Korea's largest IT security vendor has landed in the UK and is looking to take on FireEye with its anti-malware offering.
Nine-hundred-strong Ahnlab may be Korea's answer to Symantec but it is largely unheard of in the West, having only launched in the US a year ago.
Led by former Top Layer, ISS and Nitro Security luminary Simon Edwards, the new EMEA operations – based near Birmingham – will initially focus on Ahnlab's Malware Defense System (MDS) rather than the anti-virus products that made it a household name in its home country.
Edwards said he has advanced persistent threat (APT) trailblazer FireEye firmly in his crosshairs and claimed partners can make more money from its wares than its rival.
Rather than paying upfront for the tin, Ahnlab operates a subscription-only model (starting at about $40,000 (£26,000) a year), which Edwards claimed will allow resellers to pocket easy recurring revenue. The vendor also puts an emphasis on deal registration, which Edwards said marks out its channel approach from the infighting characterised by FireEye's channel.
"FireEye has done a good job of populating the market but we think our product is a more profitable way for resellers to do business," he added.
Ahnlab currently has only one UK partner – IX Associates – but Edwards said the goal is to amass a handful of boutique resellers and SIs specialising in its core vertical markets, which include financial services and government.
"There is no money for IT projects in HMG and MoD so the fact we can supply it on a subscription basis makes it more palatable," he said.
The vendor, which claims that half of its staff work on R&D, is aiming to turn over at least $1m in EMEA in its first year.
"Ahnlab's biggest business is anti-virus but bringing anti-virus over here would be a bit of a waste of time. We may have other products we will look to do and will expand as we get more success," explained Edwards.
FireEye, which entered the UK two years ago, declined to comment for the story but Barrie Desmond, group marketing director at FireEye distributor Exclusive Networks, welcomed the entrance of another player focused on tackling APTs.
"FireEye have trailblazed and made this market and now it's appearing on people's budgets – and now other vendors want to take advantage of that," he said. "Sadly, APTs are going the same way as other threats: initially the uptake was with central government and huge corporates and now it is coming down the food chain. APTs are a big threat to organisations of all sizes so it's good that other companies are recognising this."
Mike Dalton, a former McAfee EMEA boss who is now director of channel consultancy IT Growth Strategies, said a lack of brand power represents Ahnlab's biggest challenge.
"When I was at McAfee my colleagues found them to be a tough competitor but I wonder how many people in the UK know them," he said. "Clearly they stand a chance but they are taking on someone with a strong reputation in FireEye."
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