WatchGuard rides UTM wave to growth in Asia
By Edwin Yapp October 30, 2013
- UTM market to grow in Asia, which is good news to security vendor WatchGuard
- Does not believe in reinventing the wheel; still, some challenges remain says Gartner
THE rise of information technology security breaches amongst small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) has grown over the past few years and as a result of this trend, a number of security companies have sprung up to meet the needs of this segment of the market.
To make it accessible and convenient for SMEs, security vendors began designing and developing an all-in-one security box, which incorporates a number of built-in features such as firewall, network intrusion prevention system (IPS), virtual private network (VPN), gateway antivirus, data loss prevention, anti-spam, URL filtering, and application control, amongst others.
Known in the industry as Unified Threat Management (UTM) appliances, these devices have become popular not only because they are feature-packed but also because they offer a relatively easy learning curve for users, a single interface, and can be maintained and managed relatively easily.
With UTM solutions, valuable resources such as IT investments and manpower, as well as time, can be freed up to do other tasks. They are also more affordable than individual point solutions, not the least because there are fewer systems to purchase, but also because they are cheaper to operate and have more flexible per-seat licensing costs
According to Gartner, some of the leading names in this business are Fortinet Inc, Check Point Systems Inc, Dell Inc (through the acquisition of SonicWall in 2012), Sophos Ltd and WatchGuard Technologies Inc.
According to the research firm, worldwide revenue in the UTM market totalled approximately US$1.53 billion in 2012, which represents an 18.7% growth over its estimate for 2011.
In its 2013 Magic Quadrant for UTM, Gartner said it believes that the UTM market will continue to grow faster than many other segments in the security market.
“We forecast continued growth in the UTM market of approximately 15% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2018,” said the research note.
Growth in Asia
In a recent interview with Digital News Asia, Seattle, Washington-based WatchGuard expressed its bullish prospects for the UTM market, noting that it expects Asia to be a further growth area for it.
Its chief executive officer Joe Wang (pic) said the company has recorded high growth in this region; in fact, in the Asia Pacific alone, comprising Japan, Korea, India, Australia, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, the company has seen a 27% year-on-year growth.
“In South-East Asia (SEA), the growth is 66% and in Malaysia, we have seen a 108% growth in our business,” he claimed.
Wang, who was touring the Asia Pacific region to meet partners and customers, said what WatchGuard has witnessed in the market are increased cases in blended security threats, a situation which many SMEs are concerned about.
“No business is protected without some sort of level of security as more SMEs today realise that there are more types of threats, and different threat vectors, facing them,” he said. “There must be a way to adequately defend against these sophisticated threats and the easiest way to manage that is to use UTM.”
Wang said that by utilising UTM, SMEs can have one interface to manage everything from IPS, web filtering and anti-spam to firewalls and application control, thereby making it affordable for them to manage multiple types of technology under a single control platform.
Founded in 1995, WatchGuard began life as a firewall appliance vendor. After securing venture funding, the company operated privately until it went public in 1999. But in 2006 the company was purchased for US$151 million by Francisco Partners and Vector Capital and taken private to enable it to re-strategise its direction.
According to Wang, WatchGuard has since diverted much of its resources in these past few years to building high quality UTM appliances.
When asked how its products stacked up against the Fortinet, the leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant 2013 for UTM, Wang acknowledged that Fortinet had better overall performance in the firewall appliance segment but was quick to claim that WatchGuard did better in the UTM segment.
“Fortinet focuses on firewall appliances and their performance throughputs,” he said. “We're different in that we focus on UTM as a whole. When you look at Fortinet's firewalls, they do have better performance. But if you look at UTM performance, then we [are] better."
"The difference is that if a customer buys firewalls, Fortinet provides very good technology, but if a customer buys more than just the firewall, including features like anti-spam, antivirus and application control, then [we believe] we’re a better choice,” he added.
Wang also drew another distinguishable difference between Fortinet and WatchGuard, noting that the former develops all its technology in-house while his company's strategy is to partner with best-in-breed manufacturers to come up with the best products.
“We prefer to partner with the best companies in the world that specialise in a particular field as we don’t want to reinvent the wheel. Our business philosophy is to focus our resources on our software management and capabilities, where we believe we are strong in.”
Wang said WatchGuard partners with AVG and Kaspersky for antivirus solutions; Websense for URL filtering; Sophos for data prevention loss; Trend Micro for IPS and application control; and Commtouch for anti-spam solutions.
“We don't believe one company can develop the best of everything; even IBM can't, let alone Fortinet,” he said, noting that such a renowned IT giant like IBM does not create all its products itself.
Quizzed further as to where he sees the opportunities and challenges for WatchGuard, Wang said he believes that the company is in a good position now to take on the competition since it has completely redesigned its product range to become more complete, offering better UTM products for the marketplace.
“But the challenge for us is that we’re still smaller than Cisco because of its sheer size and marketing dollars,” he said. “Clearly, people who hear about WatchGuard would want to use our products. But for everyone who knows WatchGuard, there may be three who don’t know about us. However, we’re pleased with our growth, and if we continue to see growth such as 66% in the SEA region, then sooner or later we’ll catch on.”
Pros and cons
According to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant research, WatchGuard is a well-established UTM vendor with a strong focus on the SME market. Customers, it said, often cite the low initial price as a reason to select WatchGuard, and it has strong and loyal channel presence in many countries. The research firm noted that its hardware and software upgrades have also brought significant performance improvements.
That said, Gartner did warn that it has a large number of products and services that are often very similar, and that channel partners and buyers have told Gartner this is confusing.
“WatchGuard [also] scored low as a significant UTM competitive threat by the vendors we surveyed,” the research note read.