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Where do Cisco's network security plans go from here?

Ellen Messmer | March 22, 2013
Cisco faces tons of challenges from complexity, competitors and new technologies

Cisco faces a broad competitive field in IT security, according to IDC. Its main competitors in network security include Check Point, Juniper, Fortinet, McAfee, HP, Palo Alto Networks, IBM, Dell SonicWall and Sourcefire. In messaging security, Symantec, McAfee, Trend Micro, Websense, Barracuda, Sophos, EMC, Microsoft and F-Secure. In Web security, Websense, Trend Micro, McAfee, Barracuda, Sophos, Check Point, Symantec, F-Secure and IBM, among others, keep the pressure on Cisco. Cisco is not considered a major player in the endpoint security market, dominated by Symantec, Intel's company McAfee, Trend Micro, Kaspersky Lab and others.

"Cisco is No. 1 in network security, No. 2 in Web security and No. 3 in messaging security," notes IDC analyst Charles Kolodgy. According to IDC, Cisco's IT security revenue bounced back to $1.834 billion by the end of 2012 after sinking the year before to $1.735 billion, and Cisco's fiscal statement last month indicates continuing modest growth in its sales of its IT security products and services, which include firewalls, intrusion-prevention systems, IronPort secure Web gateway and cloud-based ScanSafe service.

Cisco hasn't won every match. Cisco edged away from its own denial-of-service mitigation technology, Anomaly Guard and Anomaly Detector Modules, announcing "end of sale" back in 2010. Just this month, Cisco announced an alliance with Arbor Networks -- they had teamed together in the past -- that involves embedding Arbor anti-DDoS technology directly in Cisco routers.

And acquisitions remain a way to gain technologies that are seen as important for the future. For example, Cisco just acquired Prague-based Cognitive Security for its behavior-based threat analysis. Cisco's Frampton says this will play a role in identifying threats, especially targeted mobile devices.

Frampton does acknowledge that Cisco could be doing a better job in one area: uniting the security products it has acquired over the years so that they have a more unified policy and management platform. An integrated system, says Frampton, "will happen over the next several years."


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