The recent decision of Symantec to get out of the security appliance business says more about the hardware industry than it does about the security business in general or Symantec in particular.
The company is a well-respected and diverse security vendor whose product lines include Norton personal and business software, intrusion prevention, virus and spam protection, VPNs and endpoint checking - all of which can be sold as software.
The company rolled up these product lines into appliances called the SGS and SNS. Symantec is discontinuing development of both devices, although it will continue to sell and support them. It is also is discontinuing development on a management appliance called the SGS Advanced Manager.
The company laid off 80 people who worked on these products.
Current customers of these devices will get support for them that will likely last as long as the products' lifecycle. These customers will have to rethink whether they want to stick with Symantec beyond that or look to other vendors that sell similar and very popular multifunction security devices.
For its part, Symantec says it is looking for other vendors to license its software and sell it already loaded on appliances, getting Symantec out of the hardware business and keeping the popular hardware format. Other vendors, including Check Point, have made a success of this model, and it could work as well for Symantec.
It's a good bet that money lies behind this decision. Software and services - both of which are Symantec staples - have higher profit margins than hardware.