Symantec prepares for new era of computing

Web 2.0, SaaS and social networking services are all indicators of this new wave, says chief evengelist

There is a new wave of computing coming, says Mark Bregman, senior vice president and chief evangelist of Symantec, a title he says is quite unusual in our part of the world, but very common in Silicon Valley.

“We’ve been through big shifts before. The last major one was the internet, ten years ago,” he said when visiting New Zealand recently. “There is a sense that we are on the threshold of yet another one of these big shifts.”

Over the next few years it will be clear exactly what it is, he says. The challenge for IT companies is to position themselves to be successful not only in the current wave, but also in the next one. Emerging technologies such as Web 2.0, software-as-a-service and social networking services are all indicators of this new wave, Bregman says.

“We ask ourselves what these new trends mean for our customers in terms of new threats and risks, and [how] we can protect them against that.”

The shift will mean that the boundaries around organisations are coming down, Bregman says.

“Companies will want to extend their enterprise and almost create a virtual enterprise through relationships with suppliers and even with customers,” he says. “The extreme examples of that are some of the media and content companies, who are now building businesses where customers — the consumers — are actually the creators of the content.”

“The media company just encourages [the content creators] and ensures the distribution of the content. Now, that’s a fundamentally different business.”

MySpace is an example of this type of business activity.

Another thing that is changing is how customers interact with enterprises, according to Bregman. He says that ten years ago interaction was driven by, and determined by, companies, but now consumers want to communicate on their own terms.

At the same time, customers are expecting interaction with banks and other organisations to be secure.

Both of these shifts create new security issues, especially around identification, says Bregman.

In addition, with consumers creating their own content and keeping personal files and photos digitally, a new view about information protection and privacy is emerging. If consumers lose, for example, photos of their grandchildren they can’t get them back from anyone else, he says.

Prior to working for Symantec, Bregman spent 16 years working for IBM, where he held senior management positions in the research division, among other business units.

“[During the time at IBM] I had the opportunity to move into the micro electronic business in Japan, which was fascinating in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, at a time when the US was feeling the most threat from ‘Japan incorporated’,” he says.

The project that took him to Japan was about exploring new ways to do electronic packaging to improve performance.

Bregman left IBM in 2000 and moved on to run a wireless internet firm, which later went down in the dotcom crash. He then took up the CTO position with Veritas, and eventually joined Symantec through its acquisition of Veritas.

Currently he is filling in as CTO of Symantec, as well as being chief evangelist.

“Chief evangelist is a new role at Symantec. It’s kind of like the CTO role but outwards facing, talking with customers, partners and analysts about our directions and strategies, and getting feedback [from them] that we can put back into our strategies,” he says.

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