Cisco and Comstor Look to Meet Evolving Network Security Challenges and Opportunities

With a new partner enablement program focused on a mature and integrated portfolio of security products and services, Cisco and distributor Comstor are looking to provide a solid platform for partner growth and profitability

Network and content security remain high priorities for the enterprise, regardless of the currently straitened economic environment. This was the finding of Price Waterhouse Coopers in their recent ‘Global State of Information Security Survey for 2011’, and is the guiding principle behind a new partner enablement program from Cisco and their distribution partner Comstor called the ‘FirstLook’ Security Development Programme.

Web-based business apps, accelerating mobile data usage, and the drive to virtualized operations are radically changing how businesses communicate and collaborate, shaping a new landscape for network security.

Proof of the scale and immediacy of the challenge can also be found in Cisco’s own recent ‘Global Threat Report – 2010’ which highlighted the impact of the Stuxnet worm which ravaged desktops in the oil, energy, pharmaceutical and chemical sectors, with 38% of those effected located in the UK. The rise in the use of botnets and other web techniques by criminal organisations compounds a worsening scenario.

How do these changes affect an enterprise’s plans to protect its data and its network resources? Workers now collaborate and share vital information outside of the workplace, with the result that security focused at the network edge is futile. The emerging “borderless network” has no defined edge or boundary; instead, it has many borders that are constantly changing. Most critically, businesses are struggling to control the diverse range of devices on the network.

This creates the need for a new model for security that recognises the fluid movement of corporate data among offices, smartphones, workers’ home computers, laptops, Internet cafes, and other viable work locations.

From the channel’s perspective this all points to one key thing – opportunity. Security remains on the CFO and CIO “protected species” list when it comes to budget decisions.

The Price Waterhouse Coopers survey indicated that expectations that network security spending will increase leaped by more points than at any time since the earliest years of their survey. This optimism—held by 52% of their respondents, a higher number than any response level since before 2005—is significant and represents an opportunity that must be planned for.

This expectation of increased opportunity and the need to address it with an integrated, end-to-end portfolio of products has directly informed Cisco and Comstor’s approach to partner enablement with the FirstLook Security Development Programme.

Warwick Taylor, Marketing Director of Comstor explains the programme; “Technology and cultural changes are making it essential for businesses to rethink enterprise security. The era when a network firewall would deter teenagers looking to hack into corporate databases for the fun of it has long passed. Now, organised criminals with sustainable business plans and sophisticated tools are intent on stealing personal data and business intelligence they can sell or exploit—and perimeter-based security alone is not sufficient. The FirstLook programme is designed to alert our partners to the opportunity and help them shape their own business model to address it.”

The programme follows an established model comprising 4 key stages of the partner enablement process – ENGAGE, DEVELOP, GROW and EXPAND or ‘EDGE’ for short.
These stages take selected partners on a roadmap from initial recognition of the opportunity for their particular business, through basic sales training, initial customer and prospect profiling and marketing to delivering a comprehensive security proposition with continuing support from the Comstor services team.

One of the partners already engaged on FirstLook is IDS Indata, a Cisco Select Partner headquartered in Malvern, Worcestershire. Sally Askew, Sales Director summarises her experience of the program to date.

“As a relatively recent partner to Cisco but fast-growing and ambitious , IDS Indata have found FirstLook to be an invaluable program – not just for the product knowledge it delivers but also for the business value it allows us to generate. We have engaged with Comstor on other areas of market development such as Unified Communications and FirstLook continues to deliver on the high standards we’ve come to expect.”

For their part, Cisco have been instrumental in developing and promoting an architectural approach to network security that is reflected in their evolving product and service portfolio, and which the FirstLook programme from Comstor is designed to bring to the channel in a form which drives real business opportunity.

James Lee, Security Partner Manager for Cisco Europe comments; “Rather than rely on dedicated appliances, security must be integrated into the network—in routers, switches, security devices, and virtual servers. The objective is to layer security throughout the borderless network to protect users, IT assets, and data.”

In summary, large organizations are adopting rich media applications either by strategic choice or by their consumers and employees embracing new technologies and mobile devices. New network-based business processes arise each day driving enterprises beyond the concept of the borderless network to a connected, virtual workplace which is real and must be protected.

Since the evidence points toward a borderless network future, it is critically important that the channel understands the security implications and the opportunity they represent. Cisco believes that borderless network security will require a completely new model—one that comes together as an architecture rather than a series of fractured components.

CIOs recognize that borderless networks demand profound security changes and are planning accordingly. With the support of the CFO who recognises business drivers such as data integrity, risk of cyber-crime and regulatory compliance as current and compelling, the opportunity to position and sell security solutions at the highest level of organisations is immediate.

James Lee of Cisco concludes; “We have long moved beyond the tactical discussion about perimeter security and firewalls using dedicated appliances, and the new enterprise security conversation requires a new kind of partner – something which we and Comstor recognised and which has directly led to our developing the FirstLook programme.”

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