Executive Conversation: Why Cloudmark Took the Path Less Traveled
by Melisa LaBancz-Bleasdale - Monday, 14 June 2004.
The key difference between Cloudmark’s peer-to-peer technology and say, a file-sharing peer-to-peer technology, is that Cloudmark shares fingerprints, the secure one-way hashes that can’t be turned into the content they represent. They do not ship content around the network, which adds up to a big difference. Cloudmark is essentially shipping around people’s opinions about spam, which people are willing to share freely. One of the challenges that Cloudmark learned early on is that as powerful as the peer-to-peer network seemed to be, the overall opinion of running a peer-to-peer network inside their company didn’t really inspire many folks in the enterprise world. These doubts were channeled that into what Cloudmark calls their spam DNA technology, which has been distilled down to something that can be run at the gateway. At the enterprise level, the same level of spam protection is provided without having to run SpamNet on all the desktops.

"Part of our core advantage is what we call the evolution engine. We have a genetic classifier that is about a generation beyond what other people call Bayesian classifiers. Other companies kind of train the classifier and then send it out to their customers. The problem with that is that with problems and feedback you go through this long iteration that makes improvement a very slow process. What we’ve done is simulate that process, using evolutionary techniques. We literally take the spam DNA cartridge, allow the system to make changes to it and then repeat the process. This is how we get the highest accuracy and lowest false positives," explains Jacob.

No matter what the engines are that power Cloudmark's mind-bending technology, from genetic maps to one way hash computations, it matters most that the product works. People are more than ready to start seeing results and stop discussing how to make results happen.

"The bottom line is that people want products that work. We’ve had that with SpamNet since day one. You install it and it just works. On the enterprise side it’s a much higher bar. We feel that the simplicity of our product and its functionality speaks for itself. We often run into vendors touting amazingly complex products that update 500 times a day and have tens of thousands of rules. Companies are very concerned that the ease of use and simplicity of our products. Some people have a hard time believing in things that aren’t overly complicated. To them, it’s a really difficult problem and so they want to see all this complex gear to address it."

"In reality, it’s a sign of where we’re at in history. In terms of anti-spam, we’re at the very beginnings of the technology evolution. We all know where this ends up; sleek and sophisticated offerings that make our lives an easier place to be. Yet nobody wants to believe in this trend, especially anti-spam vendors who think that the more complicated and voodoo they can make their product, the easier it will be to smother the simpler solutions that really work," ends Jacob.

Cloudmark's groundbreaking, P2P solution (initially Vipul's Razor) proven effective at fighting spam since 1998 and now called Cloudmark SpamNet, is the first and largest SpamFighting community in the world with more than one million users. Most recently, Cloudmark introduced Cloudmark Exchange Edition, a server-side anti-spam solution that takes advantage of real-time automatic updates from the SpamNet community to deliver maintenance-free, instant spam protection to SMBs.

Melisa LaBancz-Bleasdale is a freelance technology writer busily deleting spam while living in the San Francisco Bay Area.


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