Cisco Beefing Up Red-Hot Security Portfolio With High-Performance Hardware, Software And Services

Coming off an 11 percent surge in its security business for its second fiscal quarter, Cisco is ramping up the security heat by launching a slew of new integrated solutions aimed at arming channel partners with more firepower and differentiation to drive sales.

The San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant Tuesday revealed new security appliances for high-performance applications; a new Firepower Management Center, providing a unified management console; segmentation advisory services; and its new Cisco Firepower Next-Generation Firewall -- which it touts as the industry's first fully integrated, threat-focused firewall.

"There are enhanced opportunities for partners to monetize services around security" with these solutions, said John Growdon, senior director for Cisco's Channels Business Development for security, in an interview with CRN. "Those are things from presales assessments, security posture assessments and penetration testing to integration opportunities as well as managed services opportunities, where a partner would manage the security infrastructure for a customer."

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Cisco's new Firepower firewall includes an intrusion prevention system, advanced malware protection and reputation-based URL filtering, which it says also significantly improves the speed, simplicity and effectiveness of attack detection and response. It acts as a unifying platform, integrating Cisco and third-party security solutions for increased correlation and context, said David Stuart, senior director of product marketing for Cisco's Security Business Group.

The "nerve center" for the firewall is Cisco's new Firepower Management Center, which provides a unified management console. The center features shared intelligence, shared contextual awareness, and consistent policy enforcement for Cisco's Firepower firewall, as well as other Cisco security and network solutions.

"So we have a single console, single interface that lets you control all aspects of the policy, event management and reporting in one place," said Stuart. "It helps you save cost of operation, time and resources, and there's less training involved by not having to learn multiple solutions and consoles -- that's a real value-add to both our customers and a differentiation from our competitors."

The networking giant is also releasing new Firepower 4100 Series appliances for high-performance applications targeting medium-size to large organizations. The 4100 offers 40 gigabits of network connectivity in a one-rack-unit space, capable of high throughput and low latency threat inspection, according to Stuart.

Randy Olsson, vice president of the strategic technology group, network and security, at New York-based top Cisco partner Presidio, said the 4100 Series is "a big deal."

"As the move toward digitization is embraced, it's going to require more throughput and [is] going to put more taxation on the network components and on the firewall components. So it's a great time to come out with a very high-performance product in that new Firepower series," said Olsson.

The final solution Cisco unveiled around Firepower is a security segmentation service. The advisory service designs a custom framework to help customers reduce risk, simplify audit profiles, secure data and aid compliance with broad-level requirements.

Stuart said the service takes about 60 days to develop a highly tailored design for a customer that incorporates everything in the customer's IT architecture.

"So even if it's non-Cisco or if it contains of a mix of Cisco and other vendors' solutions, that's all captured in the design. Then we make the recommendations," said Stuart. "If they choose to implement that, we have partners that can deliver the implementation of that in their architecture and even the ongoing management of that as well."

Cisco executives said other vendors can't compete with the level of security integration the network leader is offering.

"So security is now more tightly woven into the network fabric and we can share those contexts, those intelligence pieces, and drive automated actions," said Stuart. "A fully integrated and highly threat-focused [solution on a] unified platform with unified management is what's unique and different about this launch."

Cisco said it's investing in developing security practice acceleration programs, training and enablement for both products and services to fuel channel growth and increase profitability for partners.

On Feb. 10, the networking leader reported 11 percent year-over-year growth in its security business for its second quarter, with security revenues climbing to $462 million.

Cisco said its advanced threat security and Web security solutions grew over 180 percent and 40 percent, respectively, for that period. The networking leader also added more than 2,000 Advanced Malware Protection (AMP) customers, bringing the total customer base for that offering to more than 10,000.

In an interview with CRN after the earnings call, Cisco CFO Kelly Kramer said security is an area where the company is going to continue to invest heavily and be "very acquisitive."

"It's a huge opportunity for the channel because a lot of our partners haven't traditionally been in this space," she said.

Cisco arguably made its biggest push ever into the security market in 2015. It unleashed its "Security Everywhere" strategy, which blankets security throughout the extended network, while launching a barrage of network and security integration products throughout the year for channel partners to sell.

The company also acquired threat analysis and protection security specialist Lancope, as well as U.K.-based consultancy Portcullis Computer Security. Security became so important to Cisco that it even created a security-focused role for former CEO John Chambers.

Stuart said competitors are trying to round out their portfolios by adding or acquiring different pieces, but haven't invested to the "high degree" Cisco has in terms of engineering, automation and connected solutions that share context and intelligence.

Cisco touts itself as the security market share leader with 1,000 engineers and more than 5,000 employees in its security practice.

"Most of this industry is really dominated by a bunch of point-product players that are delivering point products that solve one aspect of security," said Growdon. "What Cisco's doing overall, we are addressing multiple categories of products in a best-of-class fashion, but what we're doing now is bringing this together in order to deal with security threats in a holistic fashion."