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Cisco security GM discusses plan for infosec domination

Cisco believes CISOs are overwhelmed by too many security products and vendors, and the company introduced a new platform, ominously code-named Thanos, to help enterprises.

But despite being named after the Marvel Comics megavillain, Cisco’s SecureX platform isn’t necessarily designed to wipe out half of all existing security products within enterprise environments. Instead, Cisco is taking a different approach by opening up the platform, which was unveiled last month, and integrating with third parties.

Gee Rittenhouse, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco’s Security Business Group (SBG), said the aim of SecureX is to tie not only Cisco products together, but other vendor offerings as well. “We’ve been working really hard on taking the security problem and reducing it to its simplest form,” he told SearchSecurity at RSA Conference 2020 last month.

That isn’t to say that all security products are effective; many “are supposed to have a bigger impact than they actually do,” Rittenhouse said. Nevertheless, the SBG strategy for SecureX is to establish partnerships with third parties and invite them to integrate with the platform, he said, rather than Cisco trying to be everything to everyone. In this interview, Rittenhouse discusses the evolution of SecureX, how Cisco’s security strategy has shifted over the last decade and the company’s plan to change the infosec industry.

Editor’s note: This interview was edited for clarity and length.

How did the idea for SecureX come about?

Gee Rittenhouse CiscoGee Rittenhouse

Gee Rittenhouse: We thought initially if we had a solution for every one of the major threats vectors — email, endpoint, firewalls, cloud, etc. — for one vendor, Cisco, then that would be enough. You buy Cisco networking and you buy Cisco security and that transactional model will simplify the industry. And we realized very quickly that didn’t do anything except put a name on a box. Then the second thing we thought was this: What happens if we take all these different things and integrate the back end together so that when I see a threat on email, I can block on my endpoint? We stitch all this together [via the SecureX framework] on behalf of the customer, and not only does the blocking happen automatically but you also get better protection and higher efficacy. We’d tell people we had an integrated architecture. And the customers would look at us and say ‘Really? I don’t feel that. You’ve got a portal over here, and a portal over there’ and so on. And we’d say, ‘Look, we’ve worked for three years integrating this together and we have the highest efficacy.’ And they’d say, ‘Well, everybody has their numbers …’

About a couple of years ago, we said we’ve simplified the buying model and simplified the back end. Let’s try to simplify the user experience. But you have to be very careful with that. The classic approach is to build a platform, and everyone jumps on the platform and if you only have Cisco stuff, life is great. But, of course, there are other platforms and other products. We wanted to be precise about how we do this, so we picked a particular use case around investigations. It’s an important use case. We built this very simple investigation tool [Cisco Threat Response] that you can think about as the Google search of security. Within five seconds, you can find out that you don’t have [a specific threat] in your environment, or yes, you do and here’s how to block it and respond. The tool had the fastest rate of adoption of any of our products in Cisco’s history. It’s massively successful. More than 8,000 customers use it every day as their investigation tool.

Were you expecting that kind of adoption for Cisco Threat Response?

Rittenhouse: No. We were not. There were two things we weren’t expecting. We weren’t expecting the response in terms in usage. We thought there’d be a few customers using it. The other thing that we didn’t expect was a whole use community came together to, for example, integrate vendor X into the tool and publish the connectors on GitHub. A whole user community has evolved around that platform and extended the capability of it. In both cases, we were quite surprised.

When we saw how that worked, saw the business model, and we understood how people consumed it, we attached it to everything and then said ‘Let’s take the next step’ with analytics and security postures. We asked what a day in the life for security professional was. They’re flooded with noise and threats and alerts. They have to be able to decipher all of that — can the platform do that automatically on their behalf? That’s what we’re doing with SecureX, and the feedback has been super positive

What kind of feedback did you get from customers prior to Cisco Threat Response and SecureX? Did they have an idea of what they wanted?

There is only a handful of true, successful platform businesses in the world; it’s very hard to attract that community and achieve that scale.
Gee RittenhouseSVP and GM, Cisco

Rittenhouse: There was a lot of feedback from customers who asked us to make the front end of our portfolio simpler. But what does that actually mean? It was very generic feedback. And in fact, we struggled with the ‘single pane of glass’ approach. What typically happens with that approach is you try to do everything through it, and all of the sudden that portal becomes the slowest part of the portfolio. This actually took a lot of time and a lot of conversations with customers on how they actually work. We engaged a lot of them with design thinking, and Cisco Threat Response was the first thing to come out of those discussions, and then SecureX.

