After dominating the market for routers and switches, Cisco has barged into the security market, using a series of multimillion-dollar acquisitions to build out its product portfolio.
Now, as part of a new ATD (Adaptive Threat Defense) initiative, the company believes it can boost revenues from the sale of multi-purpose security appliances.
The first such appliance—Ciscos Adaptive Security Appliance 5500 series—enjoyed top billing at this years Interop show in Las Vegas, where CEO John Chambers made it clear that network security based solely on single-purpose appliances was no longer practical.
San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Systems Inc. believes the mess of securing all layers of an enterprise network could be untangled with a single product that combines multiple security technologies.
The ASA 5500 appliance, for instance, packs about a half-dozen security products into a single box, promising to block network attacks from spreading while reducing the cost of deployment for enterprises.
The security-in-a-box approach presents a lucrative market. According to statistics from IT research firm IDC, approximately 80 percent of all enterprise security products will be delivered via appliances by the year 2007, and companies like Symantec Corp., Internet Security Systems Inc. and Fortinet Inc. have already started to cash in.
But as that market ripens, it figures that point product vendors with standalone security offerings will feel the squeeze.
Not quite, says Bill Jensen, product marketing for Check Point Software Technologies Ltd., a point product vendor that sells standalone security software products ranging from firewalls, intranets and extranets.
“Anytime a company like Cisco starts to take security seriously, its a wonderful thing. But this is a half-measure to deal with the real threats,” Jensen said in an interview with Ziff Davis Internet News.
“Theyre taking existing products and piling them into a box. We already have those products addressing the threats that come out on a daily basis.”
He said Check Point Software had found its niche among large enterprises by broadening its scope to add internal and Web security point products.
“We already have all this stuff integrated in high-end products, so Im not worried at all by what Cisco is trying to do,” Jensen said.
A Security Makeover Juggernaut
Jensens brave front aside, analysts believe it will be tough for smaller plays to withstand Ciscos security makeover, which included the acquisition of Twingo Systems Inc. and the follow-up purchase of Protego Networks Inc.
Lawrence Orans, a senior security analyst at Gartner Research, expects Cisco to leverage its hardware and software reach to increase revenues from its security business.
“Cisco has the channel via the service providers to be successful with this appliance product. There are other vendors out there offering boxes that do multiple functions as well, but Cisco has been traditionally very strong on the distribution side.
“Theyre moving in the right direction but they still have a lot to prove,” Orans said in an interview. However, he said large enterprises have also been showing interest in transferring IT security responsibility and operations to MSSPs (Managed Security Service Providers).
Joel Conover, who covers enterprise infrastructure for Current Analysis, said the traditional deployment of security services forces businesses to choose between operational efficiency and holistic security.
“The integration of multiple technologies [in Ciscos appliance] solves the problem of multi-device security management,” Conover said.
More importantly, he argued that the everything-in-a-box approach makes it operationally and economically feasible to deploy comprehensive security services to more network locations.
Gartners Orans also believes Ciscos security push could trigger further consolidation in the security sector as competitors like Juniper Networks Inc. join the appliance race.
Last year, Juniper shelled out $4 billion to acquire security appliance vendor NetScreen Technologies Inc., a deal that was seen as a direct response to Ciscos move.
On the same day Cisco was making its Interop appliance splash, Juniper announced the signing of a joint development deal with Avaya Inc. to resell each others services.
While Juniper is Ciscos main rival on the network security side, Avaya goes head-to-head with Cisco in the call center and IP telephony business.
“The focus is on complete converged campus and branch solutions that tightly integrate Avaya business communications applications with Juniper Networks routing and security technology. The combination will foster innovation by two technology leaders, and give customers a clear migration path to intelligent communications,” Avaya said in a statement.
Translation: Were not ready to concede anything to Cisco.
So, even as Ciscos metamorphosis into the security business has put the jitters into standalone plays, the companys rivals are partnering to put security capabilities into converged communications products.
Sounds like a good old-fashioned business brawl.