In spite of powerful corporate alliances and increasing government involvement to fight spam, there's no end in sight for the epidemic of junk mail clogging the electronic mailboxes of consumers and businesses.
While business and government leaders consider possible solutions, the challenge is in the hands of e-mail and third-party software vendors and their channel partners for now, observers say.
E-mail vendors such as Microsoft, Novell, Lotus and BlueTie have integrated enhanced antispam capabilities into their most current and soon-to-be-shipping e-mail servers, giving customers immediate reasons to upgrade. The antispam features in the forthcoming Microsoft Exchange 2003 and Notes 6.5 this fall, as well as the recently shipped Lotus Workplace Messaging, BlueTie 4.0 and Novell GroupWise 6.5 represent key selling opportunities for partners.
Microsoft, for example, has integrated antispam filters into the Iris GUI in Office 2003's Outlook e-mail client and plans to offer server-based spam capabilities for Exchange 2003. The software will also offer domain-blocking support for realtime blacklists and spam confidence levels, allowing third-party ISVs and solution providers to snap in to the server blacklists and custom lists of offending domain names, as well as more advanced third-party spam-control products.
One Microsoft Certified Partner now implements antispam solutions as routinely as it does antivirus products. "It's a big problem for organizations right now," said Rand Morimoto, CEO of Convergent Computing, San Francisco. "We're working with many third parties like Trend Micro and Brightmail. It's implemented in every solution we do."
Microsoft is planning several new spam-blocking features in the client and server pieces of Exchange 2003, due in the fall, company executives said. Microsoft also built hooks into the Exchange code to enable enterprise antispam products from third-party ISVs such as Brightmail, Symantec, Network Associates' McAfee unit and Trend Micro to tightly integrate with the e-mail servers, they said.
So far this year, software companies have responded to the explosion in demand by releasing enhanced enterprise versions of their antispam solutions and trying to engage more channel involvement.
ISVs see sizable opportunities for channel partners. "The opportunity for resellers is very strong right now," said Enrique Salem, president and CEO of Brightmail. "Demand is brisk. There's equal, if not more, demand for antispam solutions now than [for] antivirus. For a VAR who knows how to sell security or is in the messaging business, it's a pretty straightforward process. We closed numerous deals with resellers," he said.
Anthony Harbour, president and CEO of Richmond, Va.-based IT consulting firm Harbour and Associates, said, "Spam is quickly becoming a serious issue to network security in the workplace. The business opportunity for combating spam will continue to increase."
Another solution provider is seeing big margins from the increase in spam. "It's hot," said Tim Carney, CEO of The NetworkGuys, a Fremont, Calif.-based solution provider that works with Commtouch's Anti-Spam Adaptive Protection solution. "All companies, big or small, are having a problem with spam, and every customer is a potential antispam customer. I don't know what my competitors are doing, but there's plenty of opportunity. It's underexploited [by the channel]."
For some solution providers, it represents a onetime installation opportunity. For some services companies, it's an ongoing maintenance issue for customers and their solution providers.
Lotus 6.5, due this fall, also offers new antispam capabilities such as quick rules that improve junk-mail management and enhance inbox maintenance. The antispam features of Novell's GroupWise 6.5, which was released in March, have fueled upgrade cycles and increased opportunities for selling Novell products, partners say.
BlueTie, an ASP with a growing network of resellers and solution providers, launched last month a major upgrade of its hosted BlueTie e-mail service with a new user interface and advanced spam-control features.
"The opportunity in the antispam space is huge right now for solution providers. Spam is consistently one of the top five issues we hear from customers," said David Koretz, CEO and president of Rochester, N.Y.-based BlueTie. "Antispam is a focal point in the training of our resellers and partners."