Cisco roundtable drills down into vastly changing security landscape

The width and breadth of Cisco Systems Inc.’s security portfolio exists for a reason, as witnessed by recent findings in the organization’s Cybersecurity Readiness Index, a telling document chock full of alarming statistics.

The index itself, which was released last month, categorizes companies into four stages of readiness: Beginner, Formative, Progress and Mature.

The results, the report stats, “are stark,” with only 15 per cent of organizations globally having a “mature level of preparedness to handle the security risks of our hybrid world.

“This is despite most companies being aware that the threat is real. Four out of five (82 per cent) of security leaders we spoke to globally believe cybersecurity incidents are likely to disrupt their businesses over the next 12-to-24 months.

“We have an alarming cybersecurity readiness gap, and it’s only going to widen if global businesses and security leaders don’t pivot quickly.”

It is also appears both Cisco and its sizeable partner channel will be pivoting, as witnessed by comments delivered at a recent quarterly roundtable event hosted by Oliver Tuszik, senior vice president of partner sales and general manager of routes-to-market at Cisco, in a strategy designed to support the company’s partner ecosystem.

Tuszik was joined by Emma Carpenter, vice president of Cisco’s global security sales organization, Shawn Yuskaitis, who leads the company’s global security partner and routes-to-market sales team, Ryan Sheehan, senior vice president of advanced solutions at SHI International Corp. and Stephanie Hagopian, vice president of the cyber and physical security solutions practice at CDW Corp.

Aside from the lack of readiness, Tuszik outlined a number of other concerns, including the fact there is so much complexity – large organization have as many as upwards of 100 different cybersecurity tools, from as many as 20 vendors in some cases, installed at any one time – and on top of that, there is a major shortage of the security professionals needed to “manage all of these different tools.”

As a result, he said, organizations are looking for partners that not only deliver innovation, but do so in a manner that reduces the complexity. “Customers in all industries are facing huge challenges. The Age of the Partner is about delivering innovation while reducing complexity.”

Tuszik likened the current state of the cybersecurity market to buying a car piecemeal, in which you base a purchasing decision on the best tires, the best engines, the best brakes, or the best steering wheel.

“Would you buy a car piecemeal,” he asked. “Why would you build your security defense strategy that way?”

CDW’s Hagopian said that the acute complexity, coupled with a severe shortage of security professionals, has resulted in organizations seeking help in the form of a “request for technology rationalization.

“The macro economic pressures are causing customers to definitely scrutinize their investments more closely, and they’re taking longer to evaluate solutions,” she said. “We are seeing our clients lean more towards the familiar vendors.”

Rather than reinvent the wheel, they are relying on offerings from a vendor that has already provided a “footprint and they can organically expand on that footprint.

“If a customer is using Cisco for their firewalls, for example, it’s a natural progression for them to expand the portfolio rather than evaluating something new.”

Sheehan said current complexity issues are caused in part by “vendor sprawl,” the result of organizations attempting to come to grips with all of the security challenges they face.

Cisco, he said, “is in a unique and prime position to be a top partner via enterprise agreements and the way it can acquire technology and bundle it into a platform play. That becomes a compelling value proposition for our customers.

“When the story is told in the right way, when the use case is understood, and you have the right technical expertise to be able to communicate that value to a customer, it creates a win for everybody involved.”

In terms of Cisco’s overall partner strategy, Carpenter said that it all revolves around “partner profitability,” and indicated massive change is in the works.

This includes reducing the number of security suites from 27 to as few as three, and reducing the number of sales team from 12 to four as a means of continuing to “reduce complexity on how we engage with customers and partners, and a clear and simple strategy to help you position Cisco Security.”

Yuskaitis, whose responsibilities also include the development of sales strategies, said, “We are continuing to innovate and drive programs that drive increased profitability through the front end, through the back end, as well as through lifecycle incentives. Major, major changes are occurring here.”

In the second half of this fiscal year (ending July 31) alone, he said, Cisco has “invested an incremental US$100 million in our partners around security.”

Meanwhile, the authors of the Cybersecurity Readiness Index say they hope their report “will act as a wake-up call for senior business leaders. Closing the cybersecurity readiness gap must become a global imperative. We cannot afford to fall further behind as the shift to hybrid continues to accelerate.

“The impact on businesses, customers and society will only increase amid an explosion of hybrid threat vectors and an increasingly complex threat landscape.”

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Paul Barker
Paul Barker
Paul Barker is the founder of PBC Communications, an independent writing firm that specializes in freelance journalism. He has extensive experience as a reporter, feature writer and editor and has been covering technology-related issues for more than 30 years.

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