And I want to make the distinction between a platform and a single pane of glass or a portal. And we very much think of SecureX as a platform. And when you think about a platform, it’s usually something that other people can build stuff on top of, so the value to the community is other people’s contributions to it, and you get a multiplier effect. There is only a handful of true, successful platform businesses in the world; it’s very hard to attract that community and achieve that scale.

Like other recent studies, Cisco’s [2020] CISO Benchmark Report showed that many CISOs feel they have too many security products and are actively trying to reduce the number of vendors they have. Other vendors have talked about this trend and are trying to capitalize on it by becoming a one-stop security shop and pushing out other products. But with SecureX, it sounds like you’re taking a different approach by welcoming third-party vendors to the platform and being more open.

Rittenhouse: We would encourage the industry as a whole to be more open. In fact, the industry is not very open at all. One of the benefits to being open is the ability to integrate. In today’s industry, for example, let’s say you’re a security vendor and your technology says a piece of malware is a threat level 5, and I say it’s a level 2. And you’re integrated into our platform, and you’re freaking out because it’s a level 5. I ask you, ‘Rob, why do you think this? What’s the context around this? Share more.’ And until you have that open interface and integration, I just sit there and say, ‘For some reason, this vendor over here claims it’s big, but we don’t see it'”

So yes, we’re open. And I would anticipate the user experience with Cisco security products integrated together will be very different than what you would get with third parties integrated until they start to share more. And this is one of the issues you see in the SIEM and SOAR markets; they become data repositories for investigations after you get attacked. What actually happened? Let’s go back into the records and figure it out. Because of the data fidelity and the real-time nature [of SecureX] this is something you interact with immediately. It can automatically trace threats and set up workflows and bring in other team members to collaborate because you have that integrated back end.

Cisco has said it’s the biggest security vendor in the world by revenue, but most businesses probably still associate the company with networking. Now that SecureX has been introduced, what’s the strategy moving forward?

Rittenhouse: We’ve spent a lot of time on the messaging. I think more and more people recognize we’re the biggest enterprise security company. In many ways, our mission is to democratize security like [Duo Security’s] Wendy Nather said, so we want to make it invisible. We don’t want to be sending the message that you have to get this other stuff to be secure. We want it to be built into everything we do.

There’s been a lot of mergers and acquisitions, especially by companies looking to increase their infosec presence. But Wendy talked during her keynote about simplifying security instead adding product upon product. But it doesn’t sound like you’re feeling the pressure to do that.

Rittenhouse: No. We are not a private equity firm. We buy things for a purpose. And when we buy something, we’ll be happy to tell you why.

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Secure remote access offering gains ground among MSPs

Todyl, a New York City company that sells a networking and security platform through MSPs, reported increasing interest in its product as organizations face secure remote access challenges.

“Things have been rapidly evolving over the last two weeks with the COVID-19 response,” Todyl CEO John Nellen said. “We have been really busy trying to help existing partners and new partners.”

The company offers MSPs — and their SMB customers — the ability to consolidate networking and security components into a cloud-based platform. Todyl MSP partners deploy the technology by installing agents on customers’ Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android devices. A VPN tunnel then links customers to Todyl’s Secure Global Network offering, which incorporates web proxy, firewall, content filtering, intrusion detection/prevention (IDP), malware interception and security information and event management (SIEM) technologies.

The Secure Global Network’s points of presence link end customers to multiple network providers. Todyl’s platform connects organizations’ remote workers, data centers, cloud providers, main offices and branch locations, according to the company.

Todyl is currently offering its platform to MSPs for free for 30 days “to help support the immediate need,” Nellen said. Once the offer expires, pricing is device-based with add-on features. Todyl offers pricing for two groups: mobile (Android/iOS) and desktop/laptop/server (Windows, Mac, Linux).

MSP taps Todyl for remote enablement

Infinit Consulting Inc., an MSP based in Campbell, Calif., is selling Todyl as a white-labeled offering. The company has branded Todyl as Infinit Shield Total Defense, which it has paired with its own Infinit Shield security process management platform, according to Jerod Powell, president and founder of Infinit Consulting.

