SMB - Unified threat management rebounds

SMB - Unified threat management rebounds

Company officials admit that they are seeing a better response in selling the multi-purpose security gateways

Rebranding unified threat management

In addition to products that won't cripple performance once all their features have been turned on -- one of the most common complaints made about earlier integrated security appliances -- vendors are also attempting to lure larger customers by eschewing the UTM banner for their systems.

Crossbeam, identified as a leader in the UTM market by IDC researchers, recently announced that it is moving away from the product terminology because the name has a "connotation that is tied to low-end solutions" built for SMBs. The company is instead marketing its high-end UTMs under the wording of "next generation security platforms."

Even analysts at Gartner are now labeling the tools traditionally positioned as UTMs as "next-generation firewalls."

At Fortinet, another vendor of UTM and network security appliances, company officials admit that they are seeing a better response in selling the multi-purpose security gateways as "consolidated security devices" when it comes to larger customers.

"Ultimately, people generally seem more confident today in the UTM-like approach, but the label has a bit of a distaste attached to it, so it works better to play up consolidation," said Anthony James, vice president of product management at Fortinet. "I think it's a bit of a misnomer, based mostly on the fact that the SMB is where UTM took off first, and the appeal is pretty much the same, but using the alternative positioning does seem to be accelerating interest with larger customers."

James also concedes that the UTM products of today are far more appropriate for use in massive computing environments than some of their forbearers.

A more significant concern for companies in the UTM space than re-educating customers around just what the products bring to the table is likely the competition that independent network security device makers face from giant rivals like Cisco Systems that are pushing aggressively into the space, some experts contend.

However, James said that it has yet to be proven that customers ultimately will be pushed to buy more of the security tools from such networking specialists, who he said are still struggling to piece together all the different elements of the products that they have acquired in recent years.

Any attempt to understand the promise of UTM in the enterprise, and any discussion of the technology in general, leads back to Charles Kolodgy, the IDC analyst credited with coining the term itself.

Kolodgy disputes the notion that UTM was ever truly considered a "dirty word" among enterprises and said that earlier products simply weren't architected to appeal to administrators of larger IT environments. Like many other IT trends, the UTM concept took something of a beating because it was over-hyped by the media and used by a large number of security companies selling different types of products under the name.

"I never saw it as a dirty word, it was more of a case of some perhaps putting too much into it, some that were too narrow, those were the initial complaints vendors," Kolodgy said. "The initial use cases and deployments were mostly fine; I think any negativity was related more to vendors using the term a lot and misconceptions of what these devices were supposed to entail."

The analyst said that today's UTM vendors, Fortinet and SonicWall in particular, have created UTM devices that should appeal to larger customers because they have the capability to handle more traffic and offer benefits from consolidation among the onboard security applications.

"[Consolidation] is one of the big drivers now, more people than ever are talking about reducing the number of vendors they have and the need for centralized management," Kolodgy said. "As much as the products getting better, those items are driving this renewed interest as much as anything."

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