Cisco to Buy Cloud-Based Security Vendor OpenDNS

The acquisition will add to Cisco's Security Everywhere initiative, designed to bring security throughout the entire network.

network security

Cisco Systems is adding to its newly announced Security Everywhere initiative through the planned $635 million acquisition of OpenDNS, a company that provides cloud-based security capabilities to a broad array of devices.

Cisco officials announced the acquisition June 30, saying that bringing OpenDNS into the fold will help the giant networking vendor build up its security capabilities as more devices—from smartphones and tablets to sensors and systems that make up the Internet of things (IoT)—get connected to networks. The Security Everywhere effort is designed to bring security throughout the network, from the systems running in the data center through the campus networks and out to the cloud and endpoints in the users' hands.

"With an estimated 50 billion devices being connected by 2020, enterprise customers will face greater challenges in protecting their ever-expanding networks," Hilton Romanski, Cisco's senior vice president and chief technology and strategy officer, wrote in a post on the company blog. "To address these risks Cisco is focused on providing solutions across the extended network for its customers, what we call Security Everywhere."

OpenDNS, founded in 2006, offers security through a software-as-a-service (SaaS) approach, enabling customers to more easily integrate the technology into their environments. The software is designed to deliver comprehensive threat awareness and pervasive visibility, and Cisco officials said the combination of their security capabilities and those from OpenDNS will offer greater protection before, during and after an attack.

"The acquisition will extend our ability to provide customers enhanced visibility and threat protection for unmonitored and potentially unsecure entry points into the network, and to quickly and efficiently deploy and integrate these capabilities as part of their defense architecture," Romanski wrote.

Cisco officials are building toward creating a cloud-delivered security platform that will include integrating OpenDNS' technologies, and that "over time, we will look to unite our cloud-delivered solutions," he wrote.

In a post on the company blog this month talking about the Security Everywhere effort, Scott Harrell, vice president of product management for Cisco's Security Business Group, said that "the more things become connected, the more opportunities exist for malicious actors as well. We are now dealing with a new world where more and more devices are creating a broader and more diverse attack surface that can be exploited."

The OpenDNS acquisition is part of a larger effort by Cisco to build out its security capabilities as the company continues to grow from a network gear maker into an enterprise IT services and solutions provider. Over the past few years, Cisco also has bought other security companies, including Sourcefire, ThreatGrid, Cognitive Security and Neohapsis. They also have made security a key part of Cisco's product planning, most recently in April when officials said they were integrating intrusion prevention technology from Sourcefire into the Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) network virtualization solution.

In a letter to employees, OpenDNS founder and CEO David Ulevitch said becoming part of Cisco will enable the company to take advantage of the larger vendor's size and market reach, noting that Cisco has more than 100 million endpoint clients installed, along with the huge numbers of routers and firewalls.

"We believe we can move faster and with more impact by leveraging Cisco's scale and resources in a way that we would be unable to do on our own or with any other partner," Ulevitch wrote, adding that other vendors also had talked to OpenDNS about an acquisition.

OpenDNS, which has 300 employees, has averaged more than 20 percent growth every quarter for the last 10 quarters, and has 41 million in annual recurring revenue deals. The company's products protect 65 million Internet users over 150 countries, including employees at more than 10,000 organizations ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies. OpenDNS has added 2,000 paying customers this year, Ulevitch said.

Once the deal closes later this year, the OpenDNS group will become part of Cisco's Security Business Group headed by Senior Vice President and General Manager David Goeckeler.