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Updated: Sophos buys security appliance firm Astaro

Adds perimeter security to its endpoint protection

By Jason Stamper

Security maven Sophos late last week snapped up Astaro, a privately held vendor of unified threat management (UTM) appliances, on undisclosed terms.

CBR asked Sophos CEO Steve Munford why the firm wanted to make a play in the appliance market. "It wasn’t so much that we wanted to be in the appliance market but more because we wanted to move into network security," he said. "We think companies are grappling with a lot of complexity in network security and we think it’s becoming more and more important. We have a lot of expertise in threat protection and we want to combine that with network security."

Sophos said Astaro had $56m in billings and 30 per cent growth in 2010. UTM competitors include WatchGuard, SonicWall, and Fortinet. UTM appliances tend to include firewall, VPN, intrusion protection, spam filtering, and virus screening.

Interestingly, Astaro currently uses antivirus on its appliances from a German AV company called Avira, and it also uses the open source ClamAV antivirus technology. Asked whether these would be dropped in favour of running instead Sophos’ own antivirus technology, Munford said: "We haven’t made a decision on that but we believe bringing our own technology into the box is the right move."

Asked whether any companies might prefer not to have open source technology such as ClamAV helping to protect them from malware, Munford added: "We believe it makes sense to leverage open source where appropriate but we haven’t made a decision on whether to keep Clam on the appliance. But over time I think it’s fair to say it will be Sophos technology."

The firm stated in its press release that: "Businesses today face unprecedented challenges in protecting users and IT infrastructure from escalating complex security threats, especially those brought on by more mobile, roaming users, new application protocols, and distributed networks." Surprisingly it didn’t add, "Just ask Sony."

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The firm noted that bean-counters IDC has said the market for unified threat management was approximately $2 billion worldwide in 2010, with a CAGR of 13% 2010-2014. That wasn’t enough though for UTM rival ServGate, which was bought in a fire sale back in 2006 as its revenue failed to keep pace with its costs.

Astaro is claimed to have over 56,000 installations in 60 countries, in both corporate and government accounts. It has just 220 staff in nine countries, but both it and Sophos peddle their wares via channel partners rather than direct. Munford said Astaro’s Wilmington, Masssachusetts office will be kept on as the firm has only just moved into it; a couple of Astaro’s offices around the world that are close to Sophos buildings, including in Singapore, will be consolidated.

Sophos already has an email security appliance which will be continued, and this can also be purchased as a virtual appliance.

"Demand for network security solutions with more comprehensive and high-quality protection is accelerating fast, and yet companies are struggling with the complexity of multiple security solutions to serve these needs," said Jan Hichert, Astaro CEO. "We are excited to join forces with Sophos, as we share a common mission and passion for providing the most comprehensive security solutions that are also easy to use. Together, we will deliver to customers the ability to apply consistent security and web and application controls regardless of where the user is or where the network boundary may lie."

In a prepared statement, Munford added: "The combination of Astaro’s comprehensive portfolio of network security solutions alongside our endpoint, mobile, and email and web threat and data protection capabilities will enable us to continue to deliver on our vision of providing complete security without complexity wherever the user and company data resides."

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