Will the acquisition of Astaro by Sophos add more credibility to UTM platforms?

Last week's announcement that Sophos was set to acquire unified threat management (UTM) vendor Astaro was one of the major security acquisition stories of 2011 so far.

Primarily, because I felt that it lent a lot of credibility to the UTM sector, which has been perceived to be only of use to the small business community, this could be a masterstroke by Sophos to buy into a market that is fast developing.

I asked some of Astaro's competitors on how they viewed this acquisition and whether they felt this added some gravitas to the UTM sector. Eric Aarrestad, vice president of marketing at WatchGuard, called this ‘an expected and positive development and further reinforces the UTM proposition and category'.

He said: “Endpoint security vendors are keenly aware of the market need and opportunity for comprehensive network security solutions. This acquisition substantiates and validates the strategic importance and value that UTMs provide in protecting business networks, applications and data.

“The acquisition also validates the importance of extending their ‘best-in-class' security solutions to customers. WatchGuard similarly leverages a best in security class approach by using: the best AV technology from AVG, Kaspersky and McAfee; best web blocking software with Websense; and best IPS and application control with Broadweb, etc. From an end customer perspective UTMs and endpoint security solutions are complementary and everyone should benefit from the two working closely together.”

Francois Lavaste, CEO of NETASQ, who this week announced the planned launch for the next version of its UTM platform, also called this good news for the industry and for the company.

“Gartner is releasing the magic quadrant for UTM and we have been on the same spot as Astaro in the past, so it means that both companies are perceived in the same way. It validates our position and the industry in general and could create opportunities for us,” he said.

Also welcoming the news was Paul Judd, UK and Ireland director at Fortinet, saying that it ‘adds strength to our sector' but questioned how well the two technologies will merge.

He said: “A lot of people are trying to build companies with solutions that look like what we have got. Sophos has got a part of the solution (anti-virus) and with Astaro it has got the other part. Can it try and put it together? In my experience it never quite gels, as it is never the same solution.”

While some people may not deem this move to be as comparable to those that saw PGP and MessageLabs acquired by Symantec or Intel's major acquisition of McAfee, what it does is lend credibility and shows that there is a serious consideration for small-to-medium business security. Sophos are undoubtedly aware of this and I suspect that others may follow.

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