One might view this traditional category as slowly fading from view as the perimeter becomes fuzzier and fuzzier. In fact, there are an ample number of pundits who opine exactly that. But if we ask our innovators about the loss of the perimeter, they will tell you that there are always new perimeters. It's not that the perimeter is disappearing, they say. It's that its nature is changing.

However, perimeter defense seems to be the number one example of convergence. Intru­sion detection systems (IDS), intrusion prevention system (IPS), anti-malware gateways, unified threat management (UTMs) and content managers all are taking on new dimensions. Many are taking on the characteristics of the others, and within a couple of years this category won't look a bit like it does today. In fact, today it doesn't look anything like it did two years ago.

That is one of the reasons that our perimeter defense section is a bit sparse this year. But while convergence may have limited the product subcategories, it certainly didn't limit the quality of our selections. Our three subcategories – UTMs, IPs and wireless security systems – have spawned some capable companies that will be very interesting to look at next year.

It was during my interviews with various innovators within our target companies that I learned, under non-disclosure of course, that there likely will be more convergence and merging over the next 12 to 18 months. More than one company, it would seem, is looking at being acquired, and most appear to be looking at how they can merge with other companies or acquire technology to reduce time to mar­ket in a very fast-moving environment. This category is not likely to be an exception.

The result of all of this market churn is the development of a very interesting ecosystem of companies working with others that, in earlier years, might have been competitors to the extent that there would have been highly adversarial relationships.

Today we have very good examples of what Ray Noorda, the founder of Novell, called “coopetition,” a combination of cooperation and competition. The companies in this little category are solidly part of the emerging ecosystem and the security industry is better for it.