Inside Symantec’s bid to build the Amazon of cybersecurity tools

Symantec CIO Sheila Jordan is orchestrating a major shift toward one-stop cloud subscription services on the back of the company’s recent Blue Coat and LifeLock acquisitions.

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If Sheila Jordan and the rest of Symantec's senior leadership team complete their vision they will transform the company into the Amazon.com of cybersecurity, essentially a one-stop shop where CIOs and consumers alike can buy digital tools to protect their data assets. The Symantec CIO is deploying her IT department's resources to help build out a software subscription platform for SaaS applications, part of a broader strategy to deliver solutions that are more in line with the evolving purchasing preferences of CIOs and CISOs.

"We want it to be like an Amazon experience where with a handful of clicks you can book your cloud security subscription," Jordan tells CIO.com.

The idea isn't so far-fetched. Although CIOs have been implementing third-party cybersecurity tools on-premises for decades, the trend has increasingly skewed toward SaaS. Spending on global cloud security solutions is expected to top $3.4 billion by 2021, a compound annual growth rate of 28 percent over the next five years, according to new data from Forrester Research.

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The commercial move marks a surprising turn for Jordan, whom Symantec lured away from Cisco in 2014 to help insource the software maker's IT systems. Then Symantec, sensing seismic shifts in cybersecurity, began a radical overhaul of its business. It sold off Veritas to Carlyle Group for $8 billion and purchased Internet gateway security company Blue Coat Systems in August 2016 and identity theft protection firm LifeLock earlier this year.

Symantec CIO Sheila Jordan Symantec

Symantec CIO Sheila Jordan.

From best-of-breed to integrated platform

Jordan, who built her reputation as a change agent in IT roles at Cisco Systems and Walt Disney World, went from divesting one large business to integrating two large organizations, working with the business to tuck Blue Coat into Symantec's enterprise security unit and LifeLock into the company's consumer product group.

Symantec remains the top security software vendor, generating roughly $3.4 billion in sales last year, according to a recent Gartner report. To maintain and boost its lead over Intel, IBM and others Symantec needs to update its portfolio to offer cloud services and machine learning software to anticipate threats. Symantec’s senior leadership believes offering CIOs a unified defense platform to blanket the corporate network is the best play.

Cybersecurity vendors have traditionally sold point solutions to enterprises, confusing CIOs with a fragmented, best-of-breed approach to their markets. This strategy leaves gaps in corporate networks, Jordan says, adding that an integrated platform protecting corporate IT from the Internet gateway out to endpoint devices is a safer play for CIOs and their CISOs.

"When you have an integrated platform approach you're eliminating the white spaces and the opportunity for bad guys to come in and hang out for awhile," Jordan says.

In pursuit of its singular platform, Symantec is streamlining its market strategy, reducing the number of SKUs to simplify pricing, creating consistent channel contracts and consolidating the salesforce. "We want to clean house and make sure that we're integrating and transforming our business processes," Jordan says.

A cornerstone of Symantec’s unified defense strategy is the Symantec Subscription Platform, through which the company offers cloud subscriptions in per user, per virtual machine, per license and per seat options, thanks to its integration with SaaS subscription vendor Zuora. Symantec's Endpoint Protection Cloud and Cloud Workload Protection SaaS products are already live on the platform, with additional products coming over the course of the year, Jordan says.

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