At a conference in the Austrian Alps this week I got the opportunity to meet a company who was apparently 'going places'.

In the past year, Barracuda Networks has merged with Austrian firewall provider Phion and this week released the first major launch since then, what it calls the NG firewall.

At the EMEA partner and customer summit in the alpine village of Alpbach, president and CEO of Barracuda Networks, Dean Drako, described Phion and Barracuda as being 'better together than ever before and together we do a lot more and reach more people'.

He claimed that the Barracuda Networks portfolio 'had a hole and Phion had what I called the best firewall but without a worldwide reach'. This led to the release of the NG firewall, an effective evolution of its traditional firewall launched in 1999.

He said: “Better security is hard and getting harder, hackers are getting smarter. We have a lot of data and a lot of analysis to provide better security for our customers. We will be using the data for better sight into the NG product relatively quickly.

“A major milestone is the SMP (semantic multi-processing) world. All applications are available with VMware and Microsoft hypervisor to be virtualised, a web filter will follow shortly and we will continue with that in a big way. This is an opportunity, as customers are rapidly going to virtualisation, rolling out secure architecture and this is an opportunity to roll out the NG firewall also.”

The merger between Phion and Barracuda Networks, according to Drako, benefited both companies as Phion 'is a great company but needed better reach and we had a great product line but not a traditional firewall product – marriage made a large strategic sense for both of us'.

Wieland Alge, general manager of EMEA for Barracuda Networks and the former CEO of Phion, claimed that the summit and the launch of the NG firewall marked the end of Phion. He said the problem was Phion's reach was contained to the German speaking region and in a recent Benelux and UK trip he said he lost an hour explaining who Phion was.

Asked if the NG firewall came about as a result of the acquisition, Alge said: “NG means something, it was developed in 18 months and as a result of the acquisition there has been more focus.”

Commenting, Steve Pao, vice president of product management at Barracuda Networks said that the firewall and NG control centre was a little ahead of where the company was, as it started an appliance strategy with the design of the box.

He said: “There is a management umbrella called Barracuda control centre to manage appliances over multiple locations. The NG firewall was built from ground up, with management and lessons learnt from Phion that a management platform offered centralised policy, but Phion management centre also makes boxes work better together. It is not just about configuring it is how they work together.”

Drako said: “Phion had the best management centre on earth but Barracuda not so, so if a user has Phion for central management and wants to use another Barracuda product they will have to learn how to use it but it is on the roadmap to get better integration."

Klaus Gheri, vice president of product management for Europe at Barracuda Networks, said that the company could now offer 'something for everyone', as the NG has a certain audience. He said: “This concludes the ramp transition. There are three key areas of benefit: usability with the user interface improved and great improvement to get the box moving in ten minutes; the performance switch to 64-bit has taken a long time but it is a major milestone and boosts performance with multi-core and once you upgrade. You will see the benefit and sometimes it is the most valuable and from my perspective it is a major achievement.

“Also operability – we offer recovery technologies and have engineers who want to see what is going on. What if you get a call and a box in Montevideo is dead. Do you send someone out? Maybe it is the disk that is wrong, admin can access the box and come up with conclusions remotely and if the power fails it really happens. With 50 boxes this is happening.”

There are significant movements to virtualisation for Barracuda Networks too. Pao said that it was already shipping in form factor and offered virtual versions of its SSL VPN and spam and virus firewall.

In terms of a virtual firewall, he said that the company entered the marketplace 'to make products easier to deploy'. With the challenge of installing software and then the constant securing and patching of the operating system, the work done alongside VMware has led to more demand for core product lines and virtual appliances than the rest of the marketplace expected.

“We think the virtualisation component will continue to take hold, also the ability to protect virtual networks will be a big driver. It is our expectation that all appliances will be offered virtual, fitting in with how people are virtualising today,” said Pao.

Speaking to SC Magazine Drako said: “This is an evolution and not something new, we did it ten years ago and this is the next revolution. The interesting thing is Phion were the first to ship the next-generation firewall and user and application aware firewall before consumers demand a next-generation firewall and when preparing this we said that 'next-generation' is the obvious thing to call it."