Sophos Broadens Endpoint in UTM Release

With the evolution of multi-platform threats, it probably comes as no surprise that the lines between network and endpoint security are continually being blurred. But it’s a trend that also presents new opportunities.

To that end, Sophos Ltd. expanded endpoint protection in the latest version of its unified threat management device, broadened its wireless coverage and bulked VPN performance to cater to larger enterprise customers.

But the Boston, Mass.-based security firm is likely hoping to leverage its acumen in both networking and endpoint security to stay competitive and carve out a more profitable niche in an increasingly tough networking security market. The new UTM solution, dubbed UTM Connected, incorporates what Sophos calls Web in Endpoint functionality, a feature which amps up standard feature sets typically included in network security appliances.

Here’s the idea, according to Sophos: Most UTM devices come packaged with a medley of standard security features loaded onto a single appliance. Where Sophos hopes to differentiate is by making those technologies speak to each other, allowing resulting solutions to be more effectively mix-and-matched to better tackle security problems.

No doubt, the solution’s biggest selling point is that it incorporates a blend of gateway, endpoint and cloud – a combination that Sophos hopes will take standard networking features, as well as channel value, up a few notches. Among other things, Sophos touts that the combination gives channel partners and IT administrators both full Web protection and control over mobile and remote endpoints outside the corporate network, as well as the ability to update policies and report accessed data in real time for an increasingly remote workforce.

And one way Sophos is hoping to gain a competitive edge is by better catering to the dearth of mobile and remote workers. To that end, the endpoint and networking security firm also bolstered its solution with new capabilities that extend wireless network reach. Improvements also include a VPN that’s touted as faster and more secure while also better supporting load balancing and traffic failover between IPsec VPN tunnels.

“Customers and partners shape our UTM roadmap, ensuring that we deliver innovative technology that is practical to use in a business environment,” said Chris Kraft, vice president, product management, Sophos. “Web in Endpoint is a great example of solving a complex problem with a simple solution. Because we have proven endpoint protection and secure web gateway expertise, we are uniquely positioned to help IT administrators secure their roaming workforces – and having a single solution like this makes life easier for our channel partners to deploy security too.”

If anything, Sophos is positioning the its latest UTM appliance as an attractive network security alternative by targeting the groundswell of remote and traveling workers. And the addition of endpoint security is one that could give the firm and its partners a strong leg up when attempting to gain territory in an incredibly tight network security market.

It’s an angle Sophos has been playing for a while. The firm added endpoint management to its UTM offering last year in an attempt to yield a stronger and more noticeable differentiator that would effectively position it against its competition.

Days later, Sophos fully integrated its Astaro partner program, while later that year it launched a UTM appliance and software package dedicated solely to the SMB.

No doubt, Sophos is letting the world know it intends to stay the course on its network security commitments following its 2011 acquisition of UTM firm Astaro – and with good reason. According to research firm Frost & Sullivan, the UTM market is slated for around 15 percent growth and projected to grow to nearly $4 billion by 2015.

And Sophos is clearly leveraging its endpoint prowess in a way that few, if any, have done before. Even still, it now has to find a way to remain relevant and competitive in a tightening UTM race, especially against established market leaders such as Fortinet Inc., Sourcefire Inc., Palo Alto Networks Inc. and other industry peers. And that might be easier said than done.