networking giant Juniper Networks announced a new strategic partnership on Sept. 12 aimed at tapping into the two massive companies respective capabilities in defending corporate networks from outside attacks.
Labeled by the companies leading executives as a nonexclusive partnership of strategy and direction, the vendors said the primary benefit of the tie-up will be their ability to share information about emerging threats to help their customers prepare for attacks faster and more cost effectively.
In a conference call with media and analysts, Symantec Chairman John Thompson and Juniper Chairman Scott Kriens outlined the business relationship through which they said the companies will be able to provide end-to-end security protection for their customers networks and desktop computers.
By pooling the data that Symantec receives from the estimated 100 million desktops on which its security applications run worldwide, along with the threat detection capabilities built into the massive networks managed by Juniper, considered the second largest company in its space behind Cisco Systems, the partners will be able to predict how threats will develop and when they may arrive far more effectively than on their own, the executives said.
“At its core one of the real drivers of this partnership is the ever-changing threat landscape, as over even the last few months we havent just seen a rise in the number and variety of threats, but also in the demand for improved speed in responding to these attacks,” Thompson said. “Our combined companies can consider security from the endpoint back to network itself and address it in a way that gives customers confidence that the security of their data isnt being compromised as it travels over the network.”
The announcement between the two massive vendors comes just under a week after Microsoft and Cisco announced the completion of their work to create interoperability between their respective NAC (network access control) technologies, a partnership that many industry watchers believe could drive future adoption of those products. Microsoft is aggressively entering the market for IT security technologies and is considered to pose a serious threat to longtime market leader Symantec.
However, Thompson said the deal between Symantec, based in Cupertino, Calif., and Juniper has been in the works for a long period of time and is not a response to the work being done by Microsoft and Juniper archrival Cisco. While the Microsoft-Cisco partnership deals primarily with network access tools and the enforcement of desktop security policies, the Symantec-Juniper marriage will influence products in nearly every area of the IT security landscape, from PC anti-virus tools to network intrusion detection technologies and beyond, he said.
While the partnership was touted by the company leaders as running as deeply as any business arrangement theyve entered into in previous years, they said the deal should not been seen as detrimental to their other partners in each others respective industries. The executives also eschewed the notion that the tie-up could serve as a pretext for an eventual merger of the two massive companies.
“Thats never been the strategic direction of this partnership,” Thompson said. “Symantec has been fully occupied with the work over the last year of integrating Veritas, and these are security problems that can be addressed without merging the two companies.”
Among the other noteworthy elements of the deal detailed by the executives was Thompsons announcement that Symantec has ceased development of custom security hardware for the UTM (unified threat management) market, where it will now depend on Juniper. The company will continue to build appliances built on industry-standard platforms however, he said.
The initial plans for Symantec and Juniper under the new partnership will be to begin offering Symantecs intrusion detection and UTM software on Junipers security appliances, much as the networking company has utilized Symantecs anti-spam technology on its hardware for the last several years. The newly sourced Symantec tools are expected to arrive in Juniper products within the next 90 to 120 days, the companies said.
Symantec will also begin licensing Junipers wireless access technology for use in its own endpoint security products, with plans to begin offering those tools to customers sometime in the next several months.
Juniper executives said that much as in the Microsoft-Cisco partnership, the Symantec relationship will help the two companies establish standards in the endpoint access control space that will help customers navigate the sea of proprietary technologies being introduced by the large number of vendors coming into the market segment. He said Symantec and Juniper also have fewer competitive factors to consider in aiding each others work, compared with Microsoft and Cisco.
“What we can do with this partnership is reduce the number of moving parts needed to implement NAC, and do it a standards-based way,” said Hitesh Sheth, vice president of Security Products at Juniper Networks, in Sunnyvale, Calif. “The first thing someone has to consider in how these partnerships come together is, Are the players natural partners or not? I think when you look at Juniper and Symantec you see that not only do we make natural partners, but that well all make our decisions going forward with customers interests considered first.”
At least one industry analyst said the deal could work out favorably for the two partners, at least in the sense that they will no longer be preoccupied with trying to create products that are considered comparable to each others. Symantec will be able to walk away from the custom security hardware sector and focus more attention on its software business, while Juniper can tap into its partners expertise instead of spending lots of money trying to compete with Symantecs anti-virus tools, said Andrew Jaquith, an analyst with Boston-based Yankee Group Research.
“More than anything, this deal means that Symantec recognizes the value in certain areas where they cannot be best-of-breed. If you look at the security gateway business, this was an area where they realized theyd never be a leader, so a strong partnership might work better,” Jaquith said. “Juniper wont have to write anti-spam or anti-virus, and Symantec doesnt need to invest in sheet metal and power supplies for hardware.”
The analyst said the deal is evolutionary in terms of the continued development of the NAC space, where most customers have expressed an interest but few have acquired large amounts of related technologies. Partnering among such sizeable players is often done to increase the likelihood of success when the market does pick up, he said.
In comparison to the Microsoft-Cisco partnership for NAC, Jaquith said there are also benefits to be considered for Symantec and Juniper in the managed security services space, where Cisco is also looking to expand its business rapidly with Microsofts help.
“The deal with Symantec gives Juniper more depth as Cisco is moving into security management space and trying to present [itself] as a fountain of all security knowledge,” Jaquith said. “I wouldnt be surprised to see Juniper make more deals with companies like this who can offer them something from the software side to help compete with Cisco.”
Editors Note: This story was updated to include comments from Juniper Networks and analysts.