Symantec’s Brightmail acquisition seen as good

The acquisition of antispam vendor Brightmail Inc. by security and utility software vendor Symantec Corp. is being viewed by a sampling of industry analysts and competitors as a good move in the marketplace that will benefit enterprise IT users.

The US$370 million deal, announced Wednesday, is welcome news for enterprise IT managers because it could make their messaging security decisions easier, according to analysts.

“I think that what corporate customers are looking for is a good solution from a vendor they know well,” said David Marshak, an analyst at Patricia Seybold Group in Boston. “From that standpoint, I think this is a good thing.”

David Daniels, an analyst at Jupiter Research in New York, said that by bringing together messaging security technologies from Symantec and Brightmail, the installation and upkeep of the systems will be easier for IT staffs. “When you think of the maintenance of these products, you have to update them and can now do it at once, making it easier for the installed base,” Daniels said.

Rebecca Wetteman, an analyst at Nucleus Research in Wellesley, Mass., said the deal also makes sense because the two companies have had a relationship since 2000, when Cupertino, Calif.-based Symantec bought an 11 per cent equity stake in San Francisco-based Brightmail.

“Symantec already works with Brightmail from an integration perspective, so this should be a pretty reasonable move from an internal perspective for them to work together more closely,” Wetteman said. She predicted continued consolidation in the marketplace, because an “integrated approach to spam and the entire e-mail security (issue) makes sense.”

Robert Mahowald, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass., said the acquisition is “something that we’ve seen coming for some time — a greater ownership, if not total ownership, of Brightmail by Symantec.”

“(Symantec has) had a lot of influence in Brightmail’s business” since making its investment in 2000, he said, noting that Brightmail will now have a global reach it never had on its own. “Symantec … has a great distribution channel that Brightmail couldn’t hope to match.”

Another advantage for Brightmail in the deal, he said, is that while the enterprise antispam marketplace has finite potential on its own, Brightmail can now be seen with Symantec as a player in the larger and more lucrative overall messaging security market. “This lets Brightmail move into a much larger messaging security space,” Mahowald said. “Customers are not going to be as enchanted with point antispam solutions as they (will be) with larger strategic messaging products.”

Several industry competitors also praised the acquisition for what it says about the strength of the IT marketplace.

Chris Kraft, senior security analyst at Oxford, England-based antivirus and security vendor Sophos PLC, said the same desire to offer customers one place for all their messaging security answers was the catalyst for Sophos acquiring content filtering vendor ActiveState Corp. last September.

“It means better service for the marketplace,” Kraft said. “It has for Sophos customers, and I expect it will for Symantec customers as well. “I think it’s a good indicator of what we’ve seen as an emerging trend that … organizations of all sizes are looking to a single-source vendor for their threat protection,” Kraft said.

Gary Steele, CEO of antispam vendor Proofpoint Inc. in Cupertino, Calif., sees the acquisition as a “validation of the market.”

“It’s not just about spam, and customers are demanding more,” including products that solve a wide range of messaging problems, he said. “In some respects, this represents Brightmail’s acknowledgment that it needs to be more than just spam (software).”

Tom Gillis, vice-president of worldwide marketing at antispam appliance vendor IronPort Systems Inc. in San Bruno, Calif., said the deal will also likely help his company, which already uses Brightmail software on a majority of its gateway appliances. “It will potentially bring IronPort closer to Symantec, which is good for us,” he said. “With the resources Symantec brings to the table, this will make them the obvious leader in the market.”

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