Security information management (SIM) products began to emerge earlier this decade as an alternative to manually dealing with the volume of security alerts generated across various network and security devices.

Sometimes called security event management, SIM products started to pop up from start-ups and some existing management and security vendors. A flurry of start-ups emerged -- such as netForensics, GuardedNet, e-Security and Intellitactics to name just a few -- with technology designed to marry the data collection, normalisation and correlation capabilities of management software with the intelligence of security tools.

SIM technology is designed to automate the collection of event log data from security devices and help users make sense of it through a common management console. SIM products use data aggregation and event correlation features similar to those of network-management software and applies them to event logs generated from security devices such as firewalls, proxy servers, intrusion-detection systems and antivirus software. What's more, SIM products can normalise data -- that is, they can translate Cisco and Check Point Software alerts, for example, into a common format so the data can be correlated.

Bigger vendors picked up on the potential of this technology and started shopping. For instance, Novell acquired e-Security; Micromuse acquired GuardedNet; and IBM later acquired Micromuse. And those vendors were on to something even a few years ago.

According to Forrester Research, the market for SIM technology is growing at a rate of about 50 percent and will continue to grow like that until 2009 -- reaching close to $1.2 billion by 2011. Due to pressures around meeting regulatory standards, more companies need to perform log management and demonstrate the integrity of their business processes -- "which means they are monitoring applications and the underlying infrastructure for improper behaviour," a recent Forrester report states.

Another factor that will drive the growth, Forrester says, is small to midsize businesses taking a look at SIM. As the products become easier to use and more affordable, SMBs will start to invest in the technology. Right now, Forrester estimates, companies with fewer than 1,000 employees account for about 1 percent of the market, but by 2011 they could make up about 30 percent. And SIM technology could become a bridge between IT and business operations, the research firm speculates, saying it will foster more collaboration as it flourishes in companies of all sizes.

"SIM will be the primary tool for enabling operations teams and security teams to collaborate on: turning business policy into specific configurations and requirements; assessing the risk of ongoing security issues; and co-ordinating the response to security incidents," the report reads.