March 1, 2007

Check Point caves in

Not long ago, I wrote of Check Point Software’s unusual appliance strategy. While a lot of their sales were on partners’ Type 1 appliances – custom boxes with standard parts — the only appliances they sold themselves were Type 2 – software-only.

However, that turns out to be wrong in two interesting ways. First, it was slightly incorrect all along; Check Point’s “Edge” product line has been Type 1 for almost five years. Second and more important, a few weeks ago Check Point announced that it was finally entering the Type 1 appliance mainstream market itself.

“Edge” products almost don’t count; they’re limited-functionality perimeter devices that only work well if managed and strengthened by bigger Check Point deployments at remote locations. But the new Check Point UTM-1 appliances absolutely compete head-on with Juniper (nee’ Netscreen) and other mainstream firewall – excuse me, “unified threat management” — appliance vendors.

Check Point says its motivation for introducing physical appliances is their ease-of-deployment benefit. That sounds right to me. The primary other alternative would be performance, and that’s not what’s going on. While custom-manufactured, these Intel-based boxes seem to be quite generic, with the biggest non-standard aspect being the number of high-speed Ethernet ports. (Configurations vary among three models, targeted at 100- to 1000-user installations.)

So how does this affect Nokia and Crossbeam, Check Point’s two most important hardware partners? At the moment, it hardly affects them at all; they sell to a higher-end market than is served by these new appliances. Longer-term, it’s harder to say.

Technically, Crossbeam isn’t dependent on Check Point at all. But in practice, Crossbeam would be in a world of hurt should Check Point decide to compete directly. On the other hand, it’s not at all obvious that there are enough hardware margins to make it worthwhile for Check Point to turn against its partners. As for software – well, “unified threat management” is impressive in either its unification or its management. There’s a ways to go before we’ll know whether Crossbeam’s “best of breed” software mix will outdo Check Point’s “unified”-but-actually-involving-multiple-partners own umbrella offering.


3 Responses to “Check Point caves in”

  1. Christofer Hoff on March 19th, 2007 12:02 am

    I thought you might find it interesting to note that Check Point UTM-1 appliances are actually Crossbeam appliances…

    It’s quite interesting to note that most analysts have missed this point even though Crossbeam’s CEO, Peter George in conjunction with the formal UTM-1 announcement, presented this very fact on-stage with Gil Schwed at the Check Point Analyst’s day.



  2. Curt Monash on March 19th, 2007 3:25 am

    That’s very interesting indeed, Chris.

    I’m surprised they didn’t tell me this when I interviewed them; I did grill them a bit about the matter and they weren’t too forthcoming on the point.


  3. The Monash Report»Blog Archive » Check Point Systems UTM-1 and Crossbeam Systems – resolving the confusion on April 7th, 2007 1:50 am

    […] When Check Point Systems first briefed me on their new midrange UTM-1 appliance, they neglected to mention that their hardware designs first worked out by Crossbeam Systems. Actually, it turns out that they even buy the hardware through Crossbeam. It took a comment here from Crossbeam’s Chris Hoff for me to realize the true story. Today, I connected with Paul Kaspian of Check Point to straighten things out. Here’s the scoop. […]

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