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That focus on SMBs, as opposed to the enterprise, was a driving factor in last year's departure of IBM from the UTM space, according to Jim Brennan, program director of threat protection strategy and product management at IBM.
"If you go back to the early days of UTM, it was not necessarily focused on [the] SMB," he said. "This was supposed to be the silver bullet for security. But the reality was that there was a significant performance trade-off when you begin switching on multiple technologies within a single appliance. You end up with lower performance levels, which is not acceptable at the enterprise level. UTM brings a very strong value proposition to a lot of SMBs because they don't usually need extremely high levels of performance in terms of network throughput and monitoring. So they can get the functionality and the value out of these appliances and still have a level of performance that is acceptable."
That performance hit is front and center among some of the companies who manufacture UTM devices.
"We are following Moore's law as far as performance goes," explained Kevin Flynn, senior marketing manager at Fortinet. "We have to continually boost the performance so that security becomes less and less of a speed bump."
Fortinet, which has recently rolled out a new high-performance module to support its firewall line, is also in the midst of beefing up its UTM framework to further support security for virtualization and cloud services.
"UTM is about being able to use multiple technologies to protect yourself," explained Flynn. "It's about continually adding both performance and technologies. Reputation-based technology, sandboxing, MDM support and simplified analysis are some of the key examples."
UTM is clearly becoming more strategic as time goes on. The opportunity to wrap identity and access control, security intelligence, threat management and data/application security into a single device will continue to be a solid value proposition over time.
"You've got to have all those pieces," summarized Brennan. "Threats evolve, technologies evolve, and the needs of customers will always continue to mature."