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Wake up call: An Open Letter to Gil Shwed, CEO of Check Point Software

Op-ed By Richard Stiennon, Network World
October 26, 2006 12:02 AM ET
Richard Stiennon

Dear Gil:

This letter is meant to be a wake up call. While it points to many missed opportunities and wrong turns that I believe Check Point Software has made I hope you will understand that it is a call to action rather than a criticism of past blunders.

I have been perplexed by Check Point’s actions, or rather lack of actions, for the last seven years. Do you not see that there are opportunities in network security that surpass the existing size of the market? Do you not understand that your current customers are less well protected from outside threats than they were when they first became your customers? Do you not see the warning signs when you lose your major accounts to competitors? Do you not watch the network security start up activity in Silicon Valley? Have you not noticed that Cisco is pulling off a marketing coup with its mis-begotten Network Admission Control scheme?

What do you think? Discuss Stiennon's open letter.

By way of reminder I should recount my connection to Check Point. When you were first trying to get a foot hold in the United States with your revolutionary stateful inspection Firewall-1 product I was director of business development for a reseller in Detroit. I sold the first enterprise firewalls to much of the automotive industry. I also introduced your co-founder, Shlomo Kramer, to Bob Moskowitz who was both heading the Automotive Industry Action Group’s (AIAG) effort to standardize VPN technologies on IPSec and coordinating the IETF’s IPSec efforts. You may recall that Check Point had settled on S-WAN for encrypted communications until that introduction. I accompanied two of your young engineers to MCI’s lab in Plano, Texas, later that year for the first ever IPSec interoperability bake-off hosted by the AIAG and the IETF.

Several years later found me the analyst at Gartner responsible for creating the Firewall Magic Quadrant. Remember when I took all of the firewall vendors out of the leader’s quadrant for lack of vision? That was the time frame that NetScreen managed to carve out a huge segment of the firewall industry through innovation in technology, business model and marketing. How was it possible for a new firewall vendor to enter your space so late and establish a market valuation of $4 billion by the time they sold to Juniper Networks?

Your recent failed attempt to acquire an entity that is commercializing SNORT, the freeware Intrusion Detection System(IDS), was the final sign I needed that you do not understand the network security market, the gaping holes in defenses yet to be filled, the rising tide of cybercrime, or the big picture. This is not a time to copy RSA, IBM, Symantec and McAfee by acquiring multiple pieces of the security pie and hope to meet Wall Street’s appetite for improved numbers quarter over quarter. This is a time to dominate the network security space and leverage that dominance in the network; not the desktop, not the data, not physical security, not the server, not the data center- the network.

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