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5 Channel Ops: Ingram Acquired, New Cisco Security Service, Verizon Adds SD-WAN

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Lorna GareyChinese conglomerate HNA Group said this week that it will acquire Ingram Micro for approximately $6 billion (details, insights here). Expectations are that the deal will close in the second half of this year, and that Ingram’s partners won’t notice much difference — the distributor’s HQ will remain in Irvine, Calif., and the executive team will remain in place.

One change Ingram partners might see, however, is more access to products from Huawei, which has been singularly unsuccessful in penetrating the U.S. channel, despite having more than 600 partners in Asia and Europe. This week, Fast Company ranked Huawei the 13th most innovative company in the world for 2016. Granted, that’s a few spots behind Taco Bell, but it is the third-largest smartphone manufacturer globally and spends a ton on R&D — $6.6 billion in 2014, over 10 percent of revenue. Even so, hardware prices tend to be lower than comparable products.

Speaking of international companies, NTT America announced this week an agreement enabling Intelisys to offer NTT Com’s entire suite of domestic and international services to its partners through the NTT America Global Solutions Channel Partner Program. Interested? Stop by booth 803 at the upcoming Channel Partners Conference & Expo for details.

Cisco Adds Security Hardware, Services

Cisco announced this week enhancements to its flagship Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW) line, as well as a new Security Segmentation advisory service. Both are aimed at helping partners shield customers against advanced threats from increasingly sophisticated cyberattackers.  

Dave Stuart, senior director, product marketing for Cisco’s Security Business Group, and John Growdon, Cisco’s senior director, channels business development for security, briefed me on the updates. Stuart says companies need to more quickly identify evasive and advanced attacks, which may remain undetected for months. “The way we’re doing that primarily is the integration of the security stack,” he says. “Shared context, shared intelligence let us be much smarter about finding problems, and we can react in an automated fashion.”

As we’ve discussed, Cisco is aiming to be a strategic adviser and vendor for companies looking to improve their security postures, and for partners looking to capture that business. Stuart says more than 1,000 engineers and hundreds of TALOS intelligence analysts are among the 5,000 employees working on security initiatives. The company also has made some notable acquisitions over the past year to fill in capabilities.

Cisco says its Firepower NGFW stands out from the crowd of security platforms by bringing in contextual information, based partly on the company’s insight into the network. The line integrates threat services, including a next-generation intrusion prevention system, application visibility, advanced malware protection and reputation-based URL filtering. It also pulls in third-party software; Radware for DDoS protection is part of this week’s announcements.

Other additions include a new 40GbE, 1U Firepower 4100 Series appliance, aimed at high-performance applications within midsize to large organizations. The Security Segmentation advisory service is also for large enterprises given that it starts at $250,000. But for customers with very complex Cisco-centric networks, a custom-designed segmentation plan may reduce risk, simplify audits and aid with compliance mandates.

Stuart says the offering is in response to requests from health care, retail and other customers. Partners will have a role in implementing the plan.  

A major selling point for the NGFW line is a new unified management console, the Firepower Management Center, which can share intelligence and policy enforcement across the full Cisco security platform and third-party software. The TALOS intelligence service feeds into the platform and aids automated enforcement through the Identity Services Engine.

“You’re increasing your catch rate, and you’re decreasing your time to detection,” says Stuart. “Those are the two metrics that are most important for successful security. If it’s easier to manage, that’s a bonus.” Growden adds that the console can make partners more efficient and lower the cost to deliver managed security, thus increasing margins.

For partners, Growden said Cisco is investing in security-practice acceleration programs, boot camps and technical trainings. 

SD-WANs in Hyper Growth?

Verizon and Viptela announced this week a new U.S. managed services arrangement as well as an offering based on Viptela’s SD-WAN platform.

The service allows partners to build optimized software-defined WANs using private and public IP connections, such as MPLS, wireless LTE, broadband and Ethernet, to meet a customer’s application requirements. The service is particularly interesting for partners supporting global customers because it’s offered in Europe and the Asia Pacific region as well as the United States.

Verizon’s managed SD-WAN portfolio also includes Cisco’s iWAN technology for all these regions.

Viptela’s SD-WAN platform includes the features you’d expect, such as centralized management, visibility into application and infrastructure performance and chaining of services, like WAN optimization and firewalls. It also stresses security by authenticating devices, encrypting all traffic and supporting network segmentation.

Talari owned the SD-WAN market until about 2012, when new companies entered the space in droves. Now, SD-WAN is taking off at a rate I’m not sure anyone expected. Take a listen to this PacketPushers podcast, sponsored by Viptela, if you don’t believe me. Snehal Patel, a network architect at Gap, says his team can move 20 retail locations per night into the SD-WAN infrastructure; the record is 40 locations in a day. Patel said all U.S. Gap sites are entirely on broadband and 4G. No MPLS in the mix.

Interested in SD-WAN? Join me at a special education session at Channel Partners’ upcoming Conference and Expo. Bring your questions.

Body Cams: New Op For State, Local Gov Partners

VP360 Body-Worn CameraThis week marks the debut of a body-worn camera system, the Argus VP360, that combines hardware from VP360, software from SoleraTec, support from integrator Lightstream and a choice of as-a-service Zadara Storage, either on-premises or in the cloud. This approach should appeal to agencies that may be skittish about placing evidence on multi-tenant clouds due to security and chain-of-custody concerns but that also aren’t keen on paying upfront for the huge amount of storage demanded by video. The package includes a camera, digital evidence management system software, data-center-grade storage provided and paid for as a service, and help with system integration. 

