Clearswift Update

Leading content control vendor Clearswift has gone rather quiet for the last couple of years. Here's a quick update.

There are two products:

Clearswift Email Appliance:

  • Software product, sometimes sold as appliance
  • Usually runs in VMware virtualized environment
  • Main functions:
    • Policy-based scanning and control
    • Policy-based encryption (can use third-party encryption)
    • Virus control (can use one or more third party virus control services)
    • Spam control (either from Clearswift or third parties)
    • Image control
  • Basic content scanning algorithm: boolean logic on metadata and regular expressions, managed list lookups
  • Scans emails at Internet boundary; for MS Exchange also scans internal traffic

Clearswift Web Appliance:

  • Software product, sometimes sold as appliance
  • Usually runs in VMware virtualized environment
  • Main functions:
    • URL category time and quota browsing controls
    • Malware and spyware suppression
    • Controls content written to webmail services, blogs and wikis
    • Multi-language profanity, business and compliance terms checks
    • Supports FTP over HTTP, HTTP & HTTPS/SSL
  • Lexical keyword and regular expressions scans for searching for credit card (PCI) and social/national security number data (PII), customer defined phrases or using prebuilt dictionaries over all web traffic
  • Outgoing and ingoing material is fully inspected before being transmitted onwards

Typical pricing:

  • 2,000 seats for email and web appliance, recommended retail price inclusive of 24x5 telephone helpline support and all components:
    • Virtual Web Appliance including HTTPS; anti-virus; URL filter; anti-spyware and MIMEsweeper content control costs $43,800 for a perpetual license and the first year's support; support from year 2 onwards is $24,090 annually
    • Virtual Email Appliance including anti-spam; anti-virus and MIMEsweeper content control costs $32,100 for a perpetual license and the first year's support; support from year 2 onwards is $16,080 annually
  • Ie, a total of about $26 annually on the basis of three-year costs

Competitive Position:

  • Main competitors are Cisco/Ironport for email filtering, Websense for web filtering
  • Company believes its main competitive strengths are:
    • Same technology behind email and web filtering, so unified administrator and user experience
    • Underlying technology is independent of type of electronic material, can work on many types of data structure
    • Production-ready support for virtualized environments (VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V)

Company:

  • Privately held. Ferris Research estimates revenues at $15M to $20M annually
  • CEO Richard Turner says that after a period of flat or declining revenue, GAAP sales for the year ending April 5, 2009 were 10% up on the prior 12 months
  • Has been refining its sales messages. Focus now is to sell business solutions rather than technology
  • 90% of sales are through channel: goal is to have 100% through channel
  • Around 60% of revenues come from email scanning, the balance from the web appliance
  • Has recently had major drive to reduce costs

Comments:

  • With today's content control technology, policy-setting is usually in IT hands. In principal, it makes much more sense to put this in the hands of qualified users. CONTENTsafe is recently shipping technology that lets users say "This is sensitive," and then the system tries to define corresponding policy. Plus users can determine when to end-of-life the policy. Sounds like a very good idea
  • No support for instant messaging today
  • Image control is a hard problem. Eg it's easy to confuse skin tones with kitchen cupboards, so you get many false positives or false negatives. 90% accuracy represents the state-of-the-art today
  • Clearswift's MIMEsweeper is the core of the offering. MIMEsweeper is a pioneer in the field of content control, and echoes of it are found in many competing products
  • MIMEsweeper has suffered by being acquired by several organizations over the last ten years. Hopefully the changes over the last two years have refocused the company

... David Ferris

One Comment

  1. Posted August 3, 2009 at 5:15 PM | Permalink

    Note:predicted revenue of $15-$20 should be £20m+ in £ not $ – thanks

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