Data leakage prevention becomes a feature

DLP on track to becoming a feature rather than a stand-alone platform

Driven by market consolidation and the ongoing efforts of large IT security vendors to meld DLP (data leakage prevention) tools into their broader portfolios, some experts contend that the technologies will increasingly become perceived as product features and less so as stand-alone platforms.

As with countless other security technologies that previously flourished as separate products but are now largely consumed as elements of packaged security suites -- including anti-spyware applications, spam-filtering tools, intrusion detection systems (IDS), and firewalls -- some market watchers claim that DLP is rapidly shifting into a mere piece of other offerings.

Over the last six months, a slew of independent DLP vendors have been acquired by large security providers, including Vontu, Tablus, Provilla, PortAuthority, and Oakley Networks.

Just as customer demand for DLP technologies -- considered valuable tools in stemming the theft and misplacement of sensitive corporate information -- drove Symantec, EMC, Trend Micro, WebSense, and Raytheon to buy those firms, respectively, the ubiquitous need for data protection among enterprises will drive further integration of the applications into other systems, according to some industry watchers.

"If you look at what DLP does, the real value will become more of a stack value than a vertical play," said Jon Oltsik, analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group. "A lot of devices can do packet filtering at the edge, and that filtering will become the enforcement of a policy, versus stand-alone data leakage prevention; the DLP system will still be where you might classify data, enter policies, and do analysis, but other products will likely take over the enforcement piece."

As Symantec had not yet announced details of its US$350 million deal to buy Vontu when the market leader convened its second quarter earnings call on Oct. 23, Chief Executive John Thompson deferred questions about the impending acquisition in favor of highlighting DLP features that already resided in a number of the company's existing products, such as its database security programs.

While Symantec executives claim that the firm is planning to continue to sell Vontu's technology as a stand-alone platform for the foreseeable future, they also concede that one of the major benefits of adding the startup will be giant vendor's ability to further weave the acquired tools throughout a number of its other products.

"If you're going to have an agent on the end point, clearly you want all those capabilities to be integrated, and that includes DLP," said Ken Schneider, chief technology officer of Symantec's Security and Data Management group. "One of the things we're always trying to do is take disparate sets of technologies and build them into our architecture; we will continue to sell DLP as a stand-alone, but we will also introduce DLP capabilities throughout the portfolio."

As with many other security technologies, one of the hardest parts of effectively using DLP tools in the enterprise setting lies in customers' abilities to manage the systems, Schneider said.

Based on that reality, the degree to which Symantec can bond the technology with other security tools to allow for centralized management and policy control will play heavily into further adoption of DLP applications, according to the executive.

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