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Selling security: best of breed versus integrated suites

MicroScope gathered together a group of vendor representatives to weigh up the pros and cons of two approaches: should resellers offer a consolidated security suite or sell a wider combination of best-of-breed point products

The security world is changing. Research from TechTarget gives an indication of a customer base that is moving towards more cloud services. At the same time, the awareness of security is higher than it has ever been. It is now a board issue and, as such, is being treated more seriously.

Customers seem to be trying to reduce the number of vendors they work with to make life simpler, but that leaves the channel with the question of exactly what approach to take. Is the answer to go with a suite approach, or to try to encourage an investment in a best-of-breed strategy, even if that means more vendors?

MicroScope garnered views on these approaches from a selection of vendors at a recent roundtable discussion.

Roundtable attendees

  • Jonathan Whitely, area sales director for Northern Europe, WatchGuard Technologies
  • Jonathan Bartholomew, UK&I channel director, Sophos
  • Damian Saunders, vice-president Europe, Black Duck Software
  • Chris Dickson, executive client partner, EMEA channels, Verizon
  • Jonathan Mepsted, managing director UK, Netskope
  • Nick Gibson, business unit executive, channel success, security unit, IBM Europe IoT
  • David Park, director UK&I, Fortinet
  • Neil Harvey, vice-president of sales, EMEA, Tripwire
  • Adam Nash, EMEA sales manager, Webroot
  • Mark Hitchins, channel SE team leader, Check Point
  • Ian Porter, head of security engineering for Northern Europe, Check Point
  • Aftab Afzal, senior vice-president and general manager, EMEA, NSfocus

DAVID PARK: The landscape is changing. If you look at how people built out their security structure previously, they went with a lot of point products and best of breed. Now they are looking to consolidate from both a management and cost perspective.

NICK GIBSON: I agree. Some of the research we have done from an IBM perspective shows that we have seen over 40 dif-ferent solutions as the norm. A lot more point solutions are being used and customers are looking to consolidate them.

CHRIS DICKSON: I would say that anyone using less than six vendors has some gaps in their security.

JOHN BARTHOLOMEW: You could have a vendor that’s pro-viding a consolidation of endpoint and mobile in one suite.

DAMIAN SAUNDERS: So the managed services could be seen as one product.

JB: So they might have someone they have outsourced some of their services to, like firewall management.

ARE YOU STARTING TO SEE CONSOLIDATION DRIVING DEMAND FOR MANAGED SERVICES?

JB: Yes, either by themselves or a partner doing it for them.

IAN PORTER: Managed services are definitely on the up. Traditionally, it was firewall, proxy, antivirus, endpoint, all from different vendors and best of breed. What customers want now is simplicity. Consolidation was the phrase everyone used a few years ago, but now everyone talks about transformation, and they are looking to move to the cloud. That is not possible when you have this range of different vendors to deal with. For us, this is what our customers want and what we strive to deliver. Simplified security and simplified management.

What customers want now is simplicity. Consolidation was the phrase everyone used a few years ago, but now everyone talks about transformation, and they are looking to move to the cloud.
Ian Porter

MARK HITCHENS: I can only see this increasing as customers look to reduce the number of vendors they work with to under 10.

NICK GIBSON: There is a lot of change with the limited resources on the market, and that’s also why customers are consolidating.

WHEN WE ASKED CUSTOMERS WHAT THEY EXPECTED TO HAPPEN IN THE SHORT TERM, MOST EXPECTED THE NUMBER OF VENDORS THEY WORK WITH TO GROW. WHY WOULD THAT BE HAPPENING?

JM: If you look at the market at the moment, there are some interesting things happening at board level. Cyber security is definitely a C-level conversation now, when it wasn’t a couple of years ago. This change, along with compliance issues and the GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation], is undeniably going to influence buying decisions and drive increased spend towards more solutions and vendors.

JONATHAN WHITELY: The number of vendors has always been increasing, but they get integrated into other solutions. If you go back 20 years, an antivirus product wouldn’t have found Trojans or worms, but nowadays an antivirus product that can’t find them is worthless. New threats emerge and they have to be amalgamated. It is going to carry on increasing and then consolidating.

JB: There is also a lack of awareness about what every vendor can do. Users can look at a vendor and think it can only do certain things, but actually its portfolio will be much larger than they think. Also, there are a number of organisations consolidating. Security vendors are also working with Microsoft, VMware and storage vendors to make sure there is a synch with security.

IP: Customers tend to pigeonhole vendors – you were the antivirus people, so you will forever more be seen as that.

NEIL HARVEY: I can see users choosing to work with more vendors. I have a customer right now that wants us to replace a technology at the endpoint. But we can’t do everything, so now they are looking at displacing a technology with ours, which replaces 75% of the existing capability, but keeping the old product for the other 25%. I can see the footprint expanding in terms of the number of vendors being supplied.

CD: Business is exposing more and more of itself out there, which means firms are facing greater challenges from a security perspective. They can’t just lock the door, they can’t just lock down the mainframe – that’s not the world we live in any more. People are looking for layers of an onion.

firms are facing greater challenges from a security perspective. They can’t just lock the door, they can’t just lock down the mainframe – that’s not the world we live in any more. People are looking for layers of an onion.
Chris Dickson, Verizon

MH: Customers are seeing a lot more attacks reported in the media and more vendors popping up. If they went to one of the expos they would see lots of new vendors and think that they need to buy into them because those are the people who will protect them. I can see them seeing the great unknown happening and thinking they need to invest in more vendors, whether they become acquired or merged into a larger company at a later date. That’s the perception of the customer now.

AFTAB AFZA: The security buyer has one set of products and the application owner has another set of products that can do security as well, so there is an overlap. They probably don’t even know which products they’ve got. Everyone has their own drivers in the business of what they want to achieve. You can go in and consult with everyone and rip out three or four products. 

NP: Someone will spin up something in AWS [Amazon Web Services] or [Microsoft] Azure and a window will pop up that asks them if they want some security with it. They will click, and suddenly there’s another security vendor involved with the application. The security team often doesn’t know about it until the renewal comes through and lands on someone’s desk. It is not quite shadow IT, but there are different parts, with things falling under the cloud team or the security team, and annually when the renewals start rolling around it can get consolidated again.

JB: That’s why managed services are becoming so popular, because you know that the partner has control of what’s in your infrastructure. NH: You are still dealing with multiple vendors, but the customer is telling the reseller to deal with it for them. The systems still require multiple vendors to deliver. The fact you go to an MSP [managed service provider] and they take the pain away is a different point.

DO YOU THINK PARTNERS UNDERSTAND WHAT VENDORS CAN OFFER?

JB: Yes, I think the good ones do.

NH: If you talk to the top tier of MSPs, they have a good under-standing. But now the general resellers are trying to get into delivering managed services. They don’t have the depth or personnel and experience to do what some of the bigger guys are doing, but they know that there is an opportunity there.

DP: As partners move more towards MSSP environments and providing security services to their customers, they are now becoming the customer owning the assets and risk. Topics that are important in the boardroom and important at C-level – cost of management, number of vendors, etc – are now becoming important to the partner. They are trying to deliver a cost-effective, highly secure service, for the best price they can.

JB: At the bottom end of resellers is where you have the expertise in security, and at the high end. It is the mid-market piece that, for some reason, seems to lack expertise in delivering managed services, and that is where we see the change in the landscape. We are seeing more partners focusing on managed services in the mid-market – between 150 and 2,500 users.

CD: they are having the same challenges as the larger users, but they are trying to work out what they do.

JW: Security specialists are costly as well. An MSP can afford them, but a 100-person business manufacturing bikes or biscuits doesn’t have the money to hire security specialists. They have network specialists who take care of security and desktop specialists who take care of security, but for best-of-breed security then managed services is the way to go.

A 100-person business manufacturing bikes or biscuits doesn’t have the money to hire security specialists. They have network specialists who take care of security and desktop specialists who take care of security, but for best-of-breed security then managed services is the way to go.
Jonathan Bartholomew, Sophos

JB: From the high end, it is best of breed, or managed best of breed, because that is what the top global 250 will want. In the SME space, it is easier to use a consolidated approach because it is easier to support those customers and those products. But in the mid-market there is a difficulty choosing best of breed or consolidation.

DP: Security is in the press and front of mind, especially when a high-profile organisation is breached and reported on. This permeates across all business sectors, regardless of size. You can guarantee that someone, somewhere running their business is asking themselves if are secure. They want to know the easiest way to be confident they are secure. The choice is to either become an expert themselves or go out to a trusted provider that promises to deliver that service for them and make sure they are safe.

We are seeing large global organisations that two years ago said that they would not migrate to the cloud or outsource their infrastructure, mainly because they wanted to run it segregated by department and own their security. We see a paradigm shift with organisations consolidating internally by hosting departments on the same infrastructure but also taking that infrastructure and putting it in the cloud. The only way to effectively secure this is to work with a provider and vendor that can provide the best level of service and peace of mind.

DS: We, as vendors, have been a catalyst for that change. Ten years ago, we’d have sold a licensed product in perpetuity. Now we all have a cloud product. If you are a reseller, large or small, your business a decade ago was box shifting and installation, but now it has to be something else. The value-add is around managing the service, so having the product available for them to sell, as well as demand from the customer, is one reason we are seeing this.

NH: The pureplay is going to continue because they will be addressing the new challenges that emerge from the advancement of IT.

ADAM NASH: Mobile platforms are relatively secure, but the IoT [internet of things] is another kettle of fish. I don’t think that is as secure.

JB: With IoT, I don’t think people take security seriously. It’s usually at the later stages of development they look at how to secure a device.

DP: If you consider the names of those who’ve been in the press because of a massive breach, you can pretty much guarantee they had best-of-breed security products in their network infrastructure. So you would question which is the best play: cobbled together point products or seamless platform [fabric] with intelligent analysis?

 

 

 

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