McAfee, Cisco partnership opens up cross-partnering opportunities

Raja Patel, general manager of corporate products at McAfee

Raja Patel, general manager of corporate products at McAfee

LAS VEGAS — McAfee and Cisco will work together and product interoperability and the sharing of data between McAfee’s Data Exchange Layer (DXL) and Cisco’s Platform Exchange Grid, McAfee announced at its Mpower conference here Wednesday.

Under the partnership, McAfee promises a “simple download” to enable connectivity between the two companies’ security information collection and dissemination systems, and are “enabling automation between the network and endpoint” when it comes to security.

Raja Patel, general manager of corporate products at McAfee, said the partnership will help “open the door to solving big problems,” offering an example about automating integration between Cisco’s identity Identity Services Engine and its own ePolicy Orchetator, making the management of security on new devices on a network a much less hands-on affair.

Patel also noted that between the company’s own 100-plus Security Innovation Alliance and Cisco’s 100-plus technology and service partners, the partnership creates a very broad community collaboration “to bring solutions together.”

Richard Steranka, vice president of global channel operations at McAfee

Richard Steranka, vice president of global channel operations at McAfee

McAfee global channel chief Richard Steranka said the partnership “opens up a huge channel” for McAfee in the Cisco channel, owing largely to the company’s two very different views of the security world.

At Mpower, CEO Chris Young downplayed the role the network plays in the company’s security strategy, casting the network as little more than “a transport layer,” while endpoint and cloud is “where the action it.” That stands in stark contrast to Cisco’s worldview in almost all things, wherein the network is, needless to say, of the utmost importance.

Of course, that very contrast supports and perhaps enables the partnership between the two companies — it’s a lot easier to work together and speak freely when there are minimal points of direct competition.

And it almost means, Steranka said, that a lot of Cisco partners building out their own security practices and services may find themselves looking to “fill some gaps” in the types of endpoint, data centre, and cloud security offerings that aren’t in the Cisco portfolio — particularly around endpoint security information and event management (SIEM).

At the same time, the flow of new partnership opportunities may not flow the other way in quite the same way. While Steranka acknowledged that McAfee doesn’t have “a wide breadth of network solutions,” and the company seems to be conspicuously focusing its attention away from the network, there aren’t likely to be a lot of net-new parnters coming to Cisco simply because, Steranka said, most of McAfee’s most important partners are already, at some level, Cisco parters as well.

That fact means there’s a great deal of interest within the McAfee channel about exactly how these partnerships will come to life — an interest which has already been building for weeks. The announcement of the DXL/pxGrid innovation comes about a month after McAfee first announced Cisco’s inclusion in its expanding Security Innovation Alliance partner program. And Steranka said that first announcement alone got “the phones ringing off the hook” with McAfee partners who are also Cisco partners, curious about opportunities to increase integration and automation between the two vendors’ security wares.