Expanding on Barry’s fast reaction, what will Symantec’s acquisition of Clearwell for $390 million mean to the existing Symantec/Clearwell eDiscovery customer base? Many companies with Enterprise Vault and Discovery Accelerator already utilize the Clearwell appliance for processing, ECA and review, whether on site or through a hosted provider. For them, it may mean breaking the volume based (per GB) licensing model that has dominated our market for far too long. The Symantec Information Management Group (in which I was a Product Manager) has dominated the email archiving market and recently added the Discovery Collector appliance to enable corporations to search, preserve and collect directly from unstructured ESI sources not being actively archived. Clearwell was the earliest partner to leverage the Discovery Accelerator API to import archive search results directly into a processing and review platform back when I was the Product Manager. So there is a long standing synergy between the product suites, although there is also functional overlap that will need to be clarified for prospective customers.
On the Clearwell side of the marriage, they recently introduced Legal Hold and Identification & Collection modules to broaden their ECA appliance roots for corporate customers. This will overlap with the Discovery Collector offering, but Symantec will undoubtedly figure out which product to go forward with. Discovery Accelerator has lacked Legal Hold notification and real case management workflow, so the Clearwell modules will make an appealing upsell to the EV customer base. Overall, I see good integration opportunities for corporate customers. The future of Clearwell’s hosted partner channel is a big question.
Until recently, Symantec stuck to selling software via a classic enterprise or individual license basis. The recent move to take their products to the cloud actually opens the door for Clearwell’s channel partners to move out of pure eDiscovery into real managed services for law firms needing messaging, archiving and other Symantec security offerings. I believe that the partners will have to be weaned off of their per GB profit addiction, but that is inevitable as customers convert eDiscovery from reactive fire drill to managed business process. Two years ago, I would not have seen a rosy future for Clearwell’s partner network. Today, it actually has the opportunity to provide expanded eDiscovery services and consulting to a broad base of enterprise and SMB customers.
Although I see many potential hurdles for the teams handling the integration, there are even more opportunities for the Symantec and Clearwell customer base to benefit from the integrated product suites. This acquisition could broaden Symantec’s archiving customer base while bringing Clearwell to more the large enterprise and international market.