Friday, May 6, 2011

Astaro accepts offer from Sophos.

This is about my employer.  It is an unusually corporate market-y sounding kind of post for me.  Feel free to skip this one if you aren’t interested, I will not be offended.

It is kinda big news for some of us.  The nice folks who pay me to do all kinds of cool things, Astaro, have agreed to be purchased by Sophos.  There are a lot of questions that I have seen and heard, and some utter nonsense has been said.

BUT FIRST: I am just an employee of Astaro.  I am not a founder, owner, or senior management team member.  What follows are my personal observations and opinions.  I have no “inside knowledge” to share, and even if I did, I couldn’t.

The official press release and FAQ have the basic info.  There are several blog posts and articles about it.  My new colleague Graham Cluley over at Sophos’ Naked Security Blog did a good summary post with links to several other articles and posts.  Mike Rothman’s analysis over at Securosis is a good one.  I’m sure you can find more.  You can also find some that are off the mark.  If you read something that doesn’t make sense, please apply a little skepticism.  (If you read this blog, that should be easy for you).

I have received several questions, and I will UNOFFICIALLY answer them based on my understanding of the situation:

Q: What about the free home version of Astaro?

A: Don’t worry it is not going away.  Astaro’s management team will continue to manage the Astaro line as part of Sophos.  The home version is important to them, and to most of us in the Astaro team.  It is a key part of Astaro’s success, and a key part of building the Astaro community.  It would be silly to discontinue it.

Q: You say that now, but will it change as the product evolves? 

A: I am sure it will, and have no idea what that will look like.  If I were psychic, I’d be a gambler, not a packet monkey.  But, see previous answer.

Q: What about X Open Source project?

A: Open Source provides great value to Astaro, and Astaro provides support back to Open Source projects.  That will continue.  And, any Open Source code will stay Open- as the licenses require.

Q: What about BSides and other community sponsorships and support?

A: Short term- nothing changes.  The awesome Astaro PR and Marketing team is committed to building communities.  It is a differentiator for Astaro, and it is the right thing to do.

Long term- it is a financial decision, as long as it makes sense, I expect it to continue.  And I expect that to make sense for a long time.

Now, a little strategy talk. 

This creates a combined company with a broad diversity of security and management products.  There is not a lot of overlap in product lines, so there is not much redundancy to reconcile, there will just be the challenges of integration where appropriate.  (On the Astaro gateway side, that’s pretty easy- it is a modular platform which has allowed adding and modifying components and features as the product and customer needs have evolved).

Some have said that the endpoint and network security channel partners are different, and the buyers are different, and this will cause difficulty for the combined company.  While that may be true in limited cases, most likely in larger environments, my experience brings me to quite the opposite conclusion.  I talk to our partners, as well as other VARs, MSPs and resellers regularly; most I speak with want a complete and diverse product line to offer their customers and prospects.  Likewise, the pressures of the economy and the never-ending push for increased efficiency are driving the consumer to look for efficiencies and cost savings.  This pressure on those in the IT trenches is why the UTM (Unified Threat Management) segment is gaining traction in ever larger environments- simplified, unified, cost-efficient products conserve scarce resources.  It only makes sense that a properly integrated, quality suite of products will be attractive to businesses.  And even in the cases where the desktop team doesn’t “play nice” with the firewall guys (or web filtering, or whatever), I have a couple of thoughts:

  • It is about the company’s best interests, the pressure is on, and cooperation is happening, or will happen.  With the current teams, or those who replace them.
  • More importantly, the budget authority is frequently above these levels, and good managers understand the value of efficiency.

Things will change. There will be opportunities, there will be missteps, and there will be successes. I believe this is a good move, but that is speculation: it is now up to us in the new, combined company to prove it.

And finally (for now): if you have questions, comments, or concerns- let us know.  If you do not know who to ask in the Astaro team, or at Sophos, ask me.

Drop a note to jdaniel at astaro dot com.  I am on the road a lot, especially for the next month, so my responses may not be immediate, but ask me, and I will answer as soon as I can, or I will connect you with the answer.