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US firewall firm blazes path to Asia

Silicon Valley startup claims its "next-gen" firewall technology lets users control applications in its corporate network, and can save them money in bad times.

SINGAPORE--All it takes is one firewall to secure your enterprise, a Silicon Valley startup is touting, as it establishes its footprint in the region.

Palo Alto Networks, which is launching its firewall technology in Asia, has established its first distributor partnerships in Hong Kong and Singapore.

The four-year-old company's proprietary technology allows customers to see and control access to applications and content. The technology also identifies users by their login names, rather than just IP addresses. Palo Alto has over 750 applications in its database that it allows its clients control over, and also allows them to submit new ones.

Larry Link, vice president of worldwide sales, said in a media briefing that executives worldwide are embracing positive use of Web 2.0 tools such as social networking, but grapple with potential downsides such as loss of productivity and exposure to malware. "The threat landscape has changed significantly from [when] firewalls were built, and firewalls are not necessarily keeping up," he pointed out.

The presence of "firewall helpers", such as intrusion prevention systems and instant messaging control appliances, are also adding to the complexity in enterprise security, said Link. Unified threat management (UTM) devices, he added, meant "taking islands of security and integrating them" with no real linkage.

The company officially unveiled Tuesday two series of products--PA-4000 and PA-2000--at a user event in Singapore. The appliances are priced from about US$15,000 to US$30,000 each, with additional components such as URL filtering and threat management being offered via annual subscriptions on a per-box basis.

Palo Alto also announced it has chosen Data World in Hong Kong and Transition Systems in Singapore as its distributors, and is in the process of appointing one in Australia. These agreements are not exclusive, said Link.

The current economic climate where "everybody's trying to cut costs", is playing to the advantage of Palo Alto, said Link. According to him, businesses can save up to 80 percent on capital costs by replacing multiple machines, and as much as 65 percent when it comes to savings on operational expenses which includes support costs, subscription charges and power expenses.

In addition, companies can also save on "soft" costs including rack space, deployment and integration resources, and support headcount and training. In fact, several recent projects have been undertaken to reduce costs, he noted.

While the company's current products are targeted at medium- and large-sized organizations, Link told ZDNet Asia the company can and intends to extend the technology for lower-end markets. He did not, however, give an estimate of when this will be realized.

Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia are part of Palo Alto's first phase of expansion into the region, Link said, adding that sales and systems engineering teams will be established in Hong Kong and Singapore by year-end. In a later phase, the company will target markets in Southeast Asia, as well as China, India, Japan and Korea.

Interest in Singapore SOE project
According to Palo Alto's Asia-Pacific vice president Alan Leong, the company is eyeing opportunities to participate in Singapore's Standard Operating Environment project, or SOEasy.

Although the company was not yet in the market when the SOE tender was awarded, it may still be able to be involved in the project through its relationship with resellers, he noted.

Leong added that interest in Palo Alto's technology has come from various sectors in the region where it is currently running evaluations. It is also partnering resellers that work closely with institutes of research in Singapore.