Microsoft's Whale buy is good all round

* What does Microsoft get in Whale?

Microsoft buying SSL VPN vendor Whale Communications makes sense in a lot of ways.

First, Whale has always had a close relationship with Microsoft. Its appliances are based on a hardened Windows server and it had an OEM relationship to incorporate Microsoft's ISA server in Whale's VPN gateways. Bringing the company in-house opens the way to further integration with other Microsoft platforms.

From a business standpoint, Whale was sliding in its ranking among SSL VPN vendors. Its sales were growing, just not as fast as other vendors'. Being absorbed by Microsoft keeps the Whale technology alive. It also shrinks the SSL VPN firmament, leaving primarily major networking vendors Cisco, Juniper and Nortel, plus Aventail and F5, according to Rob Whitely, an analyst with Forrester Research.

"Most of these companies count their revenue in billions," he says, which means it may be a tough row for Aventail and F5 to hoe if SSL VPNs and their offshoot of network access control are incorporated in routers and switches.

He further points out that many potential SSL VPN customers may be attracted to getting the technology free in a Microsoft server package, which would make already stiff competition even stiffer. And SSL VPNs are a good security complement to mobile remote access for smart phones and handhelds because they occupy a smaller memory footprint. The SSL software would make a good addition to Microsoft's Windows Mobile software, he says.

So over time, look for Whale's technology to become an integrated feature in other Microsoft products, altered to make it easier for less technical customers to configure and use.

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