UTM (D)Evolves

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2006-08-14 Print this article Print

Opinion: The next-generation version of unified threat management is a little less unified.

For many businesses, especially smaller ones, the whole idea of UTM is an unambiguously great one: one box that can protect the network against just about all manner of threats. Its relatively cheap, its relatively easy to set up and administer, it protects the entire network, theres tons of competition, and there are plenty of options (although there is less competition since Symantec gave up not too long after launching its well-regarded product line.) But there are problems with this sort of product, especially for larger companies. Its not uncommon for a company considering more gateway protection to already have a solid firewall in place. It must seem like a scam to have to buy a new firewall in order to get the other kinds of protection.
High-performance IP SAN (storage area network) storage solutions are within the grasp of small and midsize businesses now. Click here to read more.
In fact, one could make the case that the firewall, at the low end, is well-enough understood and proven that it has become commoditized. At the higher end things are more complicated, but UTM is not a major issue in such markets. This is why some have been arguing in favor of partially "de-unifying" the UTM. Its the classic convenience versus flexibility trade-off, with some "best of breed" arguments thrown in. Take it to its logical extreme and you completely unravel UTM, but that wouldnt be logical for SMBs (small and midsize businesses). Clearly, at some level of company size and complexity, simplicity is more important than best of breed, and vice versa. This is why Trend Micro is starting a new line of un-UTMs called the InterScan Gateway Security Appliances. Its the content-oriented parts of UTM in a box—anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-spam, content filtering and URL filtering—and it protects HTTP, FTP, POP3 and SMTP. These arent the be-all and end-all of Internet protocols, but theyre certainly the Big Four. For advice on how to secure your network and applications, as well as the latest security news, visit Ziff Davis Internets Security IT Hub. Trend uses the term SCM (Secure Content Management), which tries to put the emphasis on "Content" as opposed to "Unified." Its targeted at medium-size businesses of 100-1,000 users. It also throws in a desktop scanning capability that gives a redundant second scan to the desktops on the network. It also includes Trends Outbreak Prevention Services, which download mitigating configurations, such as port blocking, in cases where a signature may not yet be available. I like this as a compromise for such businesses. The convenience, for the physical network, for the administration and for licensing, is a major strength of UTM, and it is for SCM too. Many companies in the 100-1,000 size range will be able to administer a (for example) Cisco firewall and the Trend box themselves, but many will need a consultant anyway. Symantecs retrenchment notwithstanding, were in a golden age of security appliances. Companies of all sizes are offering products with security sourced from everywhere, including the open-source community. All of this competition should make things better for customers in the long term, driving prices down and increasing the power and accessibility of network protection. UTM, SCM, who cares. Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. He can be reached at larryseltzer@ziffdavis.com. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at eWEEK.com Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog.
Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel