Resisting claims that innovation in the security channel has stagnated, Nebulas Solutions Group is preparing to incubate at least three more vendors this year.
The sense that the security industry has lost its buzz was only heightened last month when some UK attendees of the US-based RSA Conference - traditionally a hotbed for eye-popping tech start-ups - came back empty-handed.
David Hobson, managing director of GSS, expressed a typical view: "There was nothing exciting there. It was all anti-malware and SIEM; products that didn't sell the first time and are not going to sell now."
Chris Batten, managing director of IT recruitment firm Acumin, was also at the San Francisco conference.
"I didn't see anything outstanding," was his downbeat assessment.
However, one VAR that rejects that view is Nebulas, whose Technology Incubator programme proves the market for start-up vendors. Last year's alumni were Palo Alto, Tufin and LogRhythm. This year, Nebulas is extending the scheme to include established vendors capable of taking the VAR into new markets.
Network automation and control specialist Infoblox is the first of these more mature vendors to come on board, although Nebulas has hinted that a second established name in the realm of risk management will join later this month.
Nebulas managing director Nick Garlick (pictured) said: "Infoblox is well established, but until now it has been after-talk for most organisations. We are now increasingly being asked to increase overall security, availability and efficiency of network infrastructure, and DDI is the weakest link."
Garlick argued there is no shortage of fresh technologies hitting the market.
"There are very interesting developments in extending security and compliance across the hybrid environment as people look at public and private cloud services," he said. "And there are some great innovations around enterprise risk management, which is becoming available in a more automated fashion.
"The new and established vendors are innovating as they try to meet these demands. Next-generation firewalls are a classic example of where Palo Alto has been innovative, and the more established players such as Check Point are following its lead."
Acumin's Batten agreed that the number of European start-up launches had begun to increase again.
Citing Osirium, Zscaler and FireMon as recent entrants to look out for, he continued: "Core Security has also just landed.It does automated penetration testing and I suspect some of its competitors, such as Rapid 7, will follow."
However, Batten maintained that there is still often a disconnect between vendor entrants and the channel partners they target.
"It's a lack of intelligence about the channel," he said. "They just hire a channel sales guy and get them to approach their existing contacts when the technology might not be appropriate for them, or they appoint a distributor that sells to thousands of resellers who have no interest in the solution.
"We are seeing a growing number of organisations saying that they will do more in Europe. The successful ones will be those who have an intelligence layer on which resellers to approach, and indeed how to approach them."
Rupert Cook, who heads up technology merger and acquisition (M&A) activity for corporate finance specialist Goetz Partners, agreed that there had been a lack of new technology at the RSA Conference.
Cook said this was a reflection of the drop in innovation in 2008 and 2009, when the market was at its bleakest. However, he claimed that there was still plenty of innovation in the industry.
"The market for M&A in security software is higher than it has been for years," he said. "There are more transactions, and at a higher value, so if that's a measure of innovation, it is a very good time."
Cook gave the example of Sourcefire's recent $21m (£13m) acquisition of Immunet, an anti-malware start-up with minimal revenues.
"I am involved in 360Amigo," he said. "It's been going five months and is doing fantastically well. We already have interest from a few companies.
Now is a good time to be starting up innovative companies."
Cook tipped cloud email and web security outfit iSheriff as a possible UK success story this year, as well as start-ups in the cyber-terrorism space.
"This year, I believe the issue of cyber-terrorism will become bigger and bigger, and lots of start-ups will come in to combat that," he said.
Nebulas' Garlick emphasised that his incubation vendors must meet strict criteria over an initial six-month period if they are to receive the VAR's full investment.
One out of four failed to pass muster last year, he said. "We go in with the intention of succeeding. It only fails if the market is not ready; the market was not there for the one that failed last year."
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