Single Agent Desktop Security Comes of Age

News Analysis: As security software vendors move to integrate various desktop security products, applications that run on a single agent, but fight many forms of threats, are becoming the norm.

Microsofts impending move into the business PC security market is accelerating the development and adoption of so-called single agent desktop defense applications, according to many industry watchers.

While the launch of the software giants OneCare PC management service during the last week in May 2006 has already pushed rival security software makers to create their own bundled offerings for the home market, experts say that Microsofts move into the enterprise security sector is similarly accelerating the development of centralized enterprise PC defense applications.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company has already distributed a beta version of Microsoft Client Protection, a new security product that aims to help protect business desktops, laptops and file servers from a range of threats including viruses, spyware and rootkits, among other things.

While single agent desktop security products--those that use a centralized software architecture to fight many IT threats--are nothing new, the impending emergence of Microsoft Client Protection and demands from customers for integrated, easier-to-manage PC applications is driving traditional security software vendors to promote the tools more aggressively.

Most vendors are already touting integrated security packages that pull together their stand-alone applications that fight viruses or monitor for network intrusions, said Brian Foster, senior director of product management at market leader Symantec.

Taking the process to the next level and pushing customers to buy applications that fight the same types of problems using more centralized software architecture is a natural progression, he said.

For its part, Symantec, based in Cupertino, Calif., started down the path to single agent products in 2002 with the introduction of its Symantec Client Security package, which was followed closely by rival McAfees Active Client Security offering.

Enterprise customer buying patterns, along with the demand for integrated security applications, are finally driving adoption of the technology.

"Enterprises have long had multiple people buying security products for various reasons, for anti-virus, firewall or mobile computing, and its taken time for companies to converge around endpoint security on the PC," said Foster.

"Selling an integrated solution across different buyers hasnt proven simple or easy," he added.

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"While security budgets arent growing anymore and companies want fewer vendors and clients on their endpoints, the best-of-breed security mentality is still entrenched in a lot of organizations, thats why this transition is only happening now."

Foster pointed out that like any technological advancement, single agent security applications have needed time to prove themselves to customers, and for companies to begin considering the tools as their existing multiyear software licenses expire.

As those forces lead more firms to consider single agent tools, Foster said, more companies have begun buying in.

One company stumping hard for the adoption of single agent desktop security is Panda Software, Glendale, Calif.

In mid-May, the software maker introduced the latest version of its Panda EnterpriSecure single agent product line. The company hopes it will drive the same sort of investment among larger firms around single agent PC defense tools that it has generated in the SMB (small and midsize business) space with its so-called UTM (unified threat management) network security software.

Next Page: More vendors come to the table.