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Dawn Kawamoto

Staff Writer, CNET

Security software giant Symantec announced Monday it will enter the e-mail security appliance market, expanding the competitive landscape that also includes its current partner IronPort.

IronPort–an appliance maker that offers security software bundles from a number of vendors–also announced new partnerships Monday, including an expanded four-year deal with Symantec. But one industry analyst predicts the relationship between IronPort and Symantec may be headed for the rocks in the long run.

“In the short term, it’s a good opportunity for Symantec. It provides another channel for Symantec to sell its antivirus software into,” said Brian Burke, an information security research manager with IDC. “But in the long run, I clearly expect them to compete and the relationship to go away.”

As part of its entry into the e-mail security appliance market in February, Symantec will offer two product lines, the 8100 and 8200.

The 8100 series is designed to cut unwanted e-mails by 50 percent before they hit the corporate network. That, in turn, is designed to lower the cost of adding more hard disk storage space to the network. The 8160 appliance, the only model in the series, will sell for $4,995, which reflects only the hardware costs and excludes security software licenses.

Symantec is also launching two models in its 8200 series, which both offer integrated antispam, antivirus and e-mail firewall technologies at the gateway.

“The 8200 series will spot 95 percent of the spam at the gateway and deliver only one false positive per 100 e-mails,” said Daniel Freeman, Symantec’s secure e-mail solutions product manager.

The 8240 model, which is designed for companies with 100 to 1,000 users, and the 8260 model, which is geared for corporations with more than 1,000 users, can also work in conjunction with Symantec’s e-mail volume reducer appliance. The 8240 appliance will sell for $1,995, excluding security software licenses, and the higher-end model will sell for $4,995, also excluding content subscription costs.

IronPort’s e-mail appliances, which serve larger corporations and Internet service providers (ISPs), can also be used in conjunction with Symantec’s email volume appliance. But analysts say that IronPort’s machines will largely compete with Symantec’s high-end antispam and antivirus 8260 model.

Tom Gillis, IronPort’s senior vice president of marketing, said he is not concerned about Symantec’s entry into the e-mail appliance market.

“We’re confident our relationship will stay strong going forward,” Gillis said.

IronPort, as part of its expanded agreement with Symantec, will include the security software maker’s antivirus technology on its appliances. Previously, IronPort carried only Symantec’s antispam software on its appliances and relied on Sophos to provide antivirus technology.

IronPort will now offer customers a choice of Symantec or Sophos as their antivirus software, Gillis said.

“One way we are different is we give customers a choice on using best-of-breed technologies,” Gillis said. “We don’t force them to go with one vendor.”

Symantec representatives also noted the differences in approach between the two companies.

“IronPort targets a niche market that focuses on ISPs and enterprise companies, and they focus on having the best mail transport product,” Symantec’s Freeman said.

Symantec’s hardware for e-mail is the company’s latest foray into security appliances, which include its recently expanded firewall appliance line.

During the past couple of years, Symantec has been seeking to bolster its presence in security hardware and hosting, as a means to diversify beyond security software, analysts said.

The secure-content appliance market is expected to grow to $1.2 billion in 2008 from $131 million in 2003, Burke said.

“Appliances are attractive because they are plug and play,” Burke said. “They’re ideal for companies that don’t have the expertise to install and manage software. That’s what customers want. They want an integrated solution at the gateway and to deal with only one vendor.”