Sophos Sets Sights on Endpoint Security Rivals

Fresh off a successful fiscal year, Sophos is looking to expand its product portfolio to take on Symantec.

It's no secret that Sophos has started to make headway against bigger players in the security space. While Symantec and McAfee still loom large in the market, Sophos CEO Steve Munford said his company is banking on consumer frustration with the large vendors to take Sophos to the next level.

The 28 percent growth in billings Sophos saw during its fiscal year ending March 31 is an example of the way second-tier security vendors have been challenging Symantec, Trend Micro and McAfee in the marketplace. The week of June 9, roughly six months after Sophos shelved its plans for an IPO, it announced that it had posted $213.9 million in billings during the fiscal year.

"People are looking for easier-to-use, easier-to-manage security solutions, specifically at the endpoint, where for a [long] period of time people were not willing to go through the effort of changing the platform that they had," Munford told eWEEK in an interview. "But what's changed now is the number of technologies people are looking to deploy within their network, specifically on the endpoint, has mushroomed."

As enterprises look at broadening security on their endpoints, they are taking a look beyond their legacy products to those of other vendors-and that is where Sophos can make its play, the CEO said.

Paul Roberts, an analyst with The 451 Group, said there are two common explanations for Sophos' growth: consumer disenchantment with the larger vendors and Sophos low-balling customers to win big accounts.

"My guess is that the truth is somewhere in between," Roberts said. "Sophos and Kaspersky [Lab] and Grisoft [now AVG Technologies] and other players are picking up enterprise accounts at Symantec's expense. It is certainly the case with many of the enterprises I've spoken with that price was a big factor in their decision-not just technical acumen, performance, etc."

So far, he said, Sophos has generally done a good job building and buying components it needs. But the company still lacks some key elements its competitors have, such as data encryption.

"McAfee got this with SafeBoot, Check Point [Software Technologies] with Pointsec. Symantec said it's happy to partner with GuardianEdge [Technologies] for encryption, arguing that it's a commodity technology, but admits that it may be forced to buy," Roberts said. "More important: Sophos doesn't have a strong data leak prevention story. The company tells us that it's inclined to build versus buy, which may be wise at this point, but those features still aren't in the core product."

Munford said Sophos would look to build, buy or partner with others to bring complementary technologies into its portfolio, but did not state specifically what functionality he was interested in adding.