Network Security Guru’s 5 Bets On Azure, AWS And Cisco-Splunk

Sentinel Technologies’ chief innovator and CTO weighs-in on the hottest sales trends and market bets his company is placing on Cisco, AWS, Microsoft and network security services.

Network security all-star Sentinel Technologies is growing and hiring to keep up with the massive customer demand for cloud, networking and managed security as channel partners play an ever-increasing role in shaping the IT landscape.

“Three really hot areas that are probably our highest percentage growth overall are in cloud—a lot with AWS, Azure and then Microsoft Modern Workspace,” Robert Keblusek, Sentinel’s chief innovator and technology officer, tells CRN.

“That’s followed by our Fortis managed security offers, with a great deal of it around an Azure or an AWS IaaS [Infrastructure as-a-Service] with customers looking to harden it, secure it, looking to adopt some of the security standards that they’ve done for the years, and bring it into those spaces,” said Sentinel’s CTO. “Those have been really brisk growth areas for us.”

[Related: Google Hires 5 New Execs From AWS, Databricks: Here’s Who]

Sentinel Technologies is a top national partner for the likes of Cisco, VMware, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft, with a focus on providing a wide variety of network and security services. The Downers Grove, Ill.-based company made CRN’s prestigious 2023 Tech Elite 250 list.

Keblusek has been Sentinel’s innovation and technology leader for years, first starting his IT career in 1993. In an interview with CRN, Sentinel’s CTO explains the five hottest market trends and vendor partnerships Sentinel is betting on.

Big Bet No:1

Cisco’s $28 Billion Splunk Acquisition Has ‘Tremendous’ Potential

The Splunk acquisition is one that has a tremendous amount of potential. I know it’s going to take some time for them to actually get into the Cisco organization. There’s a lot of roadmap that, we even as partners are not privy to, but there is a huge payback for them if they can make that work.

If Cisco can make a large data lake around observability and cybersecurity, it will be huge. Because they have the networks in most corporations and all of that feeds a lot of signal, in terms of logs and analysis of what’s happening. If they can take all of that signal and improve the customer experience and improve AI that’s helping to run those networks—those would be big bets that I think some somebody like Splunk could be a nice acquisition for Cisco.

For example around observability, if you’re having performance issues or user experience issues—where is it? Diagnosing where that is in a distributed environment like cloud SaaS, cloud IaaS, traditional data centers, traditional networks—finding that user experience issue is becoming more and more of a challenge.

But when you take a look at Cisco’s investments in things like ThousandEyes, AppDynamics and now Splunk—they’re going to have a tremendous platform for being able to identify those things. Then also offer suggestions to an IT organization, from an operational perspective, on how to improve those experiences. They could do that potentially proactively before the user see it.

Click through to read Keblusek’s four other big bets on AWS, Azure, cybersecurity and the channel.

Big Bet No: 2

AWS Pricing, Adoption Is Driving Cloud Services Sales

Competitively, AWS has excellent pricing models and really solid cloud services. Now they’ve got a $4 billion investment in AI on top of the AI that they were doing previously. So we think that they’re going to be a really big player there as well.

From a cloud services perspective, we’ve had a lot of customers adopt AWS and go all-in to try to move their entire data centers to AWS. In most cases, we see a large portion of that move to AWS. Not as many people get 100 percent there though.

Customers tend to have an opinion on choosing AWS or Azure from what we can see.

A great deal of it might be their comfort, like they’ve done business with Microsoft for many, many years. Therefore, they feel very comfortable.

We also feel that Azure has closed that gap from a technology perspective on AWS. So both are very viable.

It also might depend on your applications: whether you’re in healthcare and you’re trying to move Epic there; or you’re in manufacturing and you’re trying to move SAP HANA there—you may choose one over the other just because it fits what you’re doing better. Or they have a better cost model for some of those, call it, heavier applications that run in cloud because cost is always a factor.

Big Bet No: 3

Microsoft’s Broad Services Portfolio, AI And Copilot

We’ve found that there’s a lot of services around the Microsoft offerings, whether it’s Azure or modern work. There’s a lot of adoption.

We’re actually picking up a lot of activity around AI now and some of the Copilot products. We’ve got workshops and plenty of ways that our customer can engage us to learn more about AI.

Then we also partner with Gartner. So we use a lot of the information that we can lean on. We think of them as almost like a full-time analyst for us as we go out to market to guide our efforts and our offerings to what’s really meaningful now and in the near term for customers.

Microsoft’s a bit complicated to work with me. They are a lot of programs and a lot of change, and they move very fast. So partnering with them is a little different than most of our traditional partnering engagements. But Microsoft has been a great partner for us.

Big Bet No: 4

New Hybrid Workforce Is Driving Network Security Revenue

Our networking has actually been hot.

A lot of companies have reconfigured offices, moved offices, have downsized—they’re looking at it saying, ‘Well, these networks haven’t been modernized in years. We have things that are coming into obsolescence. We won’t have security updates. We won’t have patching. So what’s my next generation? And how do I essentially turn the whole network into a cybersecurity sensor? Then how do I carry that into the home user’s environment as well so that I have policy and identity across all of those wherever anybody’s working at any point in time. And improve those experiences when those employees are in the office?’

We saw a lot of customers come back into the office. We saw people put rules in place where you got to be in three days a week. Well then they started to see some of the deficiencies from years of some of that technical debt.

We’ve seen investments in that happening pretty rapidly, especially around obsolescence as well. A lot of vendors that are saying, ‘Hey, this equipment that we sold a ton of is obsolete first-, second-, third- quarter next year. You need to replace it. And by the way, you also need to order with enough lead time now to make sure we can get the product in your hands logistically.’

Big Bet No: 5

Hiring And Retaining Top Talent Is Key As Channel Partners Are More Critical Than Ever

Partners are definitely becoming more and more important [to customers]. We’ve had a lot of demand for senior-level resources and for talent. I think customers have the same challenge. Everything’s moving extremely fast.

When you look at the pace of innovation, like in AI for example, it’s like, ‘How do customers deal with it?’ They need it. They need experts. So they turn to the channel because we have resources and we have certain skills, certain strengths that they come looking for.

We’re helping very large organizations that have very large IT teams because they need our talent, they may need our skills for a period of time to help them to grab on to some of this market opportunity. That’s where I think demand for cybersecurity.

From a security perspective, we’re seeing a lot of demand around governance, risk compliance, and security architectures. We’ve also done a lot around continuous threat exposure management. We’re doing things around breach and attack simulation, as well as attack surface management. So some of those more advanced areas are definitely good areas for customers to reach into channel partners, even if they have a team and they do a lot on their own. But to reach in for that specific expertise, and potentially buy it as a hybrid or a managed service from us—that has been definitely an area of growth.

Also around the talent shortage. Finding and retaining talented people that can deliver on those advanced concepts, that’s where I think channel organizations have strengths.