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Data security definition expands

Jan 26, 20064 mins

* SonicWall adds data backup to firewall/router product lines

What does data security mean to you? If you think it means secure access to data, including remote access and access after a computer crashes, then you’re thinking like SonicWall. Perhaps its slogan should be something like “secure data access anytime and anywhere, even after you drop your laptop.”

The acquisition of Lasso Logic late last fall illustrates the new SonicWall attitude. I wrote about Lasso Logic and its continuous data protection (CDP) back-up technology in July 2005 (“Start-up takes fresh approach to backups”).

Curious why SonicWall jumped into the back-up biz, I called Doug Brockett, vice president and general manager of all SonicWall products (he also heads the strategy and M&A group). “We started looking at the broad range of business continuity,” Brockett says. “Backup is critical and we think CDP is the best first bet we can make in this area.”

SonicWall plays exclusively in the small and midsize business market, and it only sells through resellers. As such, it works directly and indirectly with businesses every day and tailors its products accordingly.

“Small and medium businesses really like appliances,” Brockett says. “They like the idea of not maintaining a separate operating system and that the box is built for a specific purpose.”

All CDP products require client software to monitor file system changes. Some CDP products work on a file level, tracking when a file is updated and copying that file. Lasso Logic drilled another level down, and monitored block-level disk activity. That made its system more responsive to small changes within files, and reduced the amount of traffic copied from the client to maintain an accurate backup at the appliance. The company’s appliance can also send files to remote servers for offsite storage.

SonicWall will continue that same methodology, and the improvements are underway already. Lasso Logic’s appliance hardware used a Windows server operating system, but SonicWall replaced that operating system with a Linux distribution for easier remote management and application updating. The client software still relies on Microsoft’s .Net architecture, and client migration to SonicWall’s look and feel is underway. Appliance boxes will also take on the SonicWall look and feel.

Reaching customers means resellers. Lasso Logic did well starting its dealer organization, but that takes time. The few hundred Lasso Logic reseller channel is dwarfed by the 10,000 SonicWall resellers. Brockett believes his resellers have a great package of new products to demonstrate to customers with the new SonicWall SSL-VPN 2000 for remote access and the Lasso Logic CDP box for backup. Price of the two together should be around $5,000.

More interesting for SonicWall resellers, both units (and other SonicWall security appliances) lend themselves well to remote administration and pre-paid service and management contracts. For a few dollars per month ($50-$200 seems to cover the range), SonicWall resellers already manage existing appliances for customers. The resellers handle all software updates, configuration changes, and user management, while the customer budgets a fixed amount.

“Resellers can make this same arrangement with the new Lasso Logic appliance. For a few dollars, they can manage it remotely. For a few more dollars, they can even be the offsite host location for the customer’s data,” says Brockett.

Brockett says SonicWall hasn’t finished its data back-up product line yet. The company is still searching for tools for bare-metal restoration for servers and clients, which Lasso Logic can’t do. Brockett isn’t sure if they’ll develop that software in-house or partner with another vendor.

As a public company, SonicWall doesn’t break out product line sales, and it is in a quiet period before releasing earnings. But Brockett says the company has “dramatically increased” sales so far. We have no way to verify that, of course, but it makes sense. Give 10,000 resellers a new product line, and sell-through to existing customers would give a big bump over the sales efforts of a few hundred resellers.

SonicWall beat its competitors into this new market area. And if it can convince customers data security also includes data backup, it can take the lead in this category.