John Nellen, CEO at TodylJohn Nellen

Powell called Todyl “instrumental in helping our customers rapidly enable complete remote workforce capabilities.”

Infinit Consulting had previously enabled nearly all of its customers to use cloud services, but the company is currently tasked with helping them significantly expand remote workforces. The expansion sometimes includes moving customers from having 15% of employees working remotely to nearly 100%.

While assisting with remote workforce expansions, Infinit Consulting has run into issues such as licensing and hardware limitations around customers’ previous remote work applications, Powell said. He pointed to another issue: Properly securing devices to ensure data integrity, company policy adherence and security, while allowing employees to work remotely — often from their personal home PC or Mac.

Powell said Todyl lets Infinit Consulting enable remote access in a matter of a few hours in a full-scale deployment. The Todyl offering also lets the company “secure that remote connection 100%, end to end;” bring clients onto the Secure Global Network; and feed data back to the SIEM. The SIEM feature provides the MSP with “the telemetry needed to identify potential security risks [and] enforce corporate policy just as if [remote employees] were on the client’s LAN.”

Things have been rapidly evolving over the last two weeks with the COVID-19 response.
John NellenCEO, Todyl

He said Todyl also offers IDP and advanced threat protection scanning to flag potentially malicious applications and data before they reach customers.

The demand for supporting customers’ remote workforces is “extremely high,” Powell noted. He cited a case in which Infinit Consulting rolled out Todyl to a customer that needed to enable more than 500 users to work remotely. The customer’s previous remote work product only supported 100 users. Todyl also identified security issues in several of remote workers’ home PCs. The MSP was able to resolve those issues before admitting the remote workers’ devices onto the network, he added.

Powell said his company has created deployment packages for Todyl that can implement the product in an automated manner.

Waves of demand for secure remote access

Citing conversations with Todyl MSP partners, Nellen said MSPs anticipate two waves of unfolding demand for remote work technology.

The first wave consists of early adopters trying to quickly set up their organizations for newly distributed workforces. The second wave will comprise SMBs that have yet to determine the best way to support remote workers. Those companies will start making decisions, based on guidance from government agencies, in the coming weeks, Nellen said.

“They are expecting this not to be just a single shot, but something that is taking place and evolving over time,” Nellen said.

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VMware’s Kubernetes-based products ease container migration

VMware hopes a raft of new Kubernetes-based enhancements can position the company as the right choice for customers interested in container migration while they retain investments in vSphere.

The strategy centers on Tanzu, a product portfolio VMware introduced at the VMworld conference in August. A chief component is the Kubernetes Grid, a distribution of the container orchestration engine that sets up clusters in a consistent way across various public clouds and on-premises infrastructure.

Another product, Tanzu Mission Control, provides management tooling for Kubernetes clusters. VMware has also pushed its acquisition of Bitnami under the Tanzu header. Bitnami, which offers a catalog of pre-packaged software such as the MySQL database for quick deployment across multiple environments, is now called Tanzu Application Catalog.

Finally, VMware has rebranded Pivotal Application Service to Tanzu Application Service and changed its Wavefront monitoring software’s name to Tanzu Observability by Wavefront.

This flurry of product development and marketing around Kubernetes has a critical purpose for VMware.

“Kubernetes has practically stolen virtualization from VMware, so now it needs to upgrade the engine room, while keeping the promenade deck the same and hoping the passengers stay on board and do not jump ship,” said Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research.

Kubernetes ecosystem
VMware hopes to be a big player in the Kubernetes ecosystem with its Tanzu portfolio.

A big part of this plan involves the new vSphere 7, which has been reworked to run both container and virtual machine workloads by embedding Tanzu Kubernetes Grid and other components. This vSphere option is initially available only through VMware Cloud Foundation 4, which is supported on AWS, Azure, Google, Oracle, Rackspace and IBM’s public cloud services, as well as through other VMware partners.

VMware also plans to release a separate, Kubernetes-less edition of vSphere 7 for customers who don’t want that functionality. Tanzu Kubernetes Grid, Application Catalog and Mission Control are available now, while Cloud Foundation 4 and vSphere 7 are slated for release before May 1.

Users gravitate towards containers

VMware’s announcements further confirm the industrywide trend of users moving away from their core virtualization platforms and more seriously exploring container migration. With VMware the longtime industry leader in virtualization, the announcements carry added weight.

“There is a transition happening in compute technology of what is being used to deliver the apps that is moving away from virtualization to containers — not that virtualization isn’t useful for other things,” said Gary Chen, IDC’s research director of software-defined compute. “VMware is trying to make that transition, and they appear to be pretty serious about it.”

VMware’s efforts around Kubernetes stem back a few years. It previously offered Pivotal Container Service as an add-on to its core platform, and acquired a batch of Kubernetes talent and related IP through its purchase of Heptio in 2018. Two of the three original authors of Kubernetes now work at VMware.

“At the end of the day, Kubernetes is still an orchestration tool for automating containers, but what if you are not in a developer group?” said Brian Kirsch, an IT architect and instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College. “What they are introducing here is for people writing their own software and moving toward containers, but will there be enough support on the back end for those not ready for Kubernetes or containers, or who may never need them? We support 45,000 students here, but we still buy our software and don’t write it.”

Many companies in large vertical markets, such as manufacturing and healthcare, are often slow to move to another DevOps environment once they have settled on a product. Traditionally, many applications in those markets aren’t updated often by the vendors and it can be a monumental task to pursue container migration, even for long-time vSphere users.

“Up until just a few years ago, some of the larger EHR apps were still in VB [Microsoft’s Visual Basic] for the front end,” Kirsch said. “It just takes time.”

While VMware executives tout that Cloud Foundation and vSphere products can work on competitors’ cloud platforms, Kirsch said he thinks the company is overplaying the importance of that capability.

“Writing an app once and have it run wherever you want is good for some, but I don’t know that many people who want to hop around that much,” Kirsch said. “My question is: How many times have you left your cloud provider unless it goes belly up? A lot of work is involved with this and no matter how transparent it is, it’s almost never like just flipping a switch,” he said.

Controlling the control plane

Some analysts see the VMware announcements around container migration as counterpunching the competitive efforts of IBM-Red Hat and others to gain a firm grasp of the management software piece of both the cloud and on-premises applications.

“If Red Hat succeeded in commoditizing the enterprise OS space, making RHEL and Windows Server the two de facto standards, then the next layer to be commoditized is the control plane, which I still believe to be the PaaS layer,” said Geoff Woollacott, senior strategy consultant and principal analyst at Technology Business Review. “Right now, the main rivals for that are VMware with this announcement, Azure and OpenShift.”

The U.S. Air Force is in the midst of evaluating multiple Kubernetes distributions and management tools, including Red Hat OpenShift, Rancher and a beta version of Tanzu Kubernetes Grid. The various IT teams within the military branch can use whichever Kubernetes platform they choose. For the Air Force’s purposes, the latest Red Hat OpenShift versions will beat VMware to the punch in disconnected and Kubernetes edge environments, along with real-time operating system support that the Air Force will use in F16 fighter jets. The Air Force will also wait until all of VMware’s Tanzu product line becomes generally available before it commits to using it, and carefully watch how VMware brings together its new business units and their products.

“VMware is checking all the boxes, but details matter,” said Nicolas Chaillan, the Air Force’s chief software officer, and co-lead for the Enterprise DevSecOps Initiative in the office of the Department of Defense CIO. “With mergers, there are always people leaving, conflicts, and you never know what’s going to happen.”

However, VMware retains its lead in server virtualization, and the Kubernetes IP and expertise the company has assembled with its Heptio acquisition and Pivotal merger can’t be overlooked, Chaillan added.

The vSphere piece, and the ability to tie that back to Kubernetes, is very interesting, and that alone could win the market.
Nicolas ChaillanChief software officer, Air Force

“The vSphere piece, and the ability to tie that back to Kubernetes, is very interesting, and that alone could win the market,” he said. “A lot of companies in finance and healthcare still need a virtualization stack on premises, and otherwise would have to use Google Anthos, Azure Stack or Amazon Outposts — or they could go through vSphere, and have a single company that brings [them] the whole thing.”