“Mandates – whether legislative or simply public pressure – for body-worn video are more and more common, and most people don’t consider that the total expense of video is vastly greater than the sum of the equipment costs,” says Nick Selby, a Texas police detective and CEO of StreetCred Software, which makes law enforcement data technology (but not video). “America’s nearly 18,000 agencies face the reality that, thanks to the ‘CSI effect,’ within the next three years, police without video will be disbelieved by default — a complete sea change from our history.”

Selby points out that the price of cameras is negligible compared with the costs of storage and retrieval of video, which must be maintained for years, if not indefinitely. “Ask yourself when it should be OK to dispose of evidence in a rape or murder trial, then think back to the last news story you read about a man being proved innocent of a crime he was convicted for 25 years ago based on new DNA evidence,” he says.

Not only must it be kept indefinitely, video must be stored in a CJIS-approved environment that allows agencies to maintain both chain-of-custody and proof of non-manipulation. “And as for software to index and search, think about the last time you tried to find a particular moment of video from a vacation you took, and how much rewinding and fast forwarding you had to do,” says Selby. “Now multiply that times five hours per officer, per-shift, per day over years, and you’ll begin to appreciate the challenge.”

He says solutions that reduce the cost and complexity of integrating body-worn, dash-cam and surveillance video, then enable agencies to securely store and easily retrieve it, are playing in the most hotly competitive space in law-enforcement technology today.

For more on the challenges your law enforcement clients face around video, check out Selby’s post.

Storage: Last Bastion Of CapEx?

Speaking of storage challenges, check out FalconStor’s FreeStor SDS platform. The company announced a deal with this week with MSP Innovative Solutions Consulting, which is reselling FreeStor in 1 TB “pay-as-you-grow” increments to SME customers challenged by exploding storage demand.

FalconStor sells through a two-tier channel program converged, hardware-agnostic, software-defined storage and data-services platforms suited for organizations from SMB through the enterprise and across multiple verticals. In a statement, Mardy Martin, CTO of Innovative Solutions, cited FreeStor’s flexibility; solutions providers can gradually transition customers to software-defined storage, and a managed support model.

“As we continue to expand the footprint of FreeStor throughout the world, we look at our MSP partners as the ideal ambassadors for advancing our message,” said Gary Quinn, FalconStor president and CEO, in a statement.

If you’re looking to add a storage partner, check out the range of services and usage-based pricing model — partners can easily toggle data services on and off as needed, and customers pay only for the capacity being used with no licensing fees.

Ransomware: Brewing Emergency?

Ransomware is all over the news this week thanks to an attack on Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, which paid a $17,000 ransom in bitcoin in exchange for the key to decrypt its data. Experts say that attackers are increasingly targeting health care and education.

Tackling ransomware is less about security than about having complete backups, as I discuss here. However, a new report from Mimecast, which provides email security, continuity and cloud archiving, provides insight into the prime way ransomware gets in — phishing. The survey of 600 IT security professionals shows that while 64 percent rightly regard email as a major cybersecurity threat to their businesses, 65 percent don’t feel fully equipped to defend against email-based attacks.

One-third of respondents also believe their email is more vulnerable today than it was five years ago. Again, probably correctly.

The answer is education, but although 83 percent of respondents highlight email as a common attack vector, one in 10 reports not having any kind of email security training in place. That’s not terrible, but I’ll bet many among that 90 percent majority count handing new employees an acceptable use policy at hire as training. It’s not, and partners can help here, especially those serving SMBs. Apprehensive IT security professionals are more likely to be found in smaller (fewer than 500 employees) firms than larger ones (32 percent to 18 percent, respectively). Just 48 percent of IT security managers in smaller firms feel well-prepared for tackling email security threats.

All Channel, All The Time

Itopia announced this week that its Cielo “workspace-as-a-service” suite – essentially cloud-hosted VDI, aka desktop as a service – will be available exclusively through U.S. channel partners.

“Being able to deliver a consistent, secure and reliable computing experience across any device at any time is a service promise few channel partners have been able deliver on until now,” said Scott Markley, itopia’s SVP of sales, in a statement. “Our new user-friendly Cielo Suite gives channel partners the flexibility and control to move their clients’ on-premises applications, infrastructure and workspaces to whatever cloud infrastructure they choose — whether it’s public, private or a combination of the two. Tailor-made for service providers, the Cielo Suite is the only true end-to-end WaaS solution on the market.” 

Companies ranging from Dell to Navisite might quibble with that, but itopia says it has partners that demonstrate the Cielo Suite performing 10 times faster and costing 10 times less than “offerings that compete directly against channel partners and cost thousands of dollars to deploy and maintain.”

Channel partners need not operate a data center or NOC to private-label and customize the Cielo platform, and the company provides a dedicated channel account manager, application installation and certification services, in-depth sales and support training, white-label marketing collateral, 24x7x365 help desk, multi-tiered support, managed backup/file recovery, access to a branded login portal and more. Itopia says it’s 100-percent committed to selling exclusively through the channel.

Follow executive editor @LornaGarey on Twitter.


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