Symantec's virtual desktop strategy evolves

After a wave of acquisitions, Symantec was quiet about desktop virtualization. It's interested in managing and securing desktops, but is that approach better than VMware's?

Symantec hit the desktop virtualization market hard in the past several years. In 2007, the company got an application

virtualization product when it acquired Altiris. Then in 2008, Symantec acquired application streaming vendor AppStream and connection broker maker nSuite. In 2009, it began reselling RTO Software's Virtual Profiles product and announced the Endpoint Virtualization Suite, its new branding and positioning for all of these desktop virtualization products.

So things were looking good for a while, but then as 2010 approached, Symantec started to waver. CEO Enrique Salem didn't mention a single word about desktop virtualization on the company's earnings call in January, and then in February, we learned that Symantec had lost the ability to sell the OEM version of RTO Virtual Profiles (after VMware bought RTO). In March, Symantec declined to participate in our own "Geek Week" event, where we compared the five most popular virtual desktop infrastructure products. (Virtual Bridges happily filled Symantec's spot for Geek Week Vendor No. 5.)

As you can imagine, I was very interested to learn what Symantec was going to say about desktop virtualization when I attended its Vision 2010 conference in Las Vegas this week.

I learned that Symantec's virtual desktop strategy is more about integrating its virtual desktop capabilities with the traditional desktop (or "endpoint" as it calls it) offerings such as security, protection and management.

And that's a really interesting point. When thinking about desktop virtualization in a vacuum, it's easy to look at the feature list of VMware View or Citrix XenDesktop, compare that with Symantec's Endpoint Virtualization Suite, and think, "Wow, Symantec's solution is really incomplete compared with Citrix or VMware." But in the context of managing the entire endpoint, Citrix and VMware are both limited and require additional third-party tools.

In other words, Citrix and VMware are about virtualizing and delivering desktops, while Symantec is about managing and securing desktops. All these companies converge somewhere in the virtual desktop space, but if you buy Citrix or VMware's virtual desktop solution, you'll need to augment it with desktop security, policy and lockdown software, and if you buy Symantec's virtual desktop product, then you'll have to augment it with virtual machine management and provisioning.

So which approach is better? Neither. They're just different. It would be nice if there was a single supervendor that could deliver everything you need, but that's never going to happen. In the meantime, Citrix and VMware are working hard on extending their desktop delivery and virtualization capabilities, and Symantec is integrating its endpoint virtualization capabilities with its traditional desktop security and management products. There's a place for both approaches in the market, both today and in the future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brian Madden is an independent industry analyst and blogger, known throughout the world as an opinionated, supertechnical desktop virtualization expert. He has written several books and more than 1,000 articles about desktop and application virtualization. Madden's blog, BrianMadden.com, receives millions of visitors per year and is a leading source for conversation, debate and discourse about the application and desktop virtualization industry. He is also the creator of BriForum, the premier independent application delivery technical conference.

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