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As the virtualization market continues to mushroom, security is taking on a bigger role, with the virtualized security appliance (VSA) set to ‘deliver a strong left hook to traditional security appliances’, according to a new report from IDC.

The research company says 72.4 percent of respondents are currently allocating funding for VSAs in their budgets as IT security seeks to align itself with enterprise-wide virtualization, green IT, and cost-efficiency initiatives.

"The shift toward VSAs will radically change the appliance market, fueling explosive growth over the next five years," writes Jon Crotty, IDC research analyst for security products and services, in a release about the study. Security is a major area of concern for any organization deploying a virtual environment, reports Booz Allen Hamilton. The company says the introduction of virtual machines has created security considerations "unheard of just a few years ago."

A recent report from Nemertes Research examined key trends surrounding virtualization, how enterprises are implementing a virtual environment in relation to their overall security infrastructure, and how the roles of compliance and defense-in-depth are critical parts of an enterprise’s virtualization security strategy. The company notes two major challenges for company security teams: meeting compliance requirements and maintaining defense-in-depth. It states that physical security products do not address these challenges and ‘"worse, they negate much of the primary benefits of virtualization."

Gartner estimates that more than four million virtual servers will be deployed by the end of the year, and the number of virtual PCs will grow from less than five million two years ago to 660 million by 2011. And a new report from Infonetics Research shows that the network security appliance and software market rebounded in the third quarter, led by strong revenue increases by Cisco and Juniper (up 8 and 20 percent, respectively). Worldwide network security appliance and software revenue grew 7 percent between 2Q09 and 3Q09, hitting $1.26 billion, and the market is expected to grow to $5.8 billion by 2013.

IDC reports that VSAs are being deployed at more than half of respondent sites and another 47 percent are testing and vetting vendor offerings. Crotty says the survey provides strong evidence that despite economic uncertainty and tight IT budget constraints, virtual security appliance adoption is robust and adoption of this approach will continue into the foreseeable future.

In what should be good news for the channel, a high percentage of VSAs are deployed among small to medium-sized companies, as compared to large and very large companies. Almost 60 percent of those surveyed have funded, or will fund, VSA purchases from their general IT budgets, and almost three quarters anticipate the VSA purchasing cycle to last between four and 15 months.

The VSA market is very competitive, with a slew of vendors, including all the usual suspects such as: Check Point, Cisco, Cyberoam, Fortinet, McAfee, Radware, Sonicwall, Symantec, and Trend Micro.