Page 2 of 2
Sourcefire sells an intrusion prevention system, a next-generation firewall and its FireAmp antimalware platform. The Sourcefire appliances are seen as cutting edge by the company's customers, said Michael Ellison, vice president of sales at Irvine, Calif.-based reseller Virtual Graffiti. Businesses were looking for an alternative that was better than a standard firewall and intrusion protection appliance, he said.
"Whenever the larger vendor gobbles up the smaller fish it's always hard to determine how things could get messed up," Ellison said. "The fact that Sourcefire has strong channel distribution and key channel relationships makes it an easy transition."
Ellison said sales of Cisco's firewalls have been falling out of favor because they are too complicated to buy and deploy. "Everything is so a la cart with Cisco and there are so many pieces that made it difficult for resellers to sell and end users to understand it," he said.
Directly exposing Sourcefire to Cisco's large customer base should significantly increase revenues and opportunities for its channel partners, said Gary Fish, Founder and CEO of FishNet Security, a Sourcefire Partner.
"Cisco had been quiet on the security front but this certainly puts them back in the game," Fish said in an email. "Sourcefire has been a great channel partner and we don't expect that to change with the acquisition."
Other industry observers are not as certain about Sourcefire's ability to retain its leadership position following the sale. Acquisitions of strong market leaders almost always results in an erosion of their identity and appeal in the marketplace over time, said Garry Sidaway, global director of security strategy at Integralis, a security services provider. Sidaway said it will be interesting to see how the vendor gets integrated and whether the popular Snort signatures that are at the core of Sourcefire's technology will remain available to the open source community.
"We continue to see convergence in the security market, and it's a justification of the need for that human element to be combined with the technology," Sidaway said. "Most businesses want to understand the context of risk and where they need to be spending money on projects."
Greg Forrest, president of the U.S. theater for global solution provider and Cisco partner AGC Networks, noted that Cisco has invested too heavily in its security strategy in the past, so this is definitely a change in direction for them, but one that's welcomed by partners. Cisco acquired email and Web security gateway vendor IronPort Systems Inc. for $830 million in 2007. It followed up by buying SaaS-based Web security firm ScanSafe in 2009.
"They are targeting a sector that actually has some wind behind the sails, so good for them," Forrest said. "What this means for the partner community in the end, I would assume, is a broader portfolio and those kind of typical benefits that the channel might experience."
Sourcefire technology partners praised the acquisition. Cisco saw the need to increase visibility and shift the discussion around a security-centric software-defined network, said Robert Shaw, CEO of Santa Clara, Calif.-based Net Optics, a maker of intelligent network load balancers that connect to security appliances and networking devices. Shaw said his relationship is likely to strengthen with Sourcefire as more firms transition to software defined networking.
"Cisco will be much more aggressive in making sure they are thinking about the bigger picture when it comes to architecting the network," Shaw said. "Once you start to control the security design you have a much broader longer term ability to build features and functions and the next wave of products."