Gartner sees a split go-to-market strategy for virtual firewalls. "A number of traditional physical firewall vendors now have virtual firewalls. These vendors take the channel route to reach security buying centers who wish to add virtual security appliances," says Ahlm.
A few months ago, WatchGuard, for example, launched a virtual firewall for VMware. The company is bullish about its prospects in this market. "Earlier, we had launched UTM for hyper-visors. Now, we cover a majority of virtualization products for Microsoft and VMware," says Mohit Puri, Country Manager, India & SAARC, WatchGuard.
Juniper Networks too doesn't want to be left behind. Being an industry big-wig, it is unwilling to lose the first-mover advantage. It has launched a few related products, including the EX9200. In addition, it has launched a virtual wireless controller that provides security and management tools to wireless networks, for which the software resides on the virtual path.
Dhawan at Juniper believes that this would be the future of appliance-based products, sooner than later. "Competition doesn't have features like a central console/log report, and they usually always have a component of hardware. The uniqueness of our virtual UTM is that it is 100 percent software-based," says Sharma at Cyberoam.
For channel partners, this software-based virtual UTM brings in higher the margins and profitability. Which is why some vendors have rolled out training programs on virtual UTM for their channel partners. "The big plan is to align with virtualization partners. If you want to sell VM then we need to work with partners that work in the virtualization sphere," says Dhawan. Similarly, Cyberoam has rolled out a program to recruit, appoint, and develop the skill-sets of the existing partners of VMware and Microsoft. "We have a readymade customer-base due to our expertise in software," says Sharma.
Though there is an uptick in virtual UTM, its growth hasn't really picked up. "We expect virtual security appliances to pick up by the second half of 2013. However, we have the roadmap ready and partners trained to traverse ably on this path," says Puri. But the general consensus is that, within the security firewall space—from a datacenter perspective—across enterprise and commercial segment, the market is maturing and accommodating virtual security.
In the commercial segment, which is more fragmented, channel partners will have to put solutions together. "Today, security appliances that are software-based need to deliver performance and ensure ease of management to customers. With more products than anyone else, we are no longer a 'security box company', but a security solution provider. I believe this would be great for channel partners," says Dhawan. Cyberoam's Sharma agrees.
"Security itself is a specialized domain and virtual UTM partners have more command over customers. Wherever there is a virtual instance, it is easier to manage a software-based appliance in the domain that offers better performance and channels can get a subscription model," he says.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.