Symantec's IMlogic Acquisition Should Make Collaboration Management Easier - InformationWeek
08:57 AM
Melanie Turek
Melanie Turek

Symantec's IMlogic Acquisition Should Make Collaboration Management Easier

The recent news that Symantec Corp. will acquire privately-held IMlogic, Inc., the instant-messaging gateway vendor, supports two key trends Nemertes has identified in recent months: Enterprises want a single tool for managing e-mail and instant messaging applications; and they will look to third parties to help with IM management and security, and rely on their primary collaboration providers, such as Microsoft and IBM Lotus, to support IM interoperability in the future.

Symantec and IMlogic have partnered in the past; Enterprise Vault, Symantec’s email and content archiving offering, has been integrated with IMlogic’s IM Manager since 2002 to offer a more complete set of compliance capabilities. The joint companies will now expand on that integration, and will integrate IMlogic’s threat detection and remediation capabilities into Symantec’s early warning and response system. That’s important as viruses and other malware become ever more pervasive on IM networks—as with e-mail, the sooner such threats are identified, the better. Even minutes matter when machines can get infected by the second, and good threat centers can shave hours off a company’s exposure rate.

This is the third major acquisition for Symantec since 2004, following Brightmail (for anti-spam capabilities) and Veritas (for storage and content management software). Clearly, the security vendor is trying to build a complete data-protection package, especially around real-time collaboration technologies. That’s a smart move, since IT executives regularly tell us they want to be able to manage those applications from one place and apply consistent rules to meet their security and compliance needs. Today, that means they want to be able to monitor e-mail and instant messaging at once. But other collaborative applications, including VoIP and web conferencing, strike us as ripe for the next wave of malware threats -- not to mention archiving and possibly compliance demands as well.

The merger also pits Symantec more directly in competition with Microsoft, which recently began offering its own e-mail and IM security software, as well as the IM management tools (such as logging and archiving) that IMlogic does. At the same time, it would seem to cede the responsibility for interoperability to the collaboration applications vendors themselves. Symantec isn’t in the business of making one app interact with another (as IMlogic is), but Microsoft is: Today a company using Microsoft's Live Communications Server doesn’t need an IM gateway like IMlogic to let its users talk to AIM users, for instance.

Frankly, this is where such federation should lie—no one wants to rely on a third-party vendor for that. Whether it gets built into the next wave of IM applications, or remains an add-on capability so that IT managers can allow interoperability across networks as they see fit, it should be available through their IM vendor, not their security vendor.

In the wake of the acquisition news, Nemertes recommends that enterprises manage and secure all their messaging and collaboration applications from one place. Symantec has taken some hits recently—it’s very software is becoming a target for virus writers—but the vendor clearly takes a more holistic view of information stewardship than many of its competitors, and that’s a good thing. (Information stewardship, broadly includes information protection—encryption, identity management, anti-malware, etc.; compliance—logging, auditing and retrieval; data-quality management—availability, data validation; information-lifecycle management; and business-continuity planning and disaster recovery.)

When asked to rate the ideal importance of information stewardship on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “unimportant” and 5 being “vital,” 87% say of participants in our most recent research benchmark, “Information Stewardship: Holistic Data Management in the Enterprise,” say it’s vital.

IT executives should also demand IM interoperability from the leading applications players, rather than through third-party gateways.

Vendors, meanwhile, should remember that information stewardship is a huge issue for enterprises today, thanks to increased security and compliance. But IT executives want to limit complexity, so the more functionality vendors offer, and the more types of apps they cover, the better.

And let’s not forget IMlogic’s main competitors—Akonix Systems and FaceTime Communications. They’re still up for grabs, and may be attractive to collaboration players such as Microsoft and IBM, as well as traditional security vendors.

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