I have a problem with the idea of Universal Threat Management appliances. Leaving aside the horrible terminology (Who wants to manage threats? Don’t you want to block them and forget about them?) the question that I always ask is: If best-of-breed is the standard for large enterprises why would it be good practice for a smaller entity to lump a lot of security functions such as firewall, email gateway, spam filter, anti-virus, anti-spyware, IDS, IPS, and vulnerability management all in one under-powered device?
By all accounts the so called UTM market is doing very well with players like Fortinet, Barracuda, Sonicwall, Astaro, and Watchguard, evidently seeing considerable success. But look for a moment at the antithesis of best-of-breed companies, Symantec. This dually schizophrenic company (Norton-Symantec-Veritas? Pick a personality) has struggled for years to create and sell gateway all-in-one appliances by marrying multiple functions in a single box. Symantec became the exit strategy of choice for infant security firms because it acquired so many technologies.
Now it is backing off from that strategy. Symantec has laid off 80 people in their gateway division and announced that they are getting out of the hardware business. My take is that they finally recognized a business failure and are cutting their losses. In other words this is great for Symantec, great for their competitors who had to deal with Symantec’s ability to muddle marketing messages, and great for end users who will have an overall better pool of products to choose from. There may be some channel operatives that are left in the lurch here but I am sure it will not take them long to find other partners.
Evidently Symantec is more interested in software and services going forward. I think they may be on to something. If the appeal of mixed-bread, easy to manage security appliances is so great for small businesses maybe managed security services are set to take off.