McAfee Takes To The Cloud With Plan To Purchase Rising Security Star Skyhigh Networks

McAfee has agreed to buy leading cloud access security broker (CASB) Skyhigh Networks in a bid to establish a dominant position in both the endpoint and cloud cybersecurity markets.

McAfee, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based security mainstay, praised Campbell, Calif.-based Skyhigh for pioneering the CASB product category and for its foresight in realizing that cybersecurity should not be an impediment to cloud adoption. The deal is McAfee's first major acquisition since spinning off from Intel in April.

"Skyhigh's leadership in cloud security, combined with McAfee's security portfolio strength, will set the company apart in helping organizations operate freely and securely to reach their full potential," McAfee CEO Chris Young said in a statement.

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Skyhigh founder and CEO Rajiv Gupta will join McAfee's leadership team and run the company's new cloud business unit. The company's existing organizational structure will remain generally intact to ensure continuity for customers and partners.

"McAfee will provide global scale to further accelerate Skyhigh's growth, with the combined company providing leading technologies and solutions across cloud and endpoint security," Gupta said in a statement.

The joint power of McAfee and Skyhigh will enable customers to modernize their cybersecurity environments while at the same time protecting data as it moves into the cloud, Young said in an open message Monday.

The combined company will establish the cybersecurity architecture of the future, with the endpoint and cloud serving as critical control points linked by the security operations center with actionable threat intelligence, analytics and orchestration, according to Young.

"Cloud security has historically been an afterthought of, or impediment to, cloud adoption," Young said in his message. "With customers' most valuable asset, data, increasingly finding residence in the cloud, it's time security move[d] to the forefront."

The impact of the acquisition on Skyhigh's channel community will largely depend on whether McAfee operates Skyhigh as a wholly-owned subsidiary or absorbs the company's technology into a broader product suite, according to one Skyhigh partner who didn't wish to be identified.

The partner is concerned that folding Skyhigh's technology into part of a more comprehensive offering would stifle innovation and lead to Skyhigh's technology getting less time, attention and resources. The partner said keeping Skyhigh's technology separate under the McAfee umbrella would be a best of both worlds scenario.

"McAfee is a big company, and I think having access to their capital could help," the partner said. "To keep that edge, Skyhigh is going to have to keep innovating."

The partner would specifically be interested in having Skyhigh use McAfee's deep pockets to increase the size of its federal sales team, expand its marketing efforts and reach, and further develop its channel initiatives.

The partner hopes that Skyhigh keeps its channel operations the same given that the company has spent the past couple of years training solution providers and building up its channel salesforce. Switching to McAfee's partner program would be a kick in the gut to partners that have sunk time and effort into getting trained specifically around Skyhigh's technology, the solution provider said.

Skyhigh provides visibility into content, context and user activity across SaaS, PaaS and IaaS environments, and leads the market in advanced controls and automation to correct policy violations in cloud services. The company has some 600 customers, including more than 40 percent of the Fortune 100, Skyhigh Vice President of Channels Kristin Carnes told CRN earlier this month.

Skyhigh has gone from 130 channel partners when Carnes joined the company in February to 180 today as the CASB market expands beyond the enterprise to include the mid-market, Carnes said. The company conducts roughly between 65 percent and 70 percent of its global business and 60 percent of its North American business through channel partners, according to Carnes.

Partners working with Skyhigh include the big four consulting firms, as well as more traditional resellers like SHI, Carnes said. Skyhigh has also been having discussions with large, telecom-oriented MSSPs that can make an enterprise play in the security services space, according to Carnes.

In an open message to channel partners, Gupta said that becoming part of McAfee will enable Skyhigh to leverage greater resources to invest in the company's product roadmap and deliver an end-to-end security toolset.

"Given our vision and cultural alignment, complementary product portfolios, and McAfee's commitment to our team, I truly could not have asked for a better partner for Skyhigh going forward," Gupta said.