Yesterday, Cisco Systems announced the acquisition of Neohapsis, a Chicago-based security consulting and services firm. Now Cisco’s forte is in moving bits from source to destination and inspecting packets to enforce security rules and policies. So why is an equipment manufacturer buying a cybersecurity body shop? Several reasons:
- Security skills are in short supply. ESG research indicates that 25% of organizations have a problematic shortage of IT security skills and this isn’t likely to change anytime soon. Given this, every CISO I speak with is going over their security requirements with a fine-tooth comb and figuring out where they can use external security services to supplement internal skills or offload tasks.
- Network security is getting more difficult. Aside from a general lack of security skills, CISOs are also being asked to make security decisions for mobile computing, cloud applications, and software-defined networks. This is heady and esoteric stuff! Large organizations need help securing leading-edge technology initiatives sooner rather than later.
- Enterprises are building plans for an integrated infosec architecture. Large organizations don’t want to buy more one-off threat management point tools from a potpourri of vendors. Rather, they are in the process of building an integrated security architecture featuring central command-and-control and distributed enforcement, anchored by security intelligence and analytics. This is a relatively new technology model – more art than science. CISOs need help in all areas of their planning here: Design, test, implementation, integration, support, etc.
Security services demand was front-and-center in a recent ESG research report on network security. Enterprise security professionals (i.e. those working at organizations with over 1,000 employees) were asked to identify the types of network security services that would be most helpful for their organizations. Respondents said that they need help in a multitude of areas:
- 45% said that training services would be helpful for their organizations
- 41% said that network security deployment services would be helpful for their organizations
- 39% said that network security architecture and engineering services would be helpful for their organizations
- 37% said that network security technology migration services would be helpful for their organizations
Clearly Cisco sees Neohapsis as a way to bolster its resources and capitalize on growing security services opportunities. Cisco may also be playing some defense here. Dell, HP, IBM, and Symantec are bundling security services and products into big enterprise deals. With Neohapsis, Cisco has some additional bench strength to play in these lucrative opportunities.
Cybersecurity is an enterprise-wide resource-intensive discipline that also requires highly-technical advanced skills. With this reality, large organizations have no chance at incident prevention, detection, and response if they don’t have enough bodies or deep and specific knowledge. Given this, vendors should view security services as a potential profit center rather than a cost center. Furthermore, good security services will ultimately pull product.
Cisco clearly recognizes this market trend and the opportunity it presents. If it executes well, the Neohapsis acquisition ought to be accretive in no time.