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Cisco Systems' $2.7 billion acquisition of Sourcefire this week validates the network security vendor's technology and could be a big win, according to Sourcefire and Cisco partners, but questions remain about what happens once the firm is formally integrated into the networking giant's fold.
Steve Zembrzuski, president of Alpharetta, Ga.-based solution provider Unitiv said he was initially thrilled with the news about the acquisition. His company was named a Sourcefire Silver Partner in April and invested significantly in getting sales and engineers certified on the security firms' appliances. The time and effort should pay off in the short term, but once the technology drops into Cisco's lofty channel distribution network, Zembrzuski said he fears margins will erode.
"We had very unique position because we didn't have a lot of competitors selling the same product, but now all the Cisco players will have same ability to sell this," he said. "It's the long term perspective that isn't clear. The registration process might not be as clean and transparent. What will they do with the engineers when Cisco takes in this product?"
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Sourcefire partners acknowledge that their questions about the Sourcefire sale are likely to go unanswered until the acquisition closes and Cisco begins the transition process.
Those that have worked closely with Sourcefire know the appliance maker had long been an acquisition target. A move by Tel Aviv, Israel-based Check Point Software Technologies to acquire Sourcefire in 2005 for $225 million was withdrawn following strong indicators from federal regulators that the acquisition would be blocked. Cisco paid a premium for the technology, but it is buying a best-of-breed, tested technology, said Pete Lindstrom, principal analyst at Spire Security.
"Cisco every once in a while needs an infusion, and so adding Sourcefire to the Cisco world will help them in the next-generation firewall and application-control space," Lindstrom said. "Cisco plays by different rules and so their ability to continue to develop the technology will be interesting to watch play out."
Solution providers should not see any major changes in the near term until the deal is completed, said Bret Hartman, chief technology officer of Cisco's security group. Hartman told CRN this week that Sourcefire's certification programs would eventually be combined with Cisco's certification processes and programs.
"Many of our channel partners are focused on security, and lots of others are looking to expand in terms of broader offerings. They are hearing from their customers that they need to be doing more in the security area." Hartman said. "The opportunity to expand that inventory with the Sourcefire offering that's already been optimized to work in the channel, that's a great match there."