Focus on the “Western Front”
- From CIO Digest, October 2009 Issue (Download This Entire Issue in PDF)
Market research firms predict rapid adoption of software as a service (SaaS). Gartner, Inc. anticipates, for example, that SaaS will expand at more than triple the rate of software license-based solutions through 2013—at a 19.4 percent compound annual growth rate.¹ As many are concluding, SaaS has the potential to be a game-changing transition in the IT world, and Symantec is well-positioned to expand its position in the market space. With its acquisition of MessageLabs, Inc. in November 2008, Symantec Hosted Services now covers more than nine million end users from 21,000 organizations spanning 100 countries.
Yet despite the success to date, Symantec envisions much broader opportunities for its hosted services business. Spelled out as one of the company’s key initiatives by President and CEO Enrique Salem, newly announced Symantec Hosted Services brings together current SaaS offerings, including the MessageLabs portfolio of hosted email security solutions, and serves as the platform for all future hosted offerings.
Charged with driving the existing hosted services business while adding new offerings to the hosted services portfolio, Adrian Chamberlain, the senior vice president of Symantec Hosted Services, and his team are tackling a number of interesting challenges and opportunities. The former CEO of MessageLabs, with prior executive leadership assignments at Cable & Wireless and Lend Lease, Chamberlain possesses a broad range of experience.
Patrick Spencer, the editor in chief for CIO Digest, spoke with Chamberlain about his current role. The interview touches on a number of different topics—from Chamberlain’s charter, to the definition of cloud computing versus SaaS, to Symantec Hosted Services go-to-market strategy. When it comes to the topics of management and leadership, Chamberlain cites an analogy from the First World War, making a case for a relentless focus of resources and strategy on the “right wing” or “Western Front” (viz., the Western Front versus the Eastern Front in the case of the German army).
Patrick: You assumed the role as senior vice president of the Hosted Services Group in November 2008 with the acquisition of MessageLabs. What are your core responsibilities?
Adrian: They are threefold. The first is to carry on with the success of the core business—namely MessageLabs. The second is to incorporate Symantec’s hosted backup and storage offerings into the hosted services business unit. The third is to work with my colleagues across the enterprise to drive SaaS products through the entire portfolio and into the future direction of the company.
Patrick: You have an interesting academic background—a degree from Cambridge University and a graduate degree from the London School of Business. How have you leveraged your academic background to achieve your professional success?
Adrian: There are two basic ways that people generally work in business. They either work through a staff function or a line function. For the most part, I started off in a staff function at the Boston Consulting Group. However, I was able to make a transition from that role to a line function by applying an analytical script—a way of thinking about the business and solving a problem. I get the most energized when the business numbers work, and my academic background certainly prepared me to think in a very analytical manner. The first part of my career was focused on the analysis aspect, while the second half has been about putting it into practice.
Patrick: You’ve compiled an impressive resume before coming to MessageLabs: a board member and nine years in various leadership roles at Cable & Wireless and Lend Lease, among others. This included running Cable & Wireless’ consumer and multimedia division, Optus, for 18 months. How have you drawn on such a varied background as an executive?
Adrian: In the technology sector, the initial perception might be that a product looks the same across different markets. However, the really smart companies understand the differences and apply appropriate strategies when launching a new product or growing a revenue stream for an existing one. I am not a technologist—my background is not in deep engineering—but I’ve been able to make a connection between technology and the business, figuring out how to take great ideas and market and sell them.
Patrick: Your prior roles encompass both B2C and B2B. What are some of the similarities and differences in the approaches you take in marketing and selling to both of these segments?
Adrian: In terms of my B2C experience, I’ve learned that bundled products must make sense from the customer’s standpoint. For example, when I was at Cable & Wireless, we bundled telephony with Internet and television offerings that were compelling to our customers, something our competitors weren’t able to do. These same principles also apply in a B2B scenario and in my current role with Symantec Hosted Services. Symantec has a treasure trove of products, and bundling them together in the right form factor should be compelling to the customer and also beat all other competitors in the market.
Patrick: Are there plans to take the MessageLabs offerings and package them together with some of Symantec’s existing products and services?
Adrian: Yes, where it provides customers choice and meets their requirements, we’ll offer bundles. In some cases, we’ll ultimately end up with hybrids to best meet various customer needs. However, where it is appropriate and makes sense for the customer to leverage hosted services offerings, they should do so. Today, we offer customers a single, integrated management console for multiprotocol SaaS security across email, Web, and instant messaging. Customers can also add hosted backup.
Patrick: There is a lot of buzz in the marketplace around cloud computing and SaaS. These two terms often seem to be used synonymously. Do they mean the same thing? And how does Symantec define each?
Adrian: Cloud computing and SaaS are generally much abused terms and used to refer to a lot of different things. In our case, we define cloud computing as the shift of computing power, storage, and applications from physical machines to the Web. SaaS is a much more precise term and refers to a variety of hosted applicant delivery models that start in the cloud. There are three scenarios from Symantec that apply in this case, and Symantec is pursuing all three. The first involves hosted features, whereby most of the application sits on premise and some capabilities are delivered in the cloud.
The second is an identical online version of a software or appliance product that is offered on a multi-tenanted basis in the cloud such as online endpoint security. The third is what we call hosted services, a true alternative to a software-licensed solution that provides additional benefits and was designed for the cloud. An example of this would be MessageLabs Hosted Email Security. This final model is analogous to a telecom network model, where customers have specialized 24x7 SaaS customer support and dialogue with the provider.
Patrick: The adoption rate of SaaS is growing by leaps and bounds, according to many estimates. What are some of the reasons for this rapid growth?
Adrian: The reason SaaS offerings are growing so quickly is that they were designed to exploit the true potential of the Internet age. In contrast, many licensed software and appliance solutions were developed before the revolution in broadband and the migration of intelligence to the cloud. And there are a number of advantages to SaaS. First, there is a great deal of flexibility and scalability with predictable costs—a monthly subscription. Second, all of the updates and development are done by the SaaS provider. With an ever-expanding threat landscape, this is particularly attractive to customers. Third, SaaS has built-in redundancy and the solutions are platform independent; there’s no maintenance or version control to worry about. Finally, there are tangible economic benefits of reduced bandwidth.
Patrick: What are some of the key areas of focus for you and your team right now? What do you see in your crystal ball?
Adrian: The guts of our existing hosted services business are expanding very fast; this is developing out of single protocol protection for email viruses and spam, the Web, and instant messaging. The demand for these hosted services is exploding. At the same time, our emerging services such as online backup, business continuity, encryption, and archiving have fast adoption rates. We’re currently working on a hosted endpoint security service, which we hope to add to our Symantec Hosted Services portfolio in the near future. And longer term, we’re looking at a data loss prevention hybrid hosted service.
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Patrick: How are you and your team working with Greg Hughes, Symantec’s group president of the Enterprise Product Group, and his team? I assume there are a number of intersection points.
Adrian: We are very fortunate to have Greg in this new role for a couple of different reasons. First, in his prior role overseeing corporate strategy, he was a moving force behind the MessageLabs acquisition. He therefore understands hosted services, the go-to-market model, and how hosted services fit into Symantec’s larger portfolio. Second, as he is now responsible for the larger Symantec enterprise product portfolio, there are a number of leverage points as we move to add more hosted services offerings.
Patrick: What is the focus for you and your team—existing customers, new customers, or both? And how should Symantec customers—or potential customers—determine if they should manage a product themselves or go with a hosted service?
Adrian: In regard to your first question, the answer is both. We have more than 21,000 customers from the bluest of the blue chips to the small business. These customers realize the value of services in the cloud and are buying more and more for the reasons we discussed before—convenience, economic, predictability, and so forth. For new customers, there are still large chunks of the market left to tap—50 to 70 percent in the most mature markets. Our ability to bundle offerings for these customers—whether just hosted services or a hybrid approach—is a big advantage.
In regard to whether a hosted service or software license-based approach is best, we’ll work with customers to diagnose their requirements and then recommend the best solution—whether a hosted service, a license- or application-based approach, or a hybrid model.
Patrick: Your studies at Cambridge were in history. Do any historical events come to mind that are analogous to Symantec’s current market position or the evolution of SaaS?
Adrian: Oh, there are many. I am a true believer in examples and historical analogies. One that comes immediately to mind is an event that took place at the beginning of the First World War. The German general who conceived the invasion of France died just before the war started. His dying words were to make the “right wing” strong by massing the majority of the German army against France. His argument was that if the German army could quickly beat France, then they could beat Russia. His successors didn’t heed his words and didn’t put enough troops and resources on the Western Front, resulting in a four-year war that they eventually lost. Here’s the analogy: I’m a great believer in choosing a few things and in being ruthless in the execution of those things. Symantec has huge potential, one that can be realized with strategic leadership and laser-focused execution. And the SaaS business unit is poised to play a critical role in the assault.
¹ “Market Trends: Software as a Service, Worldwide, 2009–2013,” Gartner, Inc., May 2009.
Patrick E. Spencer (Ph.D.) is the editor in chief for CIO Digest and the author of a book and various articles and reviews published by Continuum Books and Sage Publications, among others.