Watchguard is ditching its in-house anti-spam technology in favour of a third-party service from CommTouch.

The development marks an abrupt change of direction for the security appliance vendor.

The company's current anti-spam design uses conventional content analysis to stop unwanted email, whereas the CommTouch system is based on real-time analysis of live spam outbreaks, with information fed to appliances from a remote server.

According to sources, the current SpamScreen software - which is used on the company’s Firebox X Peak and Core unified threat management devices - was seen as having fallen behind in terms of innovation. CommTouch, by contrast, was rated highly because its ability to match detection to real-time traffic patterns.

Watchguard's UK managing director Richard Reid, claimed the time delay on this remote service was around 300 milliseconds, with the service being able to track real spam floods in "one to two minutes".

Watchguard is the first vendor in the valued unified threat management (UTM) market to use such a system, though CommTouch is free to sell the same service to its rivals.

Customers will have to pay an initial annual fee of £300 (or $400) to use the new SpamBlocker service on the basic Firebox Core X500 - roughly comparable to paying for Watchguard's own software. Subsequent years will be charged at a reduced rate.

Separately, Watchguard has updated its management system, WatchGuard System Manager, which can now remotely manage large numbers of Firebox X security appliances.