Resellers Cautious About Future Of Antispam Solutions

Since then, however, some VARs and industry experts have changed their tunes. In one corner, solution providers specializing in point solutions have expressed concern over market demand for these products. Other industry insiders have wondered aloud where the antispam market is headed as the biggest security vendor gets even bigger.

"With [Symantec's acquisition plan], the major vendors have realized that they have to put their cards down," said Ron Herardian, chief systems architect at Global System Services, Mountain View, Calif., "As a reseller, you have to wonder if products down the road will actually contain an antispam solution or if antispam will just be incorporated into some sort of larger messaging approach."

Herardian said he expects that sometime in the not-too-distant future, vendors such as Symantec will unveil signature-based technologies that evaluate messages by domain as the messages pass over the firewall into the corporate network. This technology could eliminate one class of spam altogether, quarantining messages that reveal one domain but come from another.

Robert Deitz, president of Government Technology Solutions, a government VAR in Shingle Springs, Calif., raised additional concerns, noting that in the past, when larger companies have stepped in and purchased big-time competitors, the entire market has suffered. Deitz remembered in particular how Cisco System's acquisition of Okena in January 2003 crippled the intrusion-prevention market, essentially opening the door for integrated firewall appliances to fill the resulting gap, he said.

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"More often than not, when one of these big companies steps in and buys a young and aggressive market leader, momentum in the marketplace stops," Dietz said. "In the case of antispam, I'd say it's really up to the vendors that remain to show that they can enable the space to survive."

Antispam vendors seem up for the challenge.

Steve Jillings, president and CEO of FrontBridge, an e-mail security vendor in Marina del Rey, Calif., said that Brightmail's software-based approach only addresses a partial segment of the enterprise market, allowing a variety of other vendors to sell their solutions through a reseller base.

Steve Munford, president of Symantec competitor Sophos, Lynnfield, Mass., said that in the realm of integrated antispam solutions, the Brightmail acquisition actually weakens Symantec's offering, enabling companies like his to come in, differentiate themselves and win back portions of market share.

For resellers, diversifying will be key to survival. While Tom MacArthur, CEO of StorBase Communications, a former Brightmail partner in Waltham, Mass., expects to remain a part of the Symantec channel, he said he also plans to seek participation in the channel programs of other antispam and antivirus vendors.