Novell buys endpoint security firm Senforce

Novell will offer a new product dubbed ZENworks Endpoint Security to protect endpoints from data theft, wireless exploits, and malware

Novell announced on Monday that it has acquired Senforce Technologies, a provider of endpoint and network security tools, for an undisclosed sum.

Waltham, Mass.-based Novell also said that it would move quickly to integrate Senforce's technologies into its ZENworks product lineup in an effort to further expand its enterprise systems management offerings.

While Senforce, based in Draper, Utah, has long pitched itself as a provider of so-called network access control (NAC) tools, which are used to authenticate devices as they attempt to log onto corporate networks, Novell appeared to be most interested in adding the company's endpoint security products, which promise to help companies protect mobile devices including laptops and handhelds from attack or data leakage.

Novell said it will immediately begin offering a new product built around Senforce's tools, dubbed ZENworks Endpoint Security, which aims to protect endpoints from data theft, wireless exploits, software attacks, and malware. Among the different types of technologies that Senforce has offered for endpoint protection are device firewalls and applications control systems, as well as data encryption utilities.

The companies had partnered earlier this year to launch a joint offering dubbed ZENworks Endpoint Security Management, which offered many of the same features that will be included in the new Novell product.

"More and more enterprises and government agencies are losing mission-critical and confidential information through theft and loss of unsecured corporate and personal devices," said Joe Wagner, senior vice president and general manager of Systems and Resource Management at Novell, in a statement. "This addition supports Novell's enterprise management strategy, which is focused on helping customers get the most out of their IT investments from the desktop to the datacenter, while reducing the complexity and risk."

In a letter to Senforce customers, Wagner promised Novell would continue to support the acquired firm's existing products and said it does not plan to stop selling the endpoint security package as a stand-alone offering. New encryption and applications control features also remain part of the product roadmap for Senforce's technologies, he said.

The company's existing product support agreements will also remain intact, according to Novell officials.

While not mentioning whether all of Senforce's executive team would move to Novell, executive alluded to efforts to retain "continuity" in the firm's management.

"Let us stress that there will be complete continuity with product support and the product roadmap will be enhanced and integrated with Novell's Systems and Resource Management solutions," Wagner said in the letter. "Senforce's customer support, sales, product development, and product management organizations will play a key role at Novell."

Industry watchers said the deal makes good sense for both companies, as customers are looking for ways to integrate systems management and security capabilities and Senforce faced stiff competition from many larger rivals.

Further integrating security into its endpoint management offerings by pulling Senforce's tools into the ZENworks line is a no-brainer said Jon Oltsik, analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, Milford, Mass.

"It's certainly not a surprise to see these two areas merging, and Novell has been doing a fair amount of work in the security space, as with its acquisition of E-Security [in 2006]," Oltsik said. "Novell is seeing companies including McAfee, Symantec, and Microsoft merge management with security, and customers seem to agree that it makes sense to merge [endpoint] security, configuration, and support into one single suite."

It has become harder for smaller vendors such as Senforce to go up against bigger competitors who are folding the types of tools the company offers into their broader security offerings, analyst said.

"Especially with NAC, there's not a tremendous amount of room for independent players, some have had a good run, but we're also seeing the end of the line as with Citrix' acquisition of Caymas," Oltsik said. "Ultimately this is something that becomes part of the desktop or networking infrastructure; people like Juniper, Nortel, and Cisco in the networking space all have pretty reasonable products, so, there's not a lot of room for third parties."

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