Google buys SaaS security provider Postini

In a move that marks Google’s entry into the increasingly lucrative information security space, the search engine giant announced on Monday that it is set to acquire on-demand communications security provider Postini for $625 million (£312 million) in cash.

The Postini purchase is the second security acquisition by the search giant, which picked up GreenBorder Technologies, provider of virtualised web browsing anti-malware software, in May. 

Under the terms of the deal, US-based Postini, whose offering includes on-demand message security, archiving, encryption and compliance solutions, will become a wholly owned Google subsidiary. The search engine giant plans to use Postini’s products and services to shore up the security of its ever-expanding suite of web-based applications, GoogleApps, which now includes email, calendar, documents and spreadsheets.   

At first sight, the acquisition appears curious, as Postini is primarily associated with spam and virus filtering for emails. Google’s GMail application already includes a sophisticated spam filtering system that allows users to identify spam-sending IP addresses. Indeed, as one developer explains on this blog, Google’s GMail offering for businesses can be used as a cheap, lightweight alternative to Postini.

However, the ambitions and capabilities of Postini stretch beyond simple email filtering into wholesale data security ‘in the cloud’. Ryan McIntyre, of venture capitalist firm Mobius, which has backed Postini since 2001, says that the company is “arguably among the first software-as-a-service infrastructure companies”. Postini’s forward-thinking view of security as integral to the Web, rather than something that happens at the end of a network connection, is perfectly matched to Google’s bid to replace desktop applications with hosted equivalents.

Writing in his blog, We realised that we needed a more complete way to address these information security and compliance issues in order to better support the enterprise community,” he adds.

Web-applications are highly vulnerable to security breaches and web-application vulnerability management is among the fastest growing segments of the information security market. Postini – who was an early partner of GoogleApps and whose services are entirely hosted – offers the most complementary means by which to enhance Google’s enterprise offering, says the search giant.

Google will also continue to support Postini’s considerable customer-base of more than 35,000 businesses and 10 million users, effectively making it a new entrant into the enterprise security marketplace.

Google’s latest purchases are two in a string of acquisitions within the security space, which is currently experiencing a period of rapid consolidation. A number of the IT industry’s largest players have already made definitive entries into the sector, including IBM and Hewlett-Packard, both of whom snapped up leading web-application security providers in June.

Story by Michelle Price and Pete Swabey

Further reading

The official Google blog:  Welcome, Postini Team
Information Age analysis – Alpha mail: Google opens up enterprise battlefront
Information Age roundtable – Productivity drain: Email, once an enabler, has begun to kill productivity
Information Age feature – Office 2.0: Cloud computing approaches the desktop

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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