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Information Security News:

Cisco brings email security appliances closer to SaaS

By Robert Westervelt, News Editor

03 Mar 2009 | SearchSecurity.com

Cisco Systems Inc. is launching new email security services today, stopping just shy of offering email security in a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) delivery model for users of its IronPort email security appliances. 

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The networking giant is getting into the managed services market, offering its Ironport appliances to large enterprises in a hosted, hybrid or managed model. All three models offer spam protection, DLP, antivirus, email authentication and reporting tools, said Swastik Bihani, product manager for Cisco's IronPort email security appliances.

Bihani said all three models are built on the same IronPort platform. Under Cisco's hosted model, customers can buy an IronPort appliance and have it managed at a Cisco data center. The hosted model is one step shy of a SaaS since it has no shared infrastructure. 

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Cisco's hybrid model allows customers to keep an appliance on premise to deploy outbound email security features, such as DLP and encryption. Cisco will offer inbound protection from its datacenter. Cisco's managed security service is its premium offering. IT includes on premise IronPort appliances staffed by Cisco employees who remotely manage and monitor customers' email infrastructure. Customers -- primarily large businesses -- would get 24x7 support and can delegate some or all email management and maintenance responsibilities to Cisco. Cisco said its managed option will be sold on a per-user, per-year pricing model.

Cisco said it will target companies with 1,000 users and above for its hosted and hybrid models. The company currently offers spam and virus blocker appliances aimed at small businesses. It did not release pricing details for its new IronPort options, but Bihani said the hosted model will be priced inline with other competitors. The hybrid and on-site managed model will cost a "slight premium to appliance prices on a per user basis," he said.

"We'll be marketing heavily to new customers, but certainly programs will be available to migrate existing customers to managed, or at some point hosted if they choose to," Bihani said. "Our biggest differentiator is having a full continuum of deployment options available to customers."

Cisco is trying to step into a market that has had a lot of momentum behind it, especially among small and midsized businesses, said Arabella Hallawell, a research vice president at Gartner Inc. Ironport, however, is typically used by larger organizations. Competitors in the managed email services, Google's Postini email security and Symantec's MessageLabs email security services haven't appealed to many larger organizations that require more complex outbound security controls, Hallawell said.

"We still haven't seen a company, from an email security perspective, be able to be best-of-breed for both appliances and SaaS," she said. "In general there's a risk with canabalizing your very successful appliance business, so that's why Cisco is starting out with a pure managed box and they haven't done a full SaaS infrastructure." 

Symantec and Proofpoint are the only vendors that offer both on-premise email security gateways and hosted models. Symantec sells a Brightmail gateway and offers hosted email security services through the integration of its MessageLabs acquisition last October. Proofpoint also offers a messaging security gateway and on-demand email security services. It began offering a hosted and hybrid model in 2007 starting at about $20,000 for 1,000 users for antispam, antivirus and content compliance. Hallawell called the options a test to see if a vendor can find success selling both models.

Google announced its hosted email security services model last year after integrating its acquisition of Postini. The model starts with Google Message Filtering, which provides core antispam and antimalware services for $3 per user.

Hallawell said Cisco's entry into the market is a conservative approach for now. A true SaaS model includes both multitenant and shared infrastructure where the service itself is built around being able to very quickly turn users on. It's an actual application capable of supporting many organizations, she said.

"To me this announcement is Cisco putting its toe in the water," Hallawell said. "The dedicated hosted model is stuff that's been around for years."

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