Proofpoint readies virtual e-mail security appliance

Proofpoint this week plans to announce a version of its e-mail security product for VMware virtual machine environments.

Slated for commercial release in the fourth quarter, Proofpoint's Messaging Security Gateway for VMware will be available as a download from Proofpoint's Web site, says Andres Kohn, vice president of product management. Customers will receive the same spam and virus protection and content control as users of Proofpoint's appliances and software modules, he says, while benefiting from the advantages of a virtual environment.

Those benefits include cost reduction. Running Proofpoint's e-mail security product on a partition of an existing server as opposed to buying a new appliance represents upfront savings plus those realized from taking advantage of an existing resource, Kohn says. Customers would also save money by not having to rack, cool and power an additional device.

A virtual appliance also can be up and running in the time it takes to download the program, vs. having to install and configure a dedicated appliance, Kohn adds. Backup and recovery are simplified by using VMware's infrastructure management tools to take and restore snapshots of an entire environment.

"I think the notion of virtualization makes a lot of sense and offers more reliability and redundancy than a traditional appliance," says Richard Cummins, director of the technology services group at Community Medical Centers, which uses Proofpoint appliances. "We just did a study and determined that it costs us US$5,000 per server per year to maintain a server in the data center. That number alone is compelling enough to pursue virtualization for some applications."

The virtualization was initially driven by the idea of getting more use out of underutilized servers The next logical progression is to eliminate some of the dedicated appliances strewn across enterprises, says one analyst.

"It makes sense to take what used to be a separate, dedicated, physical appliance and make it a separate, dedicated, virtual appliance," says Neil MacDonald, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.

Kohn says the creation of the virtual appliance was easy because the company originally based its product on standard hardware and software, namely Linux and Solaris. In addition, the company's pricing model -- which is based on number of users, not per appliance -- translates easily to the virtual world.

For an organization with 250 users, a one-year license of Proofpoint Messaging Security Gateway for VMware with antispam, antivirus, and content-compliance modules will cost around US$10,000.

The virtualized appliance is available in beta version now at Proofpoint's Web site. Proofpoint plans to release virtual versions of its e-mail security appliance for other virtual environments, though company officials declined to specify which ones.

Proofpoint competes with e-mail security appliance makers such as IronPort, CipherTrust, Barracuda, Tumbleweed and Mirapoint.

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