However, some existing Cisco customers claim that they are troubled by the continued pace of security industry consolidation.
Even if Cisco can add many of the pieces that customers seek, it will likely not be able to provide technologies that are as innovative and effective as those made by independent vendors in some areas, said Waqas Akkawi, senior manager of IT security at Sirva, the moving giant that owns Allied Van Lines, Global Van Lines, and North American Van Lines, among other subsidiaries.
Akkawi said that Cisco excels in some areas of security where it has experience, namely in network-based tools, but he noted that even some of those products, such as its IDS (intrusion detection systems) and IPS (intrusion prevention systems), also added via various acquisitions, don't measure up to those made by standalone providers.
"Cisco is good at what they do naturally, as with firewalls, routers and switches, but they haven't done a good job on things like IPS and IDS where some other niche companies do a better job," said Akkawi. "In a lot of cases I think customers would be better off if these types of companies partnered instead of doing acquisitions or trying to build functionality into their existing products on their own. Sometimes a niche product that integrates well is going to be better than what these guys are talking about."
Akkawi, who is a Cisco-certified IT pro, said that Sirva is constantly considering whether or not to go best-of-breed with independent vendors or buy into integrated security products like those being integrated by platform providers like Cisco's IronPort buyout.
"These acquisitions will only work if a platform provider like Cisco can build the acquired technology into things they already do well. In some cases, these types of companies haven't been able to integrate everything they've bought, and we've seen some best-of-breed products go away," he said. "[Sirva] will likely continue to go fifty-fifty in terms of the integrated products we choose to buy, and the others we seek out to get true best-of-breed functionality."
Many IT platform providers have moved aggressively in recent years to add security to their portfolios where it fits, as with EMC's buyout of authentication specialists RSA, along with IBM and HP's recent moves to add applications testing capabilities to their software development platforms via acquisition.
The nature of the security industry is such that certain functions will be parceled into such widely-used technologies, while other newer tools will likely emerge from independents, said Mick Scully, vice president of product management at Cisco's Security Technology Group.
Scully countered that despite any perception of cutting at innovation, Cisco is creating many new technology combinations that customers have responded well to, allowing its overall security business to crest $2 billion in revenues in the firm's fiscal 2006, representing a 25 percent annual growth rate in its overall security business.
"There will always be a balance between best-of-breed and integrated security. The beauty of the market is that it is constantly changing at a rapid pace, and we will always see startups who address specific problems," Scully said. "But if you look at an acquisition like IronPort, we've left it almost entirely intact, run by the same team, even as we push its technologies into other products."