Websense hopes to filter more than just the Web
Many trick pony
Websense Enterprise v5, due to ship in January, will become a policy management platform into which customers will be able to plug optional modules, built by Websense and its partners. The first named partner is digital rights management software developer Macrovision Inc, which will help Websense users control pirate material.
"Our product was really a one-trick pony for a while," said Websense spokesperson Ted Ladd. "But we're transforming it into a platform that customers can add on modules... We're extending it beyond just how employees use web browsers, to manage the entire relationship between the employee and their computing environment."
The first deliverable modules, due January, will be for application control and bandwidth optimization. This will be followed in the second half by a module built with Macrovision that will allow pirated files to be identified, for the company paranoid about legal liability of having illegal content on its network.
Macrovision specializes in fingerprint and watermark-based DRM that allows copyrighted digital files to be protected and pirated files to be identified. It is expected that the Macrovision-Websense product will compare files on a user desktop against databases of blacklisted fingerprints.
Whereas Websense is currently a proxy server proposition, the application control and liability modules will require desktop components that take their policy cues from the server. Websense-maintained databases of application and file fingerprints will be available for customers to create complex white-list or black-list policies.
The bandwidth control module will use the same policy engine, and will allow companies to manage how much bandwidth is used where, by who, and when. Companies will be able to restrict certain types of traffic, based on protocol, to certain times of the day or to certain employees, for example.
Advancing "employee internet management" to the point where it deserves to be named such, rather than just "filterware", is a priority for companies such as Websense and those it competes with, primarily London-based SurfControl Plc, which announced its bandwidth prioritization features in March.
Judging by recent announcements, SurfControl is also introducing more functionality in terms of email control, having recently introduced anti-virus (partnered with Network Associates Inc) and anti-spam modules for its Email Filter product. Websense is not eager to enter this market.
In a separate announcement yesterday, Websense announced it signed a reciprocal deal with email management software specialist Tumbleweed Communications Corp, under which both companies will refer the other to customers as a preferred partner. Websense evidently doesn't see moving into email as an immediate priority.
"[Email filtering] is very niche," said Ladd, explaining why the company chose to "best of breed" partner rather than build the feature in house. "Only about 5% to 10% of our customers ask us for email filtering. As far as we can tell, it's not a high growth market."