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The impending purchase of Nokia’s security appliance business to Check Point Software Technologies is an incredibly good move for both Check Point and the solution providers who sell security products from both companies, according to Check Point and Nokia channel partners.

“There are a lot of customers who had benefited from both technologies together,” said Paul Kunze, director of sales at IntraSystems, a solution provider in Dedham, Mass., which partners with both Check Point and Nokia. “The hardware market made it a competitive environment for them and [the different licensing models created] a lot of confusion for the customer, so depending on what they actually do, I think that confusion will be reduced.”

Check Point announced this morning that it will acquire Nokia’s security appliance unit for an undisclosed price. The company expects the acquisition to close in the first quarter of 2009.

The two companies have worked under an agreement that enabled Check Point software to run on Nokia’s Ipso security appliance for an additional license fee. However, Check Point also has its Unified Threat Management (UTM) device that runs the same software for no additional license fee. Customers had two choices, which sometimes created confusion, solution providers said, and combining the two technologies should actually help.

“I believe it will add a level of clarity to (Check Point’s) licensing model,” said Gregory Flatt, president of Nashville-based Flat Earth Networking. “Those are smart boys and girls at Check Point, but it has been confusing. I will be interested in seeing how Check Point integrates (both licensing models) into their licensing structure.

“The centralized management of Nokia’s Ipso OS has always been very strong, which is why a lot of end users selected that product set as their appliance despite the confusion and the extra expense,” Flatt added. “The fact that confusion is no longer there is going to be very important.”

Evan Leonard, president and co-founder of Chips Computer Consulting in Syosset, N.Y., believes Nokia’s Ipso technology can only benefit Check Point’s current appliance line. But Leonard does have reservations.

“My concern is we saw how poorly being in the appliance space worked out for Symantec. I just hope Check Point can have more success with it,” Leonard said. “Symantec still hasn’t recovered in my mind, and if Check Point struggles I think it would be even worse.”

Kunze agreed. “People built their core out on Nokia platform based on the fact it was strong technology.”
Check Point introduced its first UTM device four years ago, but has mostly played laggard to efforts by Cisco Systems, Fortinet and SonicWall.

“I think (the acqusition) positions Check Point better to compete with Cisco on the appliance side, something they have not been able to do up until now,” Leonard added. “If they can grow the Nokia products, they would be a very viable alternative to the Cisco ASA products.”