McAfee President On Competition And Changing Perceptions

McAfee President Mike DeCesare told channel partners that he worries most about technology giants that wield strong services teams.

McAfee's fiercest competitors are Cisco Systems, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft, DeCesare said in a discussion with McAfee channel chief Gavin Struthers at the company's SecurityAlliance Partner Summit in Las Vegas Tuesday. Larger vendors are rapidly acquiring technologies to create a complete security platform, he said, and services teams are highly coveted by businesses seeking skilled IT pros to deploy and maintain systems. McAfee is now building out its MSP program and Web-enabling its product line to better support MSP and system integrators.

DeCesare also said McAfee is in a strong position to grow market share against Symantec and other security vendors and is investing heavily in research and development with strong support from Intel.

"We innovated and we bought a lot of companies and we didn't always do the heavy lifting we needed to do to make the technologies come together to work effectively the way they needed to," DeCesare told partners Tuesday. "We're stepping back to re-engineer the foundation of McAfee to be sustainable and scalable moving forward."

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McAfee's engineering team is focusing on the data exchange layer to ensure that all of its technologies, including its streamlined endpoint security suite, work seamlessly to provide valuable threat intelligence, network visibility and automated remediation capabilities, said DeCesare. At the Partner Summit, McAfee executives pointed to the success of Kaspersky Lab and its growing U.S. market share as a sign of increased interest in endpoint security platforms.

Executives also said at the Partner Summit that interest is rising in technologies that can detect advanced threats, pointing to the success of FireEye and its antimalware appliances, as well as to Palo Alto Networks' next-generation firewall with sandboxing capabilities to detect advanced threats. McAfee is currently integrating its Stonesoft acquisition for next-generation firewall capabilities.

McAfee is in position to excel in both advanced threat detection and network visibility, according to DeCesare. At McAfee's Focus Security Conference this week the Santa Clara, Calif., company is slated to unveil its Advanced Threat Defense appliance, which it said has sandboxing capabilities to detect custom malware. McAfee said its approach ties into its other technologies for incident response to contain infections and automate system remediation.

McAfee also is slated to release the next version of its security information event management (SIEM) appliance. Built on McAfee's 2011 NitroSecurity acquisition, the latest appliance is being touted as having stronger analytics for endpoint visibility and streamlined incident response capabilities. Sales of McAfee SIEM have been strong, winning four of every five customer engagements, said Steve Redman, McAfee's executive vice president of global sales.

NEXT: McAfee Still Perceived As Antivirus Vendor, Partner Says

Businesses are generally interested in McAfee, but many people believe that the company only sells traditional signature-based technologies, said Matthew Gyde, group general manager of security solutions at global systems integration giant Dimension Data, a McAfee partner. The company is in position to be a strong leader at the endpoint and in the data center, Gyde said. "McAfee needs to do more branding and marketing saying they are not just an antivirus vendor anymore," Gyde told CRN. "That's still the perception a lot of times, but when clients get their hands on the technology they really like it, they're comfortable with it and love the management platform that brings it together."

McAfee is still recruiting solution providers that want to sell its portfolio of technologies, DeCesare said, adding that most companies would rather standardize on a platform that can provide a broad set of strong capabilities.

DeCesare also said "there's a lot of simplification efforts going on within the organization" as it still seems that McAfee is "clunky" to do business with for partners.

"We are looking for more of our business being done with partners that want to go all in," he said. "I haven't met a single partner yet that is not generally pleased with where their business is going."

McAfee could do a better job executing on Intel's hardware-based security strategy, said DeCesare. The company currently uses Intel's chipset in its encryption product is investing in developing security products that are embedded into the Intel CPU, he said. Rootkits and other threats can get under the operating system to bypass most current security technologies.

"There's a strong belief that the marriage of the CPU itself and security products provides a better level of security," DeCesare said.