Microsoft to acquire antivirus vendor Sybari

The move will give it a server-level security suite

In a bid to give it more of a presence in the enterprise security market, Microsoft Corp. today announced plans to acquire antivirus software maker Sybari Software Inc. for an undisclosed sum.

The acquisition will give Microsoft access to a server-level security suite designed to protect Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes messaging servers and Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server technology. It will also allow Microsoft to address a growing corporate need for better defenses against e-mail-borne threats, said Gordon Mangione, corporate vice president of Microsoft's security business and technology unit.

"Even though folks claim to be protected against viruses, we are still seeing large network penetrations by viruses coming in through e-mail flows," Mangione said. "We feel there's a real opportunity to strengthen customer defenses against e-mail viruses" via the Sybari acquisition, he added.

Making it a particularly good fit for Microsoft is the fact that Sybari's technology is already well integrated with Microsoft's Exchange and SharePoint collaborative environments, Mangione said. "The way Sybari has architected their product, it runs on top of the Exchange infrastructure, and therefore you have a single seat of administration" for managing all antivirus functions, he said.

Also important is Sybari's use of virus-scanning engines from multiple vendors to identify threats, Mangione said. Sybari's Antigen product for Microsoft Exchange, for instance, currently integrates third-party engines from vendors such as Norman Data Defense, Sophos PLC, Computer Associates International Inc. and Kaspersky Labs.

The planned acquisition of East Northport, N.Y.-based Sybari is part of an unfolding strategy designed to give Microsoft more of a presence in the booming market for security technologies. Just last month, for instance, the company bought Giant Company Software Inc., a New York-based vendor of antispyware products, for an undisclosed sum. In June 2003, Microsoft bought a Romanian antivirus software maker, GeCAD Software, for an undisclosed amount.

The Sybari deal, though, will give Microsoft its first truly enterprise-class security product, said John Pescatore, an analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. "The major thing here is that Microsoft is, for the first time, taking aim at the enterprise server market" with a security product, Pescatore said.

It is unlikely that corporate users, who have long standardized on antivirus products from pure-play security vendors, will be ready to replace their existing technologies in the near term, Pescatore said.

"They would do that for only two reasons: Either something is better, or something is just as good but cheaper," he said. Microsoft has to first prove that it can deliver security products that are at least as good as those available from the pure-play vendors, he said.

Expect to see Microsoft making similar announcements in future, said Jon Oltsik, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group Inc. in Milford, Mass. "Microsoft is definitely not going to leave security on the table. They want to be a big player here, so the [Sybari acquisition] is no big surprise," Oltsik said.

Microsoft's move builds on a recent trend by very large vendors to expand into the security market. Companies such as Cisco Systems Inc., CA and Hewlett-Packard Co. have all begun to offer security products. HP, for instance, is expected to release a virus-throttling technology next week to help companies slow the spread of viruses on their networks.

Even service providers such as American Online Inc., AT&T Corp. and MCI Inc. have announced plans to bundle antivirus and intrusion-detection capabilities with their services.

A lot of that market expansion is being driven by the relative lack of success that pure-play security vendors have had in addressing the virus threat, Pescatore said.

"We haven't seen a lot of innovation in the antiviral space for some time," he said. "Over the past five years, vendors have been milking their product lines while prices have been going up."

The money being spent by companies on security these days is also driving vendor interest in the security market, Oltsik said. "Everybody is just chasing the money," he said.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon