McAfee announced this morning its intention to acquire Sentrigo, a Database Activity Monitoring company. McAfee has had a partnership with Sentrigo for a couple years, and both companies have cooperatively sold the Sentrigo solution and developed high-level integration with McAfee’s security management software. McAfee’s existing enterprise customer base has shown interest in Database Activity Monitoring, and DAM is no longer as much of an evangelical sale as it used to be. Sentrigo is a small firm and integration of the two companies should go smoothly.

Despite persistent rumors of larger firms looking to buy in this space, I am surprised that McAfee finally acquired Sentrigo. McAfee, Symantec, and EMC are the names that kept popping up as interested parties, but Sentrigo wasn’t the target discussed. Still, this looks like a good fit because the core product is very strong, and it fills a need in McAfee’s product line. The aspects of Sentrigo that are a bit scruffy or lack maturity are the areas McAfee would want to tailor anyway: workflow, UI, reporting, and integration.

I have known the Sentrigo team for a long time. Not many people know that I tried to license Sentrigo’s memory scanning technology – back in 2006 while I was at IPLocks. Several customers used the IPLocks memory scanning option, but the scanning code we licensed from BMC simply wasn’t designed for security. I heard that Sentrigo architected their solution correctly and wanted to use it. Alas, they were uninterested in cooperating with a competitor for some odd reason, but I have maintained good relations with their management team since. And I like the product because it offers a (now) unique option for scraping SQL right out of the database memory space.

But there is a lot more to this acquisition that just memory scraping agents. Here are some of the key points you need to know about:

Key Points about the Acquisition

  1. McAfee is acquiring a Database Activity Monitoring (DAM) technology to fill out their database security capabilities. McAfee obviously covers the endpoints, network, and content security pieces, but was missing some important pieces for datacenter application security. The acquisition advances their capabilities for database security and compliance, filling one of the key gaps.
  2. Database Activity Monitoring has been a growing requirement in the market, with buying decisions driven equally by compliance requirements and response to escalating use of SQL injection attacks. Interest in DAM was previously to address insider threats and Sarbanes-Oxley, but market drivers are shifting to blocking external attacks and compensating controls for PCI.
  3. Sentrigo will be wrapped into the Risk and Compliance business unit of McAfee, and I expect deeper integration with McAfee’s ePolicy Orchestrator.
  4. Selling price has not been disclosed.
  5. Sentrigo is one of the only DAM vendors to build cloud-specific products (beyond a simple virtual appliance). The real deal – not cloudwashing.

What the Acquisition Does for McAfee

  1. McAfee responded to Oracle’s acquisition of Secerno, and can now offer a competitive product for activity monitoring as well as virtual patching of heterogeneous databases (e.g., Oracle, IBM, etc).
  2. While it’s not well known, Sentrigo also offers database vulnerability assessment. Preventative security checks, patch verification, and reports are critical for both security and compliance.
  3. One of the reasons I like the Sentrigo technology is that it embeds into the database engine. For some deployment models, including virtualized environments and cloud deployments, you don’t need to worry about the underlying environment supporting your monitoring functions. Most DAM vendors offer security sensors that move with the database in these environments, but are embedded at the OS layer rather than the database layer. As with transparent database encryption, Sentrigo’s model is a bit easier to maintain.

What This Means for the DAM Market

  1. Once again, we have a big name technology company investing in DAM. Despite the economic downturn, the market has continue to grow. We no longer estimate the market size, as it’s too difficult to find real numbers from the big vendors, but we know it passed $100M a while back.
  2. We are left with two major independent firms that offer DAM; Imperva and Application Security Inc. Lumigent, GreenSQL, and a couple other firms remain on the periphery. I continue to hear acquisition interest, and several firms still need this type of technology.
  3. Sentrigo was a late entry into the market. As with all startups, it took them a while to fill out the product line and get the basic features/functions required by enterprise customers. They have reached that point, and with the McAfee brand, there is now another serious competitor to match up against Application Security Inc., Fortinet, IBM/Guardium, Imperva, Nitro, and Oracle/Secerno.

What This Means for Users

  1. Sentrigo’s customer base is not all that large – I estimate fewer than 200 customers world wide, with the average installation covering 10 or so databases. I highly doubt there will be any technology disruption for existing customers. I also highly doubt this product will become shelfware in McAfee’s portfolio, as McAfee has internally recognized the need for DAM for quite a while, and has been selling the technology already.
  2. Any existing McAfee customers using alternate solutions will be pressured to switch over to Sentrigo, and I imagine will be offered significant discounts to do so. Sentrigo’s DAM vision – for both functionality and deployment models – is quite different than its competitors, which will make it harder for McAfee to convince customers to switch.
  3. The huge upside is the possibility of additional resources for Sentrigo development. Slavik Markovich’s team has been the epitome of a bootstrapping start-up, running a lean organization for many years now. They deserve congratulations for making it this less than $10M $20M in VC funds. They have been slowly and systematically adding enterprise features such as user management and reporting, broadening platform support, and finally adding vulnerability assessment scanning. The product is still a little rough around the edges; and lacks some maturity in UI and capabilities compared to Imperva, Guardium, and AppSec – those products have been fleshing out their capabilities for years more.

In a nutshell, I can say – having done two formal in-depth reviews of the product – that Sentrigo’s core technology is well architected. What’s more important is that their data collectors – their market differentiators – are implemented very well. It’s an incredible accomplishment to scan the active memory of a transactional database system without causing a major performance impact. McAfee has some work to do with the product, but they are getting a solid product for their money … however much that may be.

Congratulations to both Sentrigo and McAfee!