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Check Point president: Application security next frontier

Next month, perimeter security pioneer Check Point Software Technologies celebrates its 10-year anniversary. Check Point has been an industry leader in firewall and virtual private network (VPN) technology, and last Monday it announced the release of a new application intelligence component to its firewall software. technical editor Benjamin Vigil sat down with Check Point president Jerry Ungerman to talk about the next 10 years, application intelligence and the economy.

The company is turning 10 years old this year. Where do you see the company in the next 10 years?
Well, we've been on a pretty good trajectory in our first 10 years. I think it's going to continue on the same path. We're going to stay focused on security, firewall, VPN, and meeting customers' needs to really have a secure environment. I think we'll be much larger. We'll probably have more market share. I think we will become one of the household names when it relates to security. Where do VPNs fit into your future plans?
Well, VPNs are a very big part of our plans -- 65% to 70% of our revenue today is from selling virtual private network software. Now we integrate our firewall into our VPN, which has always given us an advantage in the market. It's why we have 65% market share today. VPNs are still at the very early stage of growth. A lot of the deployments so far have been remote access and site-to-site; connecting remote branch offices for large corporations. We're still in low double-digit penetration right now. So there is still a lot of opportunity just in remote access and site-to-site. Then there is a whole new deployment for VPNs, which is extranets: tying in partners, customers and suppliers. There is still a lot of growth ahead in the VPN area. Your company has been known for firewall and VPN software. The company is moving toward application protection. Do you think this puts you head to head with some of the niche players in the market? Who do you see as your competition?
Yes, we are moving into new areas. Our OPSEC [Open Platform for Security] partners provide a lot of complementary security technology that helps us bring out the best integrated security suite. But putting application intelligence into our core technology is putting us into competition with many companies that we were not in competition with before. We feel that is important. We hear it from our customers, how important it is to not only block network attacks and be able to do access control for the network, but also the same requirements are there for the application side. ... They need to be integrated. So the more we see these other technologies that we feel need to be integrated into the core security architecture, we'll continue to do that. How do you differentiate your products in the marketplace? How do you explain that you are different?
Well, historically it's been easy because, as we've evolved, stateful inspection has become the de facto standard. We created that 10 years ago; we're the only one that has it today. All the other technologies have died off, and everybody now is claiming they have stateful kind of technology. Nobody has yet been able to duplicate the deep packet inspection we do with the level of security performance and manageability. And now we are raising the bar by adding application intelligence technology to our core product. It's really revolutionizing what our customers can do, by having this multilayer security gateway that is going to meet both the network and application requirements for security from our customers. So it is pretty innovative and it's pretty exciting, where we have gone with this technology. Do you think you will be able to continue to increase your install base in this economy? How do you plan on increasing business in this economy?
Not being an economist, it's been very difficult. This [recession] level has been longer than what we expected 18 months ago. We thought we'd see recovery sometime in Q2 '02. We haven't seen that. So it is a very difficult economic environment. In fact, I just read a survey by Bank of America of CIOs that made it sound like they are more pessimistic about an economic recovery. Although, in the same survey, 82% of them said they were going to increase their security spending this year, and that is up from 48% last October. So security, fortunately for us, is still a very, very important area. Although, we have been impacted; people are not buying as much as they would, could, or want to. We're hopeful that we are going to see an economic recovery toward the second half of this year. So we'll see what happens the second half of this year, as far as overall spending goes.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: news exclusive: "Top Web application security problems identified" news exclusive: "Applications are the new network" news exclusive: "Protecting Web applications a paradox for security professionals" Webcast: "Balancing risk, reward of application security"

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