Check Point Software (NASDAQ:CHKP) is a major player in security, with a market cap of $5 billion. So when the company announced it was spending $20 million to purchase NFR Security, it may have seemed at first like a non-event. However, in the tech world, a small deal can quickly turn into a big winner. And that could certainly be the case here.

NFR got its start 10 years ago and along the way has raised close to $50 million in venture. With the money, the company has built a powerful technology called Sentivist, which performs real-time monitoring of information technology (IT) networks. Basically, it tries to detect any threats to the network, such as intrusion attacks, malicious code, and so on.

I interviewed Nick Selby, who is a senior analyst for enterprise security at The 451 Group. "With NFR," he said, "Check Point gets the in-depth intrusion detection and prevention, protocol analysis, and anomaly detection it had sought for some time."

In fact, Check Point tried to acquire such capabilities in its attempted $225 million purchase of Sourcefire. The deal fell apart, though. The reason isn't clear, but Sourcefire has a variety of U.S. government customers and Check Point is a foreign-based company. In other words, there could be national security concerns.

But as the old saying goes: Some of the best deals are those that don't happen.

In comparison to Sourcefire, NFR's price tag is much lower (and seems like a low price to pay for a key technology). Moreover, with the purchase, Check Point will not have to undergo the integration of a complex organization (NFR has only 22 employees).

Basically, to remain competitive, Check Point needs to move aggressively against tough competitors such as IBM (NYSE:IBM), EMC (NYSE:EMC), Symantec (NASDAQ:SYMC), McAfee (NYSE:MFE), and others. This often means buying up companies. For example, Check Point recently announced its acquisition of Protect Data AB, which provides security for mobile devices.

So far, it looks like Check Point has been fairly savvy in its M&A strategy, as it builds a more comprehensive platform. And, in the case of NFR, it looks like it got a rare bargain.

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Fool contributor Tom Taulli does not own shares mentioned in this article. He is currently ranked 834 out of 17,896 in CAPS.

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