Partners Hail Cisco's New Security Partnership As 'Perfect'

Partners are hailing Cisco Systems' new partnership with Zix Corp. as a boost to the channel that will address customers' increasing security concerns and make a more streamlined experience for users.

"This is perfect for us," said Jamie Shepard, senior vice president of strategy and health care at Lumenate, a Dallas-based solution provider and Cisco partner. "[This is a] huge benefit for Lumenate customers and huge for Lumenate as a company and customer of Cisco ... This collaboration by Cisco is just a very smart move and demonstrates to me that Cisco is more aligned with customer challenges and not just building out connectivity options."

"Security continues to be an increasingly hot topic for our customers, no question," said David Powell, vice president of managed and cloud services at TekLinks and a Cisco partner. "There isn't just 'one answer,' but a myriad of things you must do to protect the customer's network. This relationship will provide us with another tool to implement a comprehensive solution for our customers ... This is a good move."

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On Thursday, Cisco and ZixCorp, an email data protection company in Dallas, entered into an OEM relationship for the development and distribution of enhanced email encryption solutions that will directly benefit Cisco's channel, said Nigel Johnson, vice president of business development at ZixCorp, who led the charge of the Cisco partnership.

Greg Kushto, director of security practice for Force 3, a Crofton, Md.-based network security solution provider and Cisco partner, said he is expecting his company to gain more interest through the partnership.

"We have a large list of federal government customers, where email security, encryption, etc. is always a hot topic, so I would expect to get a lot of interest in these products from the field," said Kushto. "Cisco continuing to improve their security portfolio around this topic is great and really proves that they are serious about information security and, in turn, allows us to make a huge difference with our customers."

He also said providing interoperability between two of the biggest vendors for email security and encryption also helps the security ecosystem as a whole, "increasing everyone's security posture by limiting issues and compatibility problems."

"What we're doing is improving the ease of use for email encryption for Cisco customers and giving a stronger, easier-to-use product to the channel," said Johnson, in an interview with CRN. "Customers are looking for ways to protect email, let's say, in finance or health care, they have to protect the contents of their email and they want an easy-to-use solution and by combining our solution with Cisco's, the channel is going to be able to sell that easy-to-use solution to their customers … As the world is seeing more and more hacks, more and more data leakage, people are going to shop from, buy from, work with companies that they can trust."

Johnson said the partnership will focus on enhancing Cisco's IronPort Encryption Appliance (IEA) and a new solution that integrates Cisco and ZixCorp technology, both of which will be distributed by Cisco. Cisco will be providing existing IEA customers with an updated version that includes new hardware and software to protect against security threats. He said it strengthens Cisco's security portfolio with new and user-friendly email encryption from ZixCorp.

"We are an IronPort user internally and have looked at Zix. Now that this will be integrated, [it] will change the way we control our sensitive data," said Shepard. "This is a very smart and another strategic move by Cisco to address a more streamlined user experience."

NEXT: Cisco's PXE Combines With ZixCorp ZixGateway

The partnership also will combine Cisco's Post X Envelope (PXE) delivery method with a ZixCorp appliance called ZixGateway, which automatically exchanges encrypted email in the easiest manner, including transparently, without any extra steps or passwords for the sender or recipient, according to a release by ZixCorp.

"With Cisco's purchase of SourceFire, and now this relationship with Zix to add features to IronPort, they are making strong moves to ensure that they have various aspects of the customer environment protected from an ever-increasing number of threats," said Powell. "Security is becoming a 'cocktail' of lots of different services as you look at threat prevention, threat detection, and, in the event of a breach, remediation."

Cisco partners said customers are worrying, and questioning them, about security following large-scale public security breaches within the last few years, such as retailer Target and Sony.

"Target has been suffering lately because people just don't trust them," said Johnson. "Everybody uses email. Most people still think today that email is secure because they don't know how to read someone else's email, but the people who know how to read other people's emails find it very, very easy. That's like saying, 'I don’t know how to steal a car because I don't know how a car works' -- lots of other people know how to do it though."