Redesigning the crown jewels

VSphere 7.0, formerly called Project Pacific, has been significantly redesigned, according to Krishna Prasad, vice president and general manager of VMware’s Cloud Platform Business. A large part of that redesigning was to tightly integrate Kubernetes into vSphere. One advantage of this for corporate users is when they stand up a cluster based on the company’s ESX Server virtualization layer, those become Kubernetes clusters along with the company’s vCenter control plane, Prasad said.

“When we started rearchitecting, it wasn’t driven by the need to accommodate Kubernetes workloads — that was just one of the driving factors,” Prasad said. “We realized it [Kubernetes] was a foundational piece we could bring into vSphere at the platform level that would enhance the platform itself. It would make the platform more modern like Kubernetes itself.”

Another important consideration for the redesign was a direct response to what the company’s core customers were asking for: to be able to deliver their infrastructure to their developers through a cloud consumption model.

“They want and we want to deliver infrastructure completely as code,” Prasad said.

To this end, VMware also unveiled an improved version of NSX-T that now offers full-stack networking and security services that connect and protect both VMs and containers.

“With the enhancements to NSX-T, as you deploy Kubernetes workloads it automates everything right through to the Kubernetes UI,” Prasad said. “This is about writing infrastructure as code and automating the whole deployment instead of bringing in your own components. We think it is a critical part of delivering Kubernetes with full automation.”

Senior News Writer Beth Pariseau contributed to this report.

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Try 10 practice questions for the CCNP, CCIE ENCOR 350-401

In Cisco’s sweeping certification changes, the company eliminated prerequisite exams for the Cisco Certified Network Professional tracks, which means network engineers have a higher bar to meet when they take CCNP exams.

However, this higher bar doesn’t mean engineers must solely know advanced topics and technologies, such as software-defined WAN, automation and programmability — although those are on the exams. Instead, CCNP hopefuls on the Enterprise track — for ENCOR 350-401, in particular — should expect to know a solid amount of past CCNP material, such as IP routing essentials, in addition to new technologies. The same goes for Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) hopefuls, as well.

CCNP and CCIE hopefuls alike can explore old and new material in CCNP and CCIE ENCOR 350-401 Official Cert Guide, available now, by authors Ramiro Garza Rios, David Hucaby, Brad Edgeworth and Jason Gooley. This guidebook delves into topics that span from forwarding to wireless to software-defined networking best practices.

Below is the “Do I Know This Already?” quiz from Chapter 6, “IP Routing Essentials.” These 10 questions explore common routing protocols network engineers will likely recognize from their daily jobs and others that are also relevant to their positions. Edgeworth said the chapter covers fundamentals and helps readers understand how routers function and think.

The quiz offers readers a vendor-agnostic studying method, as routing protocols aren’t specific to Cisco or any other vendor. These universal fundamentals can help readers in their careers wherever they go and with whichever vendor products they may use.

These questions for the CCNP and CCIE ENCOR 350-401 help readers review enterprise networking essentials they need to know and test their expertise on key protocol differences and common routing concepts. The quiz covers a general overview of the protocols and dives deep into path selection, static routing, and virtual routing and forwarding.

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Microsoft and KKBOX Group launch global strategic partnership – Stories

TAIPEI — December 20, 2019 — Microsoft Taiwan and Asia’s leading media technology company, KKBOX Group, jointly announced today the launch of a global strategic partnership that will migrate the group’s subsidiary KKBOX’s music streaming services to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. Additionally, KKBOX Group subsidiary KKStream has joined Microsoft’s global partner network to release BlendVision™, a next-generation commercial video streaming solution that will harness data and AI to effectively reduce operating costs of over-the-top (OTT) platform operators. Microsoft and KKBOX Group will also jointly use data and AI to optimize its music-creation system and explore new music-listening possibilities for consumers. This cooperation is a milestone for KKBOX Group’s internationalization initiative and opens up more possibilities for the digital entertainment industry.

“The media and entertainment industries are going through a transformation as studios, broadcasters and other rich media content creators, such as over-the-top (OTT) service providers, are facing pressure to innovate on how they deliver content to their audiences while getting smarter on using data to their advantage,” said Bob De Haven, general manager, Worldwide Media & Communications Industries, Microsoft. “KKBOX has been at the forefront of the entertainment industry in Asia, providing world-class entertainment to users and continuing to experiment and innovate with technology. We are thrilled that KKBOX has chosen Azure to provide the company with intelligent platforms that unlock creativity and collaboration, bring content to market faster and engage audiences.”

Serving the Asian market for over 15 years, KKBOX Group is now expanding globally. It integrates big data — including music, video, show ticketing and e-commerce — and leverages AI to provide users with better experiences and artists, creators, and concert organizers with business insights.

“KKBOX Group offers consumers a wide range of entertainment experiences in Asia,” said Co-founder and CEO Chris Lin. “We are pleased to partner with Microsoft to migrate KKBOX music to Azure, address streaming technology challenges by co-selling BlendVision globally, and develop AI music creation.”

Key initiatives of the partnership include:

  1. KKBOX music streaming service migrates to Microsoft Azure:

By partnering with Microsoft to fully migrate KKBOX music streaming services onto Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, KKBOX Group is meeting consumer demand for high-speed streaming services and highly differentiated entertainment experiences. The partnership will allow KKBOX to provide faster development, manage resource scheduling and flexibly adjust traffic to develop more meta services, aligned with the digital entertainment industry’s trend of accelerating digital services.

Microsoft Azure has more regions than any other cloud provider, with 55 datacenter regions, to offer the scale needed to deploy services and applications on demand to enterprises around the world. This coverage helps enterprises deploy services on demand. With high-standard information security, KKBOX can rapidly deploy innovative services to international markets while ensuring that data is protected by comprehensive security measures. Microsoft is committed to promoting enterprise digital transformation with front-end technology, assisting customers and partners in various industries to adopt AI and the cloud to optimize enterprise resource deployment and operation processes, and to expand their global business territories through joint sales plans. This strategic cooperation with KKBOX Group is a milestone for Microsoft in the digital entertainment industry.

  1. KKStream launches commercial video streaming technology solution — BlendVision:

BlendVision, launched by KKStream, is a next-generation commercial video streaming solution that empowers global streaming platform operators through a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering, reducing operating costs and improving user experiences while developing services that create new monetization models. BlendVision will launch “BlendVision Video Streaming” combined with “per-title encoding” (PTE) to effectively reduce operating costs of OTT platform operators by using AI to identify different bitrates for video compression and transcoding, greatly reducing transmission bandwidth and saving storage space.

An independently developed image enhancement technology called Perceptual Streaming Engine (PSE) will be added to enhance the visual performance of the original video and double the quality of low-resolution videos into high definition (HD) for optimal streaming image quality. These two technologies (PTE + PSE) together can further reduce platform operator transmission costs by 80% so users get the highest image quality with the lowest traffic. The cooperation between Microsoft and KKStream will be based on the SaaS model, with BlendVision’s service architecture built on Azure, helping to deliver new services to consumers. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s global sales and service teams will assist in implementation. Microsoft and KKBOX already foresee 10 potential customers in the Asian region, symbolizing proof of endless global business opportunities as a result of this strategic alliance.

  1. Both parties to jointly develop AI-enabled music production system for producers:

KKBOX will leverage Microsoft AI technology to build an AI-assisted music arrangement system and an AI-assisted lyric generator. In addition, the group will create a predictive model that uses data and AI to forecast the commercial success of a song. KKBOX and Microsoft believe that the digital entertainment industry is facing a transformation and must use technology to make content faster and smoother for users and to use a data-driven approach to create personalized services. AI will become the most important advancement in this transformation. KKBOX is one of the world’s earliest legal music streaming platforms, providing services since 2005. It has successfully changed consumer listening behavior, and the music industry’s business model is changing accordingly. KKBOX Group and Microsoft aim to leverage AI to explore new opportunities, create new trends and transform the entertainment market.

About KKBOX

For more information on KKBOX, visit: https://www.kkbox.com/about/zh-tw

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

Media contacts

MSFT contact:
[email protected]

KKBOX contact:
KKBOX Public Relations [email protected]

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Author: Microsoft News Center

CyberX launches partner program in IoT security market

CyberX, a Boston-based company that focuses on IoT and industrial control system cybersecurity, has unveiled a channel partner program.

The company’s Xcelerate program includes technical support, online training, deal registration, not-for-resale software, marketing development funds and a partner portal. The program’s scope encompasses managed service providers (MSPs), systems integrators, consulting firms, distributors, value-added resellers and technology alliance partners.

Service provider partners include Dimension Data, DXC Technology, NTT Security, Tata Consultancy Services and Wipro. Technology partners include IBM, ServiceNow and Splunk. CyberX also partners with industrial automation vendors such as Schneider Electric and Siemens.

CyberX provides a network security and monitoring system that covers IT and operational technology (OT) devices. The company has customers in the energy utilities, chemical and pharmaceutical markets. Vendors such as Cisco have advised channel partners to sell IoT services to OT and line-of-business executives, who direct much of the buying in that market.

The global IoT security market is forecast to grow from $18.82 billion in 2019 to $51.42 billion by 2024, according to BIS Research Inc., a market research company based in Fremont, Calif. The market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 22.26% during that period, the company said.

The worldwide industrial control systems security market, meanwhile, is projected to grow at a 6.5% compound annual growth rate through 2023, when the market is expected to reach $18.05 billion, according to MarketsandMarkets.

Chart of IoT data breaches and cyberattacks.
IoT security is gaining visibility as threats against IoT devices and applications grow.

Berkshire bid boosts Tech Data deal to $6B

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. launched a competitive bid to acquire Tech Data Corp., compelling suitor Apollo Global Management to sweeten the deal.

Berkshire’s offer surfaced in a Tech Data filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. When Apollo’s $130/share, $5.4 billion agreement to acquire Tech Data was revealed in November, the deal included a “go shop” provision that allowed the Clearwater, Fla., distributor to entertain alternative proposals until December 9. Hathaway presented a $140/share offer during that period. Apollo responded with a $145/share offer, which has cleared the path for the acquisition to proceed. Apollo’s new offer will boost the acquisition’s value to $6 billion.

Vendors launch cybersecurity integrations

Cybersecurity vendors this week revealed new integrations between their technology and MSP management tools. 

Bitdefender integrated its GravityZone MSP security suite with Datto’s remote monitoring and management (RMM) software. Bitdefender said the integration enables Datto RMM users to automate deployments of Bitdefender antivirus, antimalware and advanced endpoint layers via an OS-agnostic kit.

Meanwhile, Netsurion linked up its EventTracker security operations center service with IT Glue’s documentation platform. The combination lets Netsurion MSPs access reports designed to demonstrate security and compliance posture to clients, Netsurion said.

Barracuda Networks integrated two of its own products: Barracuda Content Shield and the Managed Workplace RMM platform. Barracuda’s RMM users can now tap Content Shield’s cloud-based web filtering and malware protection. 

Other news

  • Atos, an IT services and consulting firm based in Bezos, France, said it signed a distributor deal with Ingram Micro, headquartered in Irvine, Calif. Under the agreement, Atos will provide its cybersecurity offerings, including Atos Evidian identity and access management products, to Ingram Micro’s U.S. channel partners.
  • D&H Distributing, a distributor based in Harrisburg, Pa., has identified five main areas of opportunity for 2020: cloud, commercial audio/visual and collaboration, esports, infrastructure/security and build-to-order compute and storage offerings.
  • KORE, an IoT solutions provider based in Alpharetta, Ga., has acquired Integron, an IoT-oriented MSP. Integron has offices in Rochester, N.Y. and Ulestraten, Netherlands.
  • SolarWinds said its remote monitoring platforms now include cryptographic algorithms for managing Windows systems that meet Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2. SolarWinds RMM and SolarWinds N-central adhere to the federal encryption standard.
  • Veeam Software enhanced its Veeam Accredited Services Partner (VASP) program. New VASP benefits include access to additional dedicated internal resources at Veeam, the company said.
  • Nuspire, a managed security services provider, has hired Lewie Dunsworth as its CEO. Saylor Frase vacated the CEO slot to become chairman of the board. Dunsworth was previously CISO and executive vice president of global security services at Herjavec Group.
  • Managed services automation company BitTitan named James Clifford as its new EMEA sales director.

Market Share is a news roundup published every Friday.

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McAfee launches security tool Mvision Cloud for Containers

Cybersecurity company McAfee on Tuesday announced McAfee Mvision Cloud for Containