10 Reasons Why Cisco Will (Or Won't) Dominate The Enterprise Security Market

Cisco Betting Big On Security

Although it still remains to be seen what the future holds for Cisco Systems as it undergoes its biggest leadership change in decades, one thing is for sure -- security will be a top priority.

Analysts say Cisco's goal is to triple its market share in the enterprise security space from the current 9 percent to upward of 30 percent. This bullish pursuit is raising some eyebrows with partners and analysts as they weigh in on how San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco might, or might not, achieve its goal of dominating the red-hot security market.

Here are 10 reasons why solution providers and analysts think -- or don't think -- Cisco can win over the market.

Why It Will Win: Biggest Security Push In Its History

Current Cisco CEO John Chambers has said on numerous occasions that when Cisco decides to enter a new market, such as when it entered the server market and the data center space, it eventually takes it over.

The networking giant is now targeting the security market. Over the past six months Cisco has attacked the security market through strategic acquisitions and partnerships as well as with new products, services and solutions including extending security "everywhere" throughout the network.

"They have a much better product offering than ever before, a much better complete portfolio and at a time when the market really needs it," said Robert Keblusek, senior vice president of business development at Downers Grove, Ill.-based Sentinel Technologies, ranked No. 128 on the 2015 CRN Solution Provider 500. "Their solutions have a lot more marketability today."

Why It Won't Win: The Competition Is Too Fierce

The security vendor landscape is deep in 2015 as more and more hungry startups join the field, according to partners and analysts.

"We as a partner face a lot of challenges with that diversity where we get so many vendors knocking down our doors trying to get us to sell their products, to bring their products in front of customers … it's hard for us to even keep up," said Matt Duncan, director of GDT Labs at General Datatech (GDT), a Cisco Gold partner ranked No. 45 on CRN's 2015 Solution Provider 500. "Right now it is a very, very diverse landscape."

Although Cisco is capturing more overall security revenue than its competitors, some of the pure players such as Palo Alto Networks are reporting significantly higher sales percentage growth.

Palo Alto reported sales were up 55 percent year over year for its quarter ended April 30, while Cisco reported only 14 percent growth on the security front for its quarter ending April 25.

Why It Will Win: Some Enterprises Want Fewer Security Vendors

Solution providers and analysts say enterprises have a vast number of security vendors to manage, which can be difficult and costly.

"When you have to manage different parts of the networks on different platforms on different management consoles … it's difficult," said Nolan Greene, an IDC research analyst. "The integrated security strategy seems pretty wise on Cisco's part; it's a compelling value proposition by having everything baked in."

Cisco's holistic approach of combining networking and security together gives enterprises the ability to have fewer vendors as well as fewer employees to manage everything.

For example, Cisco this year unveiled the full integration of its ACI software-defined networking technology with its Firepower Next Generation Intrusion Prevention System, a combination that will provide automated threat protection in the data center.

Why It Won't Win: Other Organizations Want More Security Vendors

Although some organizations will want fewer security vendors on board, others are going to continue to seek out best-of-breed solutions.

"There are IT shops that are going to shop around and meticulously compare specs for the best-of-breed solutions, so they're going to as many vendors as possible so they have the best solution set for their specific business needs," said IDC's Greene.

Partners said there will also be some instances when organizations simply prefer smaller security vendors and don't want to use "the big guy" because of Cisco's massive size.

Why It Will Win: Cisco Is Improving Its Strategic Security Partnerships

Solution providers say Cisco is improving its openness and willingness to partner with other security vendors to create new or enhanced solutions.

"We're seeing a lot better execution now and we're seeing a lot more working with some of their extended partners," said Randy Olsson, vice president of Strategic Technology Group, Network and Security at Presidio, a Cisco partner ranked No. 21 on the 2015 CRN Solution Provider 500 list.

The networking giant has been partnering with a number of security vendors, including Elastica and Lancope, to improve its solutions. Cisco recently integrated its TrustSec security technology with Lancope StealthWatch, which provides context-aware threat detection and complex network forensics.

"They're very tight with Lancope today and that's an area where they have a product gap, so they're able to bring it into their portfolio through partnerships," said Keblusek.

Why It Won't Win: Organizations Want Pure-Play Security Vendors

Some organizations prefer its security products and services to come from pure players whose sole focus is security.

"When you get enterprises that have a strong security team, I see the challenges in that they avoid Cisco because Cisco's not a security vendor and they want products from vendors who do nothing but security," said Duncan. "If it's not all security all the time, they don't want to deal with the vendor."

Why It Will Win: Cisco's New Security Products Are Winning

Cisco launched a number of new security products this year including new models of its Adaptive Security Appliance firewall line, malware protection, its own incident response services and cloud security professional services for partners.

Solution providers say they're seeing double-digit growth in their Cisco security business with no signs of sales slowing down. Sentinel Technologies said it has seen 170 percent growth in its Cisco security business.

The key to Cisco winning 30 percent market share is through being able to offer what nobody else can, which is a complete security architecture, according to Greg Kushto, director of security practice for Force 3, a Crofton, Md.-based network security solution provider and Cisco partner.

"They don't want to get caught up in the 'this product vs. that product' – it's Cisco, they have a lot of products," said Kushto. "The fact that they all work together and all provide that improved security posture, that I think is where the magic is for Cisco. … They're 100 percent on the right path."

Why It Won't Win: Cisco Products Lagging Behind In Certain Areas

According to a recent report this week by UBS analyst Amitabh Passi, Cisco has limited to no presence in the areas of identity and management, security information and event management (SIEM), data loss prevention and application security testing.

"If you look for an end-to-end security solution you're going to look at endpoint, anti-virus and things of that nature, and today I don't believe that's really one of Cisco's strengths," said Keblusek. "Although through some of the acquisitions they are getting closer to the endpoint. They have AMP for endpoint, but it's really more malware."

Partners also said Cisco's firewall solutions are lagging behind top competitors.

"For example, Palo Alto has got a great story around performance and their firewalls -- that is difficult to have around ASA because there's such variance in performance on the boxes depending on the features," said Duncan.

Why It Will Win: Cisco's Security Acquisition And Implementation Is Top-Notch

Analysts and partners alike hailed Cisco's acquisition and implementation strategies around security as one of the main drivers to winning more market share.

The networking giant has spent billions over the past few years on security acquisitions such as Sourcefire, ThreatGrid and Meraki, which have been or are starting to be implemented into its product portfolio.

"With some of newer products they're coming out with and the upgrades to the already existing products, you can tell that they're really starting to put this Sourcefire, firepower technology into all their existing products," said Kushto. "A couple years from now when all of that is complete, the sky is the limit."

Cisco also recently said it will acquire cloud security specialist OpenDNS for $635 million, which partners see as another win.

"I very much see OpenDNS and some of these initiatives as being steps in the right direction," said Duncan.

Why It Won't Win: New Leadership Changes Could Be A Curveball

Although it's only a small possibility, partners say Cisco losing some of its top executives in sales, services and technology could be an unforeseen obstacle.

Solution providers pointed at Cisco's popular chief technology officer, Padmasree Warrior, as a talented asset who is leaving the company, as well the recently revealed departure of its channel leader, Bruce Klein.

With Cisco's leadership team underdoing its biggest transition in decades while also losing top executives -- including president of development and sales Rob Lloyd and Edzard Overbeek, senior vice president for Cisco Services – there is a chance sales might unexpectedly slow down through the transition.