All Eyes On Security: Network Critical Looks To Boost U.S. Channel Efforts

Network access and visibility specialist Network Critical is on a mission to grow its North American channel to support the surge in interest it's seeing for more-robust network monitoring tools.

John Gill, vice president of Americas sales for Network Critical, said that the rise of mobility and big data -- coupled with heightened concerns around network security -- have been fueling sales of its network traffic access points (TAPs) and visibility solutions over the past year.

To meet that need, Network Critical is looking to grow its channel footprint, particularly in the U.S., where the company partners with roughly 40 active solution providers today.

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"Companies like us and our peers cannot simply scale to meet those market requirements without engaging the channel," Gill told CRN.

Network Critical makes a range of network visibility controllers and TAPs that help enterprises replicate traffic off their networks and feed that traffic to network analyzers, also known as network "sniffers" or "probes." From there, network administrators can analyze the traffic to monitor network usage, detect any data leaks, and gather and report on network statistics.

Network Critical's technology is certified to work with intrusion detection and prevention systems from Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Juniper Networks, Symantec and Intel Security (formerly McAfee).

A number of factors are driving growth in the network visibility and TAPs market, according to Gill. Chief among them are customers' increased interest in network security due to the number of recent high-profile breaches such as the one at retail giant Target last year. To thwart attacks, more companies are deploying security tools such as intrusion detection systems, Gill said, which also gain access to the network through TAPs.

Market researchers expect the network monitoring market to take off, with Frost & Sullivan in December saying it expects the global network monitoring switch market to grow from $459.6 million in revenue in 2013 to $3.8 billion by 2020. The research firm attributed the growth to the advent of big data, growing Gigabit Ethernet speeds and the "criticality of maintaining secured networks."

Gill declined to give specific sales projections for Network Critical, a private company based in the U.K. He did say, however, that the company is on a similar growth trajectory -- a compound annual growth rate of about 32 percent -- as the market as a whole.

Steve Watt, principal and president of Layer 8 Solutions, a Brockville, Ontario-based solution provider and Network Critical partner, said he is definitely seeing growth in his network access and monitoring business.

"A major quandary for network engineers is accessing real-time data to effectively manage network performance and availability while protecting the privacy of network users," Watt said.

"What we see happening is that as the security tools evolve to preventatively monitor these kinds of [high-profile] breaches, the first thing [customers] come to us for is to get the traffic out of the network with network TAPs and other robust equipment … so that those security tools can do their job," Watt said.

Traditionally, Network Critical has partnered with what it called "specialized" solution providers, or those focused primarily on network security and monitoring. But now it is looking to onboard solution providers more broadly focused on network infrastructure sales and support. Network Critical also said it is looking to move more partners from its Authorized tier to its higher-end Premier tier over the coming year.

Bob Lamb, regional vice president, sales and marketing at Network Critical, said he is already seeing network-focused solution providers add network monitoring tools to their portfolios.

"We are starting to see a transition from that specialty or niche market [VARs] to more of those mainline VARs, and I'm expecting to see that happen and accelerate over the next year or year and a half," Lamb said.

Those solution providers that don't embrace the network access and monitoring segments, he said, are leaving money on the table.

"They are missing money right now," Lamb told CRN. "Their customers are buying this stuff, and if they are not buying it from them, they are buying it from somebody else."