Cisco Revamps Advanced Malware Protection For Endpoint, Launches Software Licensing Program For Advanced Security

Cisco Systems' drumbeat around security this year is continuing with a revamped Advanced Malware Protection (AMP) for Endpoints offering aimed at replacing traditional anti-virus technology. The company is also rolling out a new software licensing program for partners in advanced security.

"AMP for Endpoint is yet another arrow to throw in the quiver of services for partners, whether it's recurring revenue streams around software or security services," said Dave Gronner, senior manager of Cisco's security go-to-market for its Global Partner Organization. "It would be able to replace their [customers'] traditional anti-virus technology."

At Cisco Partner Summit 2016 in San Francisco Tuesday, the San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant rolled out a new version of AMP for Endpoints that combines prevention, detection and response to simplify endpoint security delivered as Software as-a Service. Cisco said the offering enables organizations to replace protection-only technologies.

[Related: 10 Things Partners Should Know About Cisco's $2 Billion Security Business]

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Advancements in Cisco AMP include an antivirus engine, improved endpoint search, cognitive threat analytics and a new dashboard user interface. The offering enables organizations to prevent attacks by blocking malware at the point of entry while also eliminating the need for multiple redundant endpoint security technologies.

"Historically, Cisco has taken an approach that AMP for Endpoints is not a traditional replacement for anti-virus, and that created at times some sales challenges," said Ron Temske, vice president of security solutions at Logicalis, a New York-based solution provider and Cisco partner ranked No. 30 on CRN's 2016 Solution Provider 500 list. "With this new release, they've done some great updates and have taken a bolder stance. In many cases now, it can be a replacement for traditional AV."

Cisco Tuesday also unveiled the Cisco ONE Advanced Security program, which is an extension of its Cisco ONE Software licensing program, aimed at simplifying the purchase of security infrastructure in the data center, WAN and access domains.

Three new advanced security software suites have been added to the program: threat defense for data center, threat defense for WAN and the edge, and policy and threat defense for access domains. For each of the three domains, the Cisco ONE security suites – which are automatically updated -- provide a single predefined offering with security products and services for partners to sell, said Tom Stitt, director of product marketing for Cisco's Security Business.

"This really is a curated set of [offerings] that allows customers to choose the Cisco innovation from the network to the endpoint to really fit to what they're trying to achieve in layering in security as part of a data center use case or as part of a WAN or edge use case or as part of an access technology appointment," said Stitt. "It makes it simple and more consumable and easier for partners to have those conversations with customers."

More than 14,000 Cisco customers, including 91 percent of the Fortune 100 companies, already have purchased Cisco ONE Software, according to Cisco.

Cisco's security business is now at a $2 billion run rate, with the company doubling its AMP for Endpoint customers from 8,000 in November 2015 to 17,000 as of August 2016, according to a recent report by financial adviser and research firm UBS.

Cisco has been pushing hard in the security space, including making a number of acquisitions to boost its capabilities. In June, tthe company acquired cloud access security broker CloudLock, which Stitt said eventually will be added to the overall Cisco ONE software model. Over the past 18 months, Cisco also has acquired Lancope, a provider of network behavior analytics, threat visibility and security intelligence, for $452 million; Portcullis Computer Security, a U.K.-based consultancy firm that offers security services to the enterprise, for an undisclosed amount; and OpenDNS, which provides advanced threat protection for any device, anywhere, for $635 million.

Security was Cisco's largest growth area during its recent fiscal fourth quarter, with sales increasing 16 percent year over year to $540 million – marking the third straight quarter Cisco has posted double-digit revenue growth in security. UBS said it expects Cisco's security revenue to climb from $1.97 billion in fiscal year 2016 to $2.22 billion in fiscal year 2017, representing 13 percent growth year over year.

Cisco's Gronner said security is "by far" proving to be the most profitable architecture in Cisco's business and is key to increased margins for partners.

"It is not unusual for partners to garnish, for example in product, a front end of 30 percent gross margin," said Gronner. "On the professional services pieces … it isn't simply the attachment to a product. It's the fact that it's a recurring type of services insertion. The partner and the customer need to keep engaging over time, whether it’s a managed service offer or security operations center or incident response – that's the nature of security."

For his part, Logicalis' Temske said the solution provider's Cisco security revenue has skyrocketed 400 percent year over year. A key driver in that increase is Cisco's end-to-end approach, which seeks to combine the network and security into one architecture, according to Temske.

The growth also is due to customers no longer wanting to manage dozens of different security vendors in their portfolio that "don't talk to one another," he said.

"In an integrated architecture like Cisco's, it can update the network, update the firewall so that these security devices work together -- they're automated and orchestrated," said Temske. "In the absence of that with different point products, it's all left to manual efforts. … We’re absolutely seeing that message resonating with customers."

More than 1,000 channel partners are specialized in Cisco security, said Gronner, "and that's a growing number."

Training for AMP for Endpoint is available now to partners. Cisco Partner Summit 2016 is taking place in San Francisco from Nov. 1 to Nov. 3 with more than 2,200 partners expected to attend.