Cisco Tests The MSSP Waters With New Program

The effort, formally a part of the San Jose, Calif.-based vendor's Advanced Technology Partner (ATP) program to incubate new technologies in the channel, is an invitation-only affair whose aim is to incorporate cutting-edge solution providers into the Cisco channel as a whole.

Participating managed security service providers (MSSPs) will have the opportunity to sell their offerings to the entire Cisco channel. In exchange, Cisco partners will be able to offer Cisco-branded managed security services to their existing customers.

Alex Thurber, director of security and wireless strategy for Cisco's worldwide channels division, said the ATP program enables Cisco to explore managed services without certifying all of its partners in the technology right away. "We've set this up to see if there's a reality to the program and where we want to go from there."

The program, launched last month, currently includes four MSSPs, three of which are new Cisco partners. The fourth, SecureWorks, Atlanta, previously resold endpoint security products from Okena, a Cisco acquisition.

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Another MSSP is LURHQ, Myrtle Beach, S.C. Rick Talford, director of marketing and channels at LURHQ, said he hopes to package its managed IPS solutions for Cisco partners to sell with firewalls and other products. "Customers buy routers from [Cisco partners], why not buy firewalls and IPS from the same firm?" he asked.

Some Cisco partners said they could build their own security operations centers.

But Jeff Roback, president of Praxis Computing, Los Angeles, said he prefers to partner with experienced MSSPs. "If it was anyone besides Cisco doing something like this, I'd be a little more concerned," he said. "They are so partner-centric, I'm convinced they won't do anything that would hurt us."