Sophos Acquires Canadian Anti-Spam Developer

Enterprise anti-virus specialist Sophos on Wednesday shelled out $23 million in cash to acquire Canada-based anti-spam developer ActiveState as part of plans to offer “consolidated protection” from the blended threat of email borne attacks.

Sophos, which maintains U.S. headquarters in Lynnfield, Mass., said its anti-virus protection tools would be married with ActiveState’s flagship PureMessage enterprise anti-spam software to create a single, consolidated offering to its corporate clients.

The transaction signals a further move by enterprise anti-virus vendors to expand into the ultra-competitive anti-spam market.

Sophos president Stephen Orenberg described the deal as a no-brainer. “We’ve been heavily involved in anti-virus software on the corporate side and we’ve seen the spam problem gaining traction. It is more nefarious in corporate enterprises than ever before. The major virus outbreaks have been email borne,” Orenberg told internetnews.com.

“It is definitely in our best interest to have an anti-spam solution. The gray areas between anti-virus and anti-spam have become more blurred. [Our corporate] customers want to deal with one vendor with an integrated solution,” Orenberg added.

Among large corporations, he said the adoption rate for anti-virus protection was at 100 percent while anti-spam software was showing adoption growth, in the range of 90 percent. “They’re asking for an integrated solution to expand the perimeter defense,” Orenberg added.

Sophos has been offering anti-spam protection to its clients through OEM relationships and partnership deals with individual companies, including ActiveState. But, once the decision was made to marry the two technologies into a single offering, Orenberg said ActiveState became the obvious acquisition target.

Sophos will retain all of ActiveState’s 100-plus employees. The company’s Vancouver headquarters will serve as a satellite office for marketing, research and development.

In an interview, ActiveState director of product management Chris Kraft said the PureMessage software would be merged with Sophos’ mail manager product and fully integrated by the end of the year under the PureMessage Banner. PureMessage currently supports AIX, HP-UX, FreeBSD, Linux and Solaris.

“Spam represents 40 percent of the mail stream entering into an organization. For ISP customers, it is a as high as 70 percent. That’s a shocking reality,” Kraft said, adding that when virus attacks are added to the equation, it creates an “enormous traffic burden” on a company’s mail infrastructure.

ActiveState generates about 70 percent of its revenues from the PureMessage product line and also makes money from providing tools for open source language programmers.

Sophos said ActiveState’s product lines for open source programmers would continue to be developed and marketed under the ActiveState brand.

ActiveState president Steve Munford with join Sophos’ as Global vice president of messaging with responsibility for the anti-spam element of the combined business.

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