Users have been told to expect a consolidation in e-mail security services as the big IT suppliers buy their way into the market.
Analyst firm Gartner made the prediction after Cisco revealed plans to acquire e-mail filter provider IronPort.
When Cisco announced the acquisition earlier this month, Richard Palmer, senior vice-president of Cisco's security technology group, said IronPort would supplement Cisco's self-defending network strategy.
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"Using the network as a flexible platform to integrate IronPort's technologies, Cisco will be able to build new security applications as customer demands evolve," he said.
Gartner research director Peter Firstbrook said, "IT directors should place Cisco/IronPort at the top of their shortlists, because this acquisition removes the corporate ownership and financial viability concerns inherent in a best-of-breed [supplier] in a consolidating market."
Firstbrook said the IronPort acquisition would allow Cisco to compete with e-mail filtering services from Symantec and Microsoft.
He predicted that the two remaining service providers, MessageLabs and Postini, would probably be acquired by telecoms providers.
According to Gartner, IronPort gives Cisco a strategic foundation to build a security infrastructure for unified communications, including e-mail, instant messaging and voice over IP.
Firstbrook said he expected Cisco to continue on the acquisition trail, particularly in the instant messaging security market.
The acquisition gives Cisco IronPort's Senderbase Network - a free service designed to help administrators manage incoming e-mail streams.
Senderbase works like a credit-rating service, providing data that internet service providers and user companies can use to differentiate legitimate senders from spam through a "reputation service".
Gartner said it expected Cisco would expand the concept to cover all traffic types and develop Senderbase to work within its own network components. "This acquisition makes Senderbase the de facto reputation standard, and also gives a boost to the Cisco-supported Domain Keys Identified Mail standard," Firstbrook said.