Symantec's last ManageFusion conference was full of high points

* The integration of acquired products was a resounding theme at the ManageFusion conference

Marking the end of an era, Symantec held its last-ever ManageFusion user conference in early March. This conference will be rolled into Symantec's other user conferences in the future. Meanwhile, there were lots of high points at ManageFusion, including the long-awaited general availability of Altiris Client Management Suite 7.0 and Altiris Server Management Suite 7.0. Read what else transpired and learn about cool new technologies in development.

I’ve recently returned from my third trip to a Symantec ManageFusion conference. I figure it’s important for me to keep tabs on what the world’s fourth largest software company is doing. Let me share my trip report with you. There’s a lot of interesting progress and news coming out of this conference.

First and foremost, Symantec COO Enrique Salem announced that Altiris Client Management Suite 7.0 and Altiris Server Management Suite 7.0 are both generally available now. Symantec has been talking about these products for more than a year. The release was delayed a few times “until we got it right,” according to Salem. He says they’ve been using the products internally on more than 7,000 client devices as well as on the company’s servers for many months and they are confident in the products’ capabilities.

One of the beta testers, the Meijer supercenter retailer, has been using Altiris 7.0 on more than 10,500 desktops and 1,000 servers. Dave Durkee, a technology specialist in the IT department at Meijer, gives Altiris 7.0 glowing remarks. He says the extensive workflow automation built into the management products gives him the ability to “do more with less” – a common phrase repeated throughout ManageFusion. Durkee also praises the improved handling of software inventory in the client suite. This makes it easier for his harried team to do application metering and to make updates to installed applications.

To learn more about the Altiris 7.0 products, read the availability announcement from Symantec and Kathleen Lau’s summary of what’s new in the products.

Dell is showing its confidence in the Altiris Server Management Suite by announcing that every new Dell server will ship with the Altiris software pre-installed. Laurie Tolson, Vice President of Systems Management at Dell, made the announcement during the first day keynote session, saying the move will give customers a faster time to deployment. Steve Morton, Symantec Vice President of Product Management, acknowledged that Dell had a hand in helping to develop the server management software by extensively testing the software and providing feedback to Symantec along the way.

In a small roundtable session, Salem talked about workflow being “a meaningful advancement in Symantec technology.” The workflow technology, which was acquired from T-Logic more than a year ago, is now fully integrated into the Altiris management products as well as other Symantec products to vastly improve the automation of tasks.

Here’s one example of how workflow could help to automate data security. Say an internal user is trying to copy some sensitive data to a USB drive. The Symantec Data Loss Prevention software detects this action and determines that it’s against company policy. The DLP software triggers an alert that tells the Client Management software to temporarily disable the USB port. If the sensitive data is coming from a network drive, another automatic task could drop the user’s network connection. No human intervention would be necessary in any of these steps to protect important data.

Salem says that third party developers also are building workflow templates to support automated tasks. It’s all part of the “do more with less” mantra.

In the roundtable discussion, Salem also talked of Symantec’s SaaS offerings. “Every quarter, every year, you’ll see more SaaS offerings from us,” said Salem. He pointed to the current example of the Symantec Protection Network, a service that provides backup and recovery, data storage, and remote access to small and medium-sized companies. The 2008 acquisition of MessageLabs is expected to boost Symantec’s efforts to deliver online services for messaging and Web security.

And speaking of the integration of acquired products, that was a resounding theme I picked up on at ManageFusion. Symantec is making good progress on incorporating the various technologies it has acquired in the past few years into mainstream products. A good example of this integration is the new Endpoint Virtualization Suite announced in February, which brings together technologies acquired from Altiris, AppStream and nSuite.

When asked if there might be more acquisitions down the road, Salem hinted that Symantec could be looking to fill a few holes in the portfolio. “We see opportunities in the DLP space, especially in categorizing information so it can be prioritized, and in the discovery of information,” said Salem.

But Symantec does more than acquire technology; sometimes it is developed in-house. At a private Innovation Showcase, Symantec discussed three technologies in development, either in the R&D lab or the company’s own incubator. Attendees got a first look at virtualization-based endpoint security, dubbed VIBES; reputation-based security called DeepClean; and GoEverywhere, a secure online workspace.

Developed in the Symantec R&D lab, VIBES transparently sets up multiple isolated virtual execution environments, each with its own level of trust. This new approach improves browser security by enabling users to seamlessly use different virtual execution environments to carry out different Web transactions. The three virtual execution environments in the current VIBES prototype are:

• The “User” virtual machine is where normal day-to-day activities are performed.

• The “Trusted” virtual machine is where trusted operations such as entering sensitive credential information are conducted.

• The “Playground” virtual machine is where more adventurous, untrusted activities are carried out, such as visiting unknown Web sites or downloading unknown applications.

What’s interesting about VIBES is that the user doesn’t need to do anything to change from one virtual environment to another. The application detects what the user is doing and assigns the level of trust automatically, shifting him from one VM to another as needed. He can see the shift because of an on-screen icon, but he doesn’t need to do anything to change the trust level.

Another technology in the R&D lab is DeepClean, a reputation-based whitelisting technology designed to help customers assess their risks and exposure to rapidly emerging threats as new malware continues appearing at unprecedented frequency. DeepClean leverages and extends Symantec’s Global Intelligence Network for building and maintaining a precise, comprehensive whitelist and file/provider reputations. DeepClean employs whitelisting and reputation analysis and supplements existing approaches such as signatures, heuristics and blacklists to detect today’s emerging Internet threats and targeted attack types. This technology was architected to address the scale and speed requirements necessary for use in enterprise environments with minimal administrative effort.

In the beta stage today, Symantec GoEverywhere is a secure online workspace that allows users to access their Web applications anytime, anywhere, using most any device enabled with a Web browser. It is targeted to individuals and small businesses. Developed in Symantec’s new business incubator, GoEverywhere Incorporates next generation personal cloud computing and Web 2.0 concepts to enhance customers’ choices of how they want to create, access and store information. If you’d like to join the beta trial, visit

For more information on what happened at ManageFusion, visit the conference press center to view videos, read blog postings and learn more about the product announcements.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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