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Symantec’s SwapDrive acquisition draws glares from EMC

According to a statement issued by Symantec today,

Symantec has acquired SwapDrive, a privately-held online storage company to strengthen the services offerings in the Norton consumer portfolio and to help consumers manage data across their devices. This was a small, targeted acquisition and is a very natural move for us because of our close two-year OEM relationship and existing product partnership on Norton 360.  

If reports elsewhere are to be believed, however, “small” and “targeted” are relative terms–the deal is reportedly worth $123 million.

EMC, which made a similar acquisition of Mozy for $76 million last year, is already firing off counter punches, via an emailed statement to press pointing out competitive differences. SwapDrive doesn’t backup open files, for example, doesn’t have a Mac client, and charges $50 per year for 2 GB of backup while Mozy gives that away for free.  On the other hand, Symantec already had a field-tested infrastructure for SaaS in its Symantec Protection Network (originally used for hosting accounts in the security division); began as a security company while EMC has had to assimilate RSA; and arleady  has an established brand in the consumer/SMB space that EMC is trying to penetrate. Symantec previously partnered with SwapDrive for its Norton 360 backup SaaS, while EMC has had to integrate Mozy. 

Aside from these positioning differences, I haven’t been able to help notice that EMC and Symantec are looking a lot alike these days. While at EMC World and Symantec Vision, both in Vegas just a few weeks apart, at times it’s been eerie just how similar the company lines have begun to sound from these rivals. Both CEOs are keen to talk about the “consumerization of IT.” Both are interested in supporting access to data from mobile devices as part of that shift (though Symantec appears a bit ahead there with application streaming and data loss protection software that’s shipping today to offer that kind of service, while EMC is still cultivating Pi Corp.’s IP). Both have large, multifaceted backup portfolios they say they plan to integrate at the management layer (EMC also says it plans to integrate repositories while Symantec argues that they should remain separate), and both have used the same “one size doesn’t fit all” line to describe their backup portfolios and strategies.

It’s clear from the way Symantec execs react to questions about these overlaps that they still see EMC as a newcomer in the software space. When I pointed out that both companies are talking about the consumerization of IT in similar terms, Symantec CEO John Thompson interrupted me to retort, “and what consumer experience do they have?” He made a similar comment about backup and archiving integration, pointing out Enterpise Vault archives certain data types already while EMC is still working on integrating file, database and email archiving through Documentum. It’s clear these companies are in each other’s heads, and that their competition is growing fiercer than even the turf wars between EMC and NetApp. With this acquisition, SaaS will be added to the list of their increasingly contentious battlegrounds.

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