Dell Acquires Security Specialist SonicWall

SonicWall's Unified Threat Management systems will let Dell compete more effectively with the likes of Juniper and Check Point.



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Dell on Tuesday said it reached a deal to acquire SonicWall with an eye to expanding its presence in the market for systems that help businesses fend off a wide range of cyber-attacks. Privately-held SonicWall specializes in so-called Unified Threat Management platforms, which combine multiple security systems into a single appliance.

Terms of the deal, which has received board approval from both companies and is expected to close in Dell's fiscal second quarter, were not disclosed. Wall Street analysts pegged the pact's value at anywhere between $1 billion and $1.5 billion.

Dell officials said customers are looking for ways to centrally management a wide range of disparate security technologies, such as antivirus and antimalware software, intrusion and prevention detection, content filtering, and VPNs, and that SonicWall's appliance firewalls provide that.

UTM "brings simplicity to what can be a very disjointed and very complex issue," said Dell Software president John Swainson, on a conference call with reporters. "Businesses are feeling worse, not better, about their ability to defend against risk."

[ You need to worry about more than external threats. Read 10 Best Ways To Stop Insider Attacks. ]

SonicWall has traditionally focused on providing security systems for small and mid-sized businesses, but began pursuing the enterprise market with its introduction of the SuperMassive E10000 series last year. The E10000 systems are designed to monitor traffic across large, corporate networks. "SonicWall aligns well with Dell's midmarket focus, and this transaction will allow us to accelerate the growth of our SuperMassive product line into Dell's large enterprise customers," said SonicWall CEO Matt Madeiros.

Dell had already been building out its security and business continuity offerings in recent years, through the acquisitions of vendors like Secure Works and App Assure, as well as the formation of its security managed services group. The SonicWall deal with bring it further into competition with enterprise security specialists like Juniper, Check Point, and Fortinet, as well as networking giant Cisco.

"The deal allows Dell to play in the next-generation Firewall market," said FBN Securities analyst Shebly Seyrafi, in a research note.

Dell also has marketing partnerships with a number of security specialists, some of which may be sacrificed as it moves deeper into the market in its own right. "Clearly as we enhance our portfolio we'll have our own offerings to provide to customers," said Dave Johnson, Dell's senior VP for corporate strategy.

Beyond the security element, Dell's plan to acquire SonicWall is indicative of a larger plan to become a bigger player in the enterprise software and systems management market.

"My goal is to make software a meaningful part of Dell's overall portfolio. This is not the last thing you're going to see from us, we are going to build and buy software assets," said Swainson. "If you think about systems management, it's an area our customers are looking for us to participate in," added Johnson.

San Jose-based SonicWall currently has about 950 employees and 300,000 active customers.

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