"The whole UTM concept was probably guilty of being over-hyped several years ago, especially in the sense of moving into larger environments, but even those customers are moving away from older standalone firewall technologies to devices that offer deep packet inspection and other functions," said John Cuhn, director of marketing for SonicWall. "A lot of this shift is about the available technology today, now that there are vendors like us balancing the features across multiple processing cores instead of a single processor or an ASIC the traffic moving through the device can be handled a lot better," he said. "Now that [UTM] can offer the ability to do full inspection across all the security functions without hitting traffic, I think we'll see UTM being pulled into a lot of different devices and into more enterprises."
Rebranding unified threat management
In addition to products that won't cripple performance once all their features have been turned on -- one of the most common complaints made about earlier integrated security appliances -- vendors are also attempting to lure larger customers by eschewing the UTM banner for their systems.
Crossbeam, identified as a leader in the UTM market by IDC researchers, recently announced that it is moving away from the product terminology because the name has a "connotation that is tied to low-end solutions" built for SMBs. The company is instead marketing its high-end UTMs under the wording of "next generation security platforms."
Even analysts at Gartner are now labeling the tools traditionally positioned as UTMs as "next-generation firewalls."
At Fortinet, another vendor of UTM and network security appliances, company officials admit that they are seeing a better response in selling the multi-purpose security gateways as "consolidated security devices" when it comes to larger customers.
"Ultimately, people generally seem more confident today in the UTM-like approach, but the label has a bit of a distaste attached to it, so it works better to play up consolidation," said Anthony James, vice president of product management at Fortinet. "I think it's a bit of a misnomer, based mostly on the fact that the SMB is where UTM took off first, and the appeal is pretty much the same, but using the alternative positioning does seem to be accelerating interest with larger customers."
James also concedes that the UTM products of today are far more appropriate for use in massive computing environments than some of their forbearers.
A more significant concern for companies in the UTM space than re-educating customers around just what the products bring to the table is likely the competition that independent network security device makers face from giant rivals like Cisco Systems that are pushing aggressively into the space, some experts contend.
However, James said that it has yet to be proven that customers ultimately will be pushed to buy more of the security tools from such networking specialists, who he said are still struggling to piece together all the different elements of the products that they have acquired in recent years.
Any attempt to understand the promise of UTM in the enterprise, and any discussion of the technology in general, leads back to Charles Kolodgy, the IDC analyst credited with coining the term itself.