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McAfee acquires patch-management vendor Citadel for $56 million

Purchase gives McAfee strong presence in assessment, remediation and policy compliance.

McAfee Inc. on Tuesday added another piece to its enterprise security strategy with the acquisition of patch-management provider Citadel Security Software Inc. Best known for its antivirus and intrusion prevention technologies, McAfee is looking to take an even larger share of the desktop security market with the $56 million purchase.

Citadel, of Dallas, has a suite of vulnerability management, remediation and endpoint security offerings. Hercules, its flagship patch-management solution, provides automated patch distribution and installation across enterprise networks. The company was one of the pioneers of the patch management concept, but as major vendors such as Microsoft Corp., Oracle Corp. and others have become more efficient and predictable in their patch release and installation methods, such systems have become less vital.

Still, many large enterprises and government organizations rely on patch-management tools to ensure that users' machines are up-to-date and to get detailed reports of the progress of patching efforts. Other vendors, including PatchLink Corp., Altiris Inc., BigFix Inc. and Shavlik Technologies LLC, face similar challenges, and many industry observers have said that the space is ripe for consolidation. On-demand vulnerability assessment services, such as those offered by Qualys Inc., also have been posing a challenge to agent-based offerings.

In a recent interview, Patrick Clawson, CEO of PatchLink, acknowledged the hurdles that standalone patch-management solutions must overcome, and said that his plan is to leverage the company's presence on millions of desktops to perform other functions.

"Patching doesn't stay as a standalone in the future. It needs to be part of something else," Clawson said. "We want to keep a common front-end and consolidate the reporting and dashboard. We want to make the agent more dynamic to help customers with compliance reporting and other issues they face. Three years from now, we should have several products under one hood."

That's exactly the approach that McAfee is taking with the Citadel purchase. The Santa Clara, Calif., company has its agents on tens of millions of desktops and adding Citadel's technology to the mix will enable the company to offer enterprises centralized management of assessment, remediation, antivirus and other host-based security in one package.

In addition to the $56 million in cash, McAfee will reimburse Citadel $4 million in working capital.

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