From Antivirus to Web Security, MessageLabs Eyes Rivals in SaaS Security Race

MessageLabs is looking challenge its SaaS security rivals with plans for new services and integrated policy enforcement across its messaging and Web security offerings. MessageLabs competes in a crowded SaaS space with the likes of Google, Microsoft and ScanSafe, as well as against traditional security vendors like Symantec.

The quickening adoption of software-as-a-service must be validating for a company like MessageLabs, which has had a software-as-a-service (SaaS) business model since its inception in 1999.

But in a crowded space a company is only as good as its ability to differentiate itself, and to that end MessageLabs plans to expand its offerings and unify policy enforcement across its messaging and Web security services as it looks to keep Google, Microsoft and others at bay.

"The big vision for that single policy," said Jos White, chief marketing officer for MessageLabs. "So you say, -I want to encrypt information going to the executive team. I don't want to receive MP3 files. I want to archive information coming from the CEO.' (Those policies are) cascaded down across every different type of way that you use the Internet."

White, who co-founded the company with his brother, Ben, called this the company's major objective over the next one to two years and a key part of its plan to differentiate itself in a crowded market. The U.K.-based company cleared $145 million in revenue during its last fiscal year, but faces competition from companies ranging from Google to ScanSafe to Microsoft. Then, there are the traditional anti-malware vendors like Symantec and McAfee, as well as a growing number of startups such as Purewire.

Still, MessageLabs' CMO expressed confidence in the company's position as he discussed a number of plans for the future. At the moment, he explained, the market is very siloed.

"You got your email security and your Web security and your IM, whatever, so the challenge for us is trying to bring that all together," he said. "We designed a new architecture which is all about bringing all the different platforms together, which is all about having a single-sign-on and single policy."

Pieces of it are coming together already, he said, such as threat intelligence sharing between the various services.

"But in terms of the policy and single-sign-on and really completely integrating it together, we've still got some more work to do," he said.

Messaging security has been the biggest beneficiary of enterprise interest in SaaS. However, analysts at Gartner predict the SAAS market for security services will grow steadily into other areas over the next five years.

For MessageLabs, staying relevant means expanding services, and along those lines the company has plans for an instant messaging security service in 2009 for AOL, Google and other IM clients. The company also has plans to help organizations enforce Web use policies on their remote users.

"The main way that we're looking at is to have a small piece of software actually on the laptop, so then that kind of knocks it down, knocks down the browsing (and) ensures it goes through our service," White said.

Other plans include content analysis scanning for VoIP, though that remains far off.

"We'd like to scan for every different type of Internet traffic eventually," White said.