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On Monday StillSecure announced their Cobia Unified Network Platform (UNP). Alan Shimel (StillSecure Chief Strategy Officer) and Mitchell Ashley (StillSecure CTO / GM Cobia) have blogged extensively about it.
I’m a huge fan of John Zagula and Richard Tong’s book “The Marketing Playbook” – especially their notion of a Platform Play. I use this approach with many of my portfolio companies – StillSecure is one of them.
StillSecure’s historical products form the base of this platform play. While security software is a fast moving and very fragmented market, StillSecure has built a security software platform business with Strata Guard (IDS/IPS), VAM (Vulnerability Management), and Safe Access (Network Control). These are best of breed products that have won many awards and have rapidly growing customer bases.
Cobia builds on this product family. About a year ago Raj Bhargava (StillSecure’s CEO) started talking to me about the idea of the convergence of security into the core of the network. Historically there has been a huge amount of focus on security at the edge of the network with the latest incarnation being end point security (which StillSecure’s Safe Access addresses extremely well.)
The traditional approach ends up with a proliferating number of single purpose devices that are needed (proprietary and otherwise) to secure a network. This is silly – there are two approaches to this cutting down the number of individual devices needed: SaaS and converging multiple functionality on a single device. While some people talk about SaaS being a tough one in the security domain, our portfolio company Postini has had superb success with SaaS for Email Security.
StillSecure has taken the second approach with Cobia: today’s hardware is powerful enough that converging multiple functionality onto one device – especially that which combines networking and security. To support this thesis, unified threat management (UTM) systems have become a huge market in security. These devices combine firewall, VPN, gateway AV, anti-spam, content filtering, IDS/IPS, etc. in one box. Why stop there? The basic networking functions such as routing, switching, DNS, DHCP in addition to newer networking functionality such as wireless access points and VoIP can run on the same platform!
Cobia is envisioned as the platform that will allow you to run any number of combination of these on one appliance. My friends at StillSecure have been hard at work on this product for the past year and have released the first beta. The initial response from technical folks that have looked at and played with the platform has been outstanding. If you are involved in managing your network infrastructure and want to play around with the software or contribute to the Cobia community, we’d love you to come take a look, give us feedback, and participate.