Secure Computing has announced plans to provide web filtering and malware protection as an in-the-cloud security service, and outlined a future security strategy around virtualisation.

The new Secure Web Protection Service, which is based on Secure Computing's existing Secure Web appliance, targets enterprise customers in North America that elect to direct their web traffic to a Secure Computing datacentre or employ a user browser proxy.

"We have eight datacentres worldwide, but the initial availability is in North America as we get experience and ensure how this scales," says Ken Rutsky, Secure Computing's vice president of marketing, about the initial rollout of the service. "We have service-level agreements for this with 99.9 percent availability," he says.

Other vendors offering web filtering as a service include Websense and ScanSafe.

The Secure Web Protection Service includes management, reporting and policy-enforcement controls for administrators, and is being priced like the Secure Web appliance, Rutsky says. He cited as an example that a 1,000-user service contract would run about $30 (£15) per year, per user for web and malware protection combined.

And in related news, Secure Computing said that by the third quarter of this year, it plans to deliver a virtualised "sealed image" of its Web Security appliance with underlying Linux operating system so it can work on VMware's ESX virtual-machine server software. Pricing has not been set.

Atri Chatterjee, Secure Computing's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, says the goal is to support three basic security platforms - traditional software and hardware, the virtual appliance, and hosted services - through unified reporting and policy controls.

Secure Computing refers to this goal as its Hybrid Delivery Architecture; "the value to the customer is flexible delivery of security," Chatterjee says.