Websense Closes SurfControl Deal, Reveals Roadmap

For Websense, the deal represents a strategy to expand its product set and SMB customer base as it absorbs its content filtering rival, adding new e-mail security and managed security services to its portfolio.

"At the end of the day, content is the lifeblood of a business, and so Websense has been evolving from a filtering company to a security company and now we've grown beyond the idea of just protecting from Web threats into really protecting a business's information and content," said Doug Wride, president of Websense, San Diego, Calif.

The decision to expand its technology portfolio is critical for Websense, solution providers said.

"Websense has been a good partner of ours for years, but it's been challenged with trying to stay relevant as other companies have combined technologies to broaden their offerings," said Dale Mitchell, general manager of Data Processing Sciences, Cincinnati, Ohio.

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Websense began its portfolio expansion in January with its acquisition of data leak prevention vendor PortAuthority Technologies.

Some solution providers have been somewhat wary since the deal for U.K.-based SurfControl was first unveiled in April, wondering how well the two companies' channel programs would meld and how quickly Websense would cut support for SurfControl's offerings.

Others see the deal as a solid play for Websense that could open new sales opportunities for channel partners.

"The only downside is if we see SurfControl resellers all of a sudden made Websense partners and then see them showing up in bids causing price erosion," said Larry Dannemiller, president of Business Security Solutions, Houston. "They're telling us that's not going to happen."

Websense executives said their intent is to grow channel partners' businesses, not interfere with them.

"Our message is we won't disrupt your business; we're here to grow it, and then help people understand where they can take advantage of both companies' products and businesses," said David Roberts, senior vice president of sales and channels for the Americas at Websense. Only limited information exchange has taken place between the two vendors, as they've had to continue competing against each other until today, said Leo Cole, vice president of marketing at Websense. "A lot of what we'll be doing in the fourth quarter is learning their business," Cole said.

Websense will use that time to develop a combined channel program, which it plans to introduce during the third week of January, Roberts said.

In the meantime, Websense is prepared to provide "tactical support efforts" to ensure that solution providers unfamiliar with one side or the other will be able to close whatever business opportunities they uncover.

"We've focused a lot on the operational side of the business to make sure that we have those people in place that can help us get transactions through two different systems and make it seamless for the partner," Roberts said. "I feel like we have the bases covered, but we will have a 'war room,' for lack a better term, with 1-800 numbers for partners to call into. We'll man that over the next 30 days to get questions or things escalated quickly to make sure that we don't hold up transactions."

Websense Wednesday is also releasing a roadmap showing when it plans to "end of life" products and how long it will support them. It has pledged, for example, to support SurfControl's Web Filter and Mobile Filter products through 2011, a move that "gives customers plenty of time to migrate to Websense solutions at their own pace," Cole said. Other products will be supported for two to three years, he said.

The company has also promised to offer renewal price protection for subscriptions to those offerings, to continue investing in and developing SurfControl E-mail Filter and its MailControl and WebDefense managed services and to offer forums for communication with customers on support and product direction following the acquisition.

In addition, Websense will be supplementing SurfControl's content filtering database with its own URL database.

As a result of the acquisition, Websense has doubled its customer base to more than 50,000 organizations worldwide.