McAfee, Cisco Team Up Around Threat Intelligence Sharing, Automation

McAfee and Cisco are partnering on security, the two rival companies announced on Wednesday.

The partnership, announced at the McAfee MPOWER Cybersecurity Summit in Las Vegas, brings together McAfee's Data Exchange Layer (DXL) with Cisco's Platform Exchange Grid (pxGrid). McAfee CTO Steve Grobman said the partnership "bridges the gap" between the two solutions, allowing for partners to maximize the value of both by sharing threat event context and automation across the network and endpoint security frameworks.

The two companies said the partnership would create the most extensive open security framework, and allow for automated threat mitigation and improved decision making around security events.

[Related: There's A New $2 Billion Security Company In Town: How Will McAfee Shake Up The Competitive Landscape?]

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"The beauty in this approach is that it empowers the organizations to use whatever environments they feel most comfortable in, yet it also exposes all the features and capabilities that are available in both environments," Grobman said in an interview with CRN.

McAfee announced the launch of OpenDXL last year, a move that open sourced the solution and allowed partners and developers to integrate other solutions into the DXL framework. The move was part of a push by McAfee to drive more integration and collaboration to its security portfolio and across the security industry. Grobman said McAfee noticed Cisco was building a similar strategy with a "more network-centric flavor." He said the two companies decided to team up, rather than compete, with the solutions to "maximize value by extending the reach of collaboration between the technologies."

For partners, Grobman said the partnership allows them to further take on the role of an integrator for a wider set of security offerings. He said that "provides tremendous opportunity" for partners to offer value to customers by setting up policies, orchestration, and security capabilities across both ecosystems. He said the partnership also allows partners and customers to get the benefits of threat information sharing across both platforms, while operating on the platform they are more comfortable with.

"It is absolutely of immense value to the partner community … It really opens the opportunity for many, many use cases that would have been challenging without that capability," Grobman said.

The partnership comes as Cisco looks to double down on its security strategy. The company has made multiple acquisitions around security, including Observable Networks in 2017 and CloudLock in 2016, as well as launched multiple new security products. Cisco's security practice was one of the fastest growing revenue areas for the company in its most recent quarter, growing 3 percent year over year to $558 million.

It also comes as McAfee looks to expand the number of integrations offered into its DXL platform, both through its OpenDXL framework and through its Security Innovation Alliance partners. The company also announced IBM as a new SIA partner at the MPOWER event.

Grobman said McAfee's strategy as a standalone company focuses on providing advanced security controls for the endpoint and the cloud. However, he said the company also recognizes that no vendor can do it alone in security and has forged forward with integration as a "strong element of our strategy." That includes working with competitors, such as Cisco.

"While we both have IPS products, we have been able to become great partners along the lines of DXL and making sure we can mutually add value to both of our customers with this DXL-pxGrid partnership," Grobman said. "We recognize that [partners will] have customers with multiple vendors and maximizing the value of McAfee capabilities, even when there are other products from other sources in the mix, is a unique way of thinking about the environment. We are eager to see the rest of the industry moving in that direction as well."

Mark Miller, vice president of sales, South Central, for M&S Technologies, a Kudelski Security company, said the partnerships McAfee is forming is one of the is really "interesting" for partners. He said that is particularly true for partnerships with companies that compete with McAfee in some areas.

"I think there's a lot of people looking at that," Miller said. "We're very optimistic."