Cisco's Perfigo Acquisition Delivers Policy Compliance To Channel

Although the acquisition is expected to close early next year, a separate OEM agreement allows Cisco solution partners to immediately sell Perfigo's CleanMachines policy enforcement server, console and agent software.

Russell Rice, Cisco's manager of product marketing for system security technologies, said Perfigo's product will extend Cisco's Network Admission Control (NAC). That framework, built into a variety of Cisco's routers and switches, is designed to enforce policy compliance at the endpoint, so that customers can implement self-defending networks.

An admission control product of its own, CleanMachines recognizes users, their devices and their roles, assesses endpoint vulnerabilities and then enforces security policy. Since the product's November launch, it has become popular among small- and medium-size businesses, as well as colleges and universities. With Perfigo Cisco finally has a single product that ensures endpoint policy compliance, potentially expanding NAC to SMB customers that do not want to knit a patchwork quilt of disparate products.

"We view the compliance market as an important one, and we intend to bring it down from the enterprise," Rice said. "The solution blends very well [with NAC], and solves lower- to mid-market scenarios that NAC was not designed to target initially."

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Rice said that because NAC is more of a strategy than a stand-alone tool, "many channel partners have had problems selling the solution and convincing customers to take the leap."

Among such channel partners, reaction to the news was positive. Jeff Roback, vice president of engineering at Praxis, Los Angeles, predicted the Perfigo technology would "significantly" accelerate the speed with which his organization would start deploying NAC into its accounts.

"The problem with NAC was that at its best, all it could do was block you and say if you don't comply, here's where you can go to make sure you do," Roback explained. "With Perfigo, we can push out security scans, enable compliance and move on. The technology enables us to offer a complete solution, a total package that customers will love."

Still, not all solution providers were as optimistic. Bill Hawkins, vice president of operations at Tailwind Associates, a Perfigo channel partner in Albany, N.Y., said he was "shocked" when he heard the news, and is concerned that Perfigo's partners may get lost in the mix.

"Everyone in this town sells Cisco," said Hawkins. "For us as a boutique integrator, to become another player in the already saturated market, I'm afraid of what might happen."

Rice assured Perfigo resellers they will be welcomed into the Cisco channel. He added that the team at Perfigo's San Francisco headquarters will be integrated into Cisco's Security Technology Group as soon as the deal closes.