Small Fish, Big Name, Right Price

For a company founded just over a year ago (in December, 2002), Cupertino, Calif.-based Barracuda Networks has hit the anti-spam ocean fast, and is already making waves. The company’s pricing scheme (see end of article) is eye-catching, with boxes starting at $1,797 (with service and upgrade contracts).

The company charges no per-user fees, making its product particularly attractive to ISPs that are optimistic about growth prospects.

The company’s anti-spam appliances are instantly recognizable with sleek basic black rackmounts with blue logo and decoration.

ISPs will also be pleased to hear that two of the company’s three principals have impressive ISP industry credentials. Although the CEO, Dean Drako, is not an ex-ISPer, he founded and sold several companies and also worked at SoftBank as entrepreneur in residence.

The company’s vice president of marketing, Michael Perone, and its vice president of engineering, Zach Levow, were two of the three co-founders of Spinway, one of the largest free ISPs. Spinway was sold to Kmart and became part of bluelight.com.

The Spinway episode gave Perone and Levow the experience of managing and email user base of millions. In 1998, Perone founded a mailbox company, address.com, accidentally picking one of the most attacked domain names on the Internet.

Perone says the two struggled long and hard to fight spam. “Zach and I spent hours working out how to deal with this at address.com,” he recalls. “One thing we did early on, about two years ago, when spam was hitting address.com so hard it was taking down the mail servers, was we went to an outsourced anti-spam provider. Within 20 minutes, they told us they didn’t want a customer of my size.”

Perone says that one of the problems with the address.com domain is that people read setup instructions literally. The instructions say to use “address.com” as the POP server or time stamp source, so machines from all over the world keep asking his for instructions.

“Commercial solutions were too expensive,” says Perone. ISP operators seem to agree.

The company cobbled together several open source elements, not all of which it wishes to disclose. The foundation of this solution, like the foundation of many anti-spam solutions, it SpamAssassin. This foundation is augmented with several other components, including an open-source anti-virus package.

The MTA is Postfix and the operating system is Mandrake Linux.

When an email message hits a Barracuda filter, it is subjected to seven layers of email defense:

  • DoS protection does basic checks to make sure the email is valid.
  • The IP block list uses public blacklists supplemented by Barracuda’s own list.
  • Rate control limits the number of messages from any individual IP during a 30 minute period (the period can be set by the administrator). Perone says this alone stops a significant amount of malicious traffic.
  • The server uses two anti-virus programs.
  • The server applied any user-specified rules.
  • The server conducts a spam fingerprint check.
  • Finally, the server subjects the mail to a spam scoring system assisted by Bayesian analysis.

“The idea is to apply the easiest, lease CPU intensive rules first. We kill 75 percent of incoming email before the box has to think much, with the first three rules alone,” says Perone.

Updates, provided regularly by Barracuda, provide the latest spam IPs, virus definitions, spam fingerprints, and spam rules for Bayesian analysis.

The company has been traveling to trade shows, and has received some feedback from ISPs. If you looked at Barracuda before, but not recently, note the following new ISP-centric features:

  • Per user quarantine allows each user to view their own separate quarantine inbox.
  • Access control lists can now recognize domain names and IP addresses, so that all users on the same LAN can have access to the same account information.
  • New notification features allow the administrator to send alerts to a specific email address.
  • The filter now recognizes wildcards, so that if the ISP is, for example, a webhost, that ISP can allow all its users’ domains to take advantage of the Barracuda device.
  • Messages that are blocked, quarantined, tagged, or whitelisted are delivered with a note saying which filter affected them.
  • The filter can now block attachment types.
  • A limited amount of own-branding is now available on Barracuda’s top of the line product, the Spam Firewall 600.

Even more new features are being added regularly, so ask about any feature you want but do not see listed.

Pricing and availability
The Barracuda Spam Firewall is available from Barracuda resellers and all models except the 600 are also available direct from Barracuda.

Pricing (with replacement plan and update plan) and capacity are as follows:

Spam Firewall 200: $1,797.
Capacity of 1,000 users and 1 million messages per day.

Spam Firewall 300: $2,697.
Capacity of 2,000 users and 4 million messages per day.

Spam Firewall 400: $5,397.
Capacity of 10,000 users and 10 million messages per day.

Spam Firewall 600: $12,997.
Capacity of 25,000 users and 25 million messages per day.

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