Symantec: Software as a Service Platform in January?

Symantec: Software as a Service Platform in January?

Julie ParrishDuring a phone chat Monday afternoon, Symantec VP of Global Channel Sales and Strategy Julie Parrish gave me an update on the company's software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform, known as the Symantec Protection Network (SPN). It sounds to me like Symantec is taking its time with SPN and won't make it generally available for a few more weeks.

Indeed, Symantec is being extra thorough with its channel efforts after working through some online setbacks in late 2006 and early 2007. During most of our chat Monday, Parrish described how Symantec has systematically addressed online ordering problems that partners began experiencing in November 2006.

I've documented the problems (and Symantec's corrective actions) before, and was interested to hear more about the Symantec Protection Network's status. And for good reason: For managed service providers, SPN represents a new opportunity to offer small and mid-size businesses online storage and, eventually, online security.

Symantec announced SPN as a beta platform in April. While many software companies intend to compete with VARs in the SaaS market, Symantec has clearly articulated that it wants partners to embrace and promote SPN. During the beta announcement in April, company insiders told me they expected an official, production launch for SPN in the fall of 2007 or so. By September 2007, I expected some concrete SPN updates from Symantec during the company's partner summit near San Diego.

Instead, Symantec has been very quiet about SPN. Parrish says the platform is on track for delivery in early 2008, and says that's within the time frame of Symantec's original expectations. And in a November 6 blog post on Symantec's Web site, Senior VP Art Wong predicted SPN would be available in Q4 of Symantec's fiscal year--which runs January through March.

Clearly, Symantec isn't rushing SPN out the door. And that's a good thing. We've all suffered from vendor hype and the resulting letdown when an IT solution fails to meet expectations. And Symantec itself is striving to keep partners happy after ERP and online ordering challenges caused channel problems in late 2006 and early 2007.

Parrish says Symantec has addressed the urgent issues related to the ERP system. In fact, partner satisfaction with Symantec's online ordering system improved 200 percent in 2Q (compared to 1Q), 50 percent in 3Q vs. 2Q, and 92 percent in 4Q compared to 3Q.

Now, the company is working to re-architect a licensing, pricing and SKU strategy that currently includes 200,000 SKUs and 24 or 25 pricing models -- many of which Symantec inherited through company acquisitions.

"In the spirit of keeping customers happy through acquisitions, we stuck with those SKUs and licensing strategies," concedes Parrish. Now, it's time to simplify things -- though it could take 12 months or so to streamline the SKU list, she adds.

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