Antivirus and computer security company, Symantec, has purchased SafeWeb for $US26 million in cash. SafeWeb makes technology that gives workers secure, remote access to network resources over the Internet.
The purchase, which closed on October 15, will add a well-regarded Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) virtual private network (VPN) product to Symantec's stable of network security and management tools.
Virtual private network products enable companies to link remote workers and offices to their corporate network using the public Internet, rather than using privately leased telecommunications lines. Secure Sockets Layer is a protocol that secures data transmission on the Internet.
SafeWeb makes Secure Extranet Appliance (SEA) Tsunami, a rack-mounted security hardware appliance that allows network administrators to extend access to network resources such as email and file servers without installing a separate VPN client program on the users' computers.
The device gives administrators the ability to manage SSL VPN access from a single location, that can translate into significant support cost savings over older dial-in VPN products or those requiring both server and client software components, according to vice-president of enterprise infrastructure at Yankee Group, Zeus Kerravala.
Symantec previously lacked an SSL VPN product and the addition of SafeWeb's technology permits them to tap into a hot market for such products, Kerravala said.
At the same time, companies already using one or more of Symantec's network security products that were looking to add SSL VPN access might prefer to stay in the Symantec family instead of going with one of the many smaller SSL VPN providers, he said.
Symantec hopes to capitalise on that desire to keep things simple. The company plans to sell SafeWeb's SSL VPN technology on its own hardware platform as a standalone product in the first quarter of 2004, then add SafeWeb's technology into the next release of the Symantec Gateway Security Appliance later in the year, according to vice-president of product delivery at Symantec, Greg Gotta.
Customers will be able to switch on SSL VPN features on the Gateway Security Appliance, in a similar manner to the way antivirus and firewall services can be enabled or disabled, Gotta said.
Going forward, the addition of the SafeWeb technology will also enable Symantec to dig deeper into network traffic, adding so-called "deep packet inspection" to the capabilities of the Gateway Security Appliance, he said.
The SafeWeb announcement follows similar merger announcements in recent weeks. On October 6, firewall software maker NetScreen, said it was buying SSL VPN maker Neoteris Inc. for $US265 million in stock and cash.
The consolidation is evidence of growing demand for secure remote access products, as companies look to extend remote access services, once the domain of senior executives and technologists, out to a broad swath of their employees, Kerravala said.
While there was enough SSL VPN business in the near term demand to satisfy a number of vendors, the fast consolidation of the SSL VPN space may eventually squeeze out smaller vendors, especially those who could not deliver on must-have features such as a clientless architecture, Kerravala said.