In our next segment of the interview, we examine the security marketplace and where things stand today. We take a close look at the open problems, and where, according to Taher, the market is headed.
SM: Secure email is a very difficult space with Microsoft and everybody else. TE: We do not really compete with Microsoft. It is a difficult space in the sense that there are way too many vendors. I have a lot of philosophies about the security industry in general. The industry essentially was split into different sectors. Some became part of the network fabric, and folks like Cisco buy these companies up. Another part is associated with users, and their authentication and management pieces. This is filled with Verisign, RSA and Microsoft. There is also desktop security, which is a nasty beast.
The section which is left is now a fundamental question, and if you ask a CIO or a CTO of any big company what they care about the most, it is actually not the machine or the users, rather it is the data. You can now see the progression of the security industry, and people have tried to solve all of these other problems, but they have not solved the data security problem.
Email is the number one suite of applications that use data in the enterprise. Securing that traffic is a natural thing.
Well, I found myself on the board of Tumbleweed. Jim Scullian became CEO just over a year ago, and he has told me that Tumbleweed needs to build a long term strategy for some of these problems, so I ended up taking on a consulting role as well in their strategy sessions last year. I ended up coming back to work more and more, and I am now CTO but I also run all of engineering.
SM: Tumbleweed is a turnaround company now. I remember one of my friends was VP of Marketing of Tumbleweed during it’s heydays. TE: It is sort of a turnaround. The reason I find it interesting is because the market is still growing. The market is finally coming our way, and it is really the data that we care about the most.
The fact that Tumbleweed is already public, of a good size and has a good CEO, inspired me to join it and help build this into a large scale security company which can solve the hard problems. That is just intriguing to me. If it is a turnaround, I think it is fun. I have never done this before. The real value is that there is a very large market, and we need new leaders in this particular market.
SM: Whom do you consider your closest competitors? TE: Depending on which space exactly you are talking about, if we take email it would take IronPort which was taken by Cisco and CypherTrust which has also been bought out. Those are the only two clear competitors we have seen the entire time. When companies get acquired by bigger players, things definitely change. We find ourselves at the head of the pack.