Cisco Canada showing strong momentum in security

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Ahmed Etman, General Manager of Cyber Security at Cisco Canada

By Mark Cox

Last year, on the heels of its acquisition of security specialist Sourcefire, Cisco reorganized its security assets into a Global Security Sales Organization. The results have been spectacular, said Ahmed Etman, General Manager of Cyber Security at Cisco Canada.

“It consolidates everyone in to one security business group which is 5000 strong,” Etman said. “There is now one unified strategy between both engineering and sales.”

Before the closing of the Sourcefire acquisition in October 2013, the Cisco Canada security team was about a dozen people. Sourcefire added a little under ten. Authorization was also given to hire new people, so that today, the Canadian security team numbers a little over 30.

“We are hoping for more commitment to continue to invest in Canada,” Etman said.

The Sourcefire acquisition was absolutely central to this momentum. Before that, Cisco was not seen as a formidable security competitor, especially outside strong Cisco shops.

“Sourcefire absolutely changed the game for us,” said Jack Pagano, Regional Manager, Cyber Security, Cisco Canada. “We wrote a very big fat check — 2.7 billion – to make this happen, because we were falling behind. This not only put us back in a leadership spot but put us ahead of our competitors.”

Etman acknowledged that following the acquisition there was substantial concern among Sourcefire customers that Cisco would muck up the integration and change things, especially relating to Snort, the open source intrusion prevention tool which originally was key to building Sourcefire’s reputation

“Customers asked if we would jeopardize this,” Etman said. “So we did this different from any other acquisition we had done, and the experience going through it was phenomenal. The first big message we sent to the market after the creation of the new security organization was a loud and clear message of commitment to the open source Snort community, and that we would continue to invest in it, and we did this with open source application detection and control.”

Last May Cisco announced a key step in the integration with Sourcefire’s strong anti-malware capabilities being integrated into the Cisco data centre offerings.

The acquisition has also allowed Cisco to deepen its security services offerings, all of which can also be offered by Cisco partners.

“Traditionally, we have had three buckets of services – around plan, build and manage,” Etman said. “We have always been strong in the build component, with our integration services, but now the plan and manage side are getting new investments.”

On the managed side, Cisco can manage a security product itself if a customer has a talent shortage there.

“We also have hosted security services, where partners are one of our multiple routes to market,” Etman noted. “Partners can stand up the service in almost no time. They can resell a hosted service, or build it internally or on-prem if the customer wants that.”

Cisco also offers managed services, which are focused on the top tier of customers.

“These won’t be consumed in isolation through a partner, but will be integrated into services the partners are offering today,” Etman added.

“We also have a very unique service that Cisco is offering today, leveraging Big Data with security,” Etman said. “This is a managed threat defense, on the Hadoop platform. We will be seeing a lot more focus on that space.”

Part of this has been open sourced.

“We open sourced a part of this, as OpenSOC, late last year,” Etman said.

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