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Virtual network security from the Catbird’s seat

Sometimes a company is in the right place at the right time. Just as the Gartner Group was issuing a press release in April proclaiming that “organizations that rush to adopt virtualization can weaken security,” Catbird was putting the finishing touches on Catbird V-Agent, which was announced today. The Catbird V-Agent is a VMware-certified virtual appliance that runs within VMware virtual machines to detect and, when possible, mitigate network security threats from the inside, rather than relying on the traditional method of sending data outside the virtual machine to an external security scanner running on the corporate LAN.

V-Agent doesn’t patch any identified security flaws; it only points out vulnerabilities, then directs those needing this service to Catbird partner Blue Lane Technologies. Tamar Newberger, the company’s vice president of marketing, said that some VARs are also providing this security patching service for their clients.

Catbird officials say their products are focused squarely on the security reseller channel. Newberger told that Catbird has already attracted a growing number of channel partners who are installing and servicing V-Agent for SMB clients looking for VMware security. These managed security services can easily dovetail with the storage, firewall and antivirus services that resellers already provide – Catbird execs said they have no plans to enter any of those markets.

Newberger says Catbird is focused on working with managed service providers and resellers who typically serve companies with up to 500 employees, limited IT staff, and network security that’s limited to physical PCs and servers. While many of these companies are experimenting with using network virtualization tools such as VMware, Catbird execs are betting that those customers have yet to find a cost-effective security solution that helps them comply with myriad state and federal data security regulations, to say nothing about fending off the next generation of malware.

Unlike VMware security methods that use physical appliances, V-Agent is a stateless software agent that lives as a guest account within VMware and “calls home” through a corporate firewall to an in-the-clouds Catbird server. This agent reports any security issues, such as “rogue” guests, and Catbird’s service attempts to address them. Rather than being relied upon to keep a record or “memory” of security threats, which is the case with many hardware-based solutions, V-Agent simply reports the information to Catbird. This process allows clients to manage security alerts and reports for all their VMware virtual machines from a Web-based portal. “It’s one-stop shopping from one Web page,” says Catbird CTO Michael Berman.

Catbird execs believe they have a chance to change the VMware security ecosystem with their V-Agent product. And by all accounts, they don’t have much competition – at least not yet. Just two weeks ago, Gartner’s Neil MacDonald saw tumbleweeds:Where are Check Point, Cisco and TippingPoint? All the big people in network security are missing in action. Why aren’t they inside this virtual network doing network security? It’s an oversight, I believe, on the tools’ vendors part.”

For more on Catbird V-Agent, the security channel response and how Catbird hopes to fend off bigger network security players like Symantec, look for Colin Steele’s feature story later this week on Add the Security Channel Update RSS feed to your browser or RSS aggregator today, and you’ll be the first to know when the article is posted.

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