Cisco joins the endpoint security fray

David Goeckeler, senior vice president and general manager of networking and security for Cisco

David Goeckeler, senior vice president and general manager of networking and security for Cisco

SAN FRANCISCO — Cisco Systems has set a goal to lead in security, and at the company’s Partner Summit here this week, the security business is one area on every executive’s lips. And it took concrete steps to further its story of a unified offering covering all aspects of security with the launch of its Advanced Malware Protection (AMP) for Endpoints here.

For the first time, Cisco is positioning its endpoint security offering as an alternative to traditional antivirus software, evidenced by including endpoint in its cloud-connected AMP family. The current endpoint offering includes options for security coverage on PCs, Macs, and Android, using a “lightweight connector” client on the software, which constantly ships samples of new files to the company’s cloud service, where contents are checked against known-bad examples and analyzed for new malicious activities, a strategy Cisco says allows it to better compete with the “constant evolution” of modern malware techniques.

David Goeckeler, senior vice president and general manager of networking and security for Cisco, called endpoint security “a good market” that is at this point ripe for “a lot of investment” and a lot of disruption.

“The traditional way of doing endpoint security with antivirus is no longer accurate to solve today’s most advanced security problems,” Goeckeler said. “We believe it’s not an isolated only-endpoint solution, we believe it’s a connection between the endpoint and the cloud.”

In keeping with the Cisco mantra for years — perhaps spoken less now, but no less core to the company’s view of the world and its market — the network is the platform for security, and the company made it clear that interconnectedness is key to the Cisco security value prop.

“It’s not running independently,” said Scott Harrell, vice president of product management in Cisco’s security business of AMP. “It’s the network, the endpoint and the cloud all working together. Everything we do in security works together. We don’t just stop it on the endpoint, we tell every security offering from Cisco that a file is bad, and we stop it everywhere. That’s something only we do.”

Because modern attacks often involve a concentrated effort using a variety of avenues, the company argues, the best defense is a co-ordinated effort between all security measures and organization uses. And it proposes doing that by using a combination of cloud-based threat intelligence and ongoing analytics efforts, with all security measures working together over the network and driven from the same security console.

The endpoint push is just the latest in a year-long push on security from Cisco this year. At Partner Summit, Cisco Canada president Bernadette Wightman called out security as the biggest market opportunity for Cisco and its partners in the Canadian market.

“Our customers will create budget for security, and that’s a global truth,” Wightman said.

The company has updated the role of security in the Canadian organization, introducing an architecture lead for the space, and running it at a vertical level in Canada. The company is also updating how it sells with partners in the space, introducing a new demo-heavy approach to sales. Due to the scale of of the security opportunity — it’s an “every customer needs this” kind of business — Wightman said channel buy-in is crucial to Cisco Canada’s success in the space.

“We’ve got some great partners with great specializations there,” she said.

The company is clearly sending out the message to partners that security is the space to be. At Partner Summit, Dave Gronner, senior manager for security go-to-market solutions in Cisco’s Global Partner Office, told assembled media that partners with security practices were growing faster than the rest of the field, and that those partners found security their most profitable area among Cisco’s major architectural plays.

“This is the technology that drives the most professional services, and it’s a very sticky relationship with customers,” Gronner said. “Customers are sayin they don’t have access to enough experts, and they need help.”

With the revamped endpoint strategy, Gronner said partners have a “land and expand” opportunity to revisit customers that have already bought in to Cisco network, e-mail, server, Web, and firewall security offerings, and add an integrated endpoint component to the story, using the “better together” argument.

And customers who agree with the company’s view that the network is the backbone for a co-ordinated security play are likely to be prime candidates for broader network upgrade and update opportunities for partners.

“You cannot effectively secure a customer if their underlying network is old and unsafe,” Gronner argued.

In other security business news at Partner Summit, Cisco added three new security-focused Cisco One software license bundles to its mix, offering what it calls an easier path for customers to purchase all the components necessary for customers to purchase threat defense for the data centre, for WAN and the edge of the network, and for access domains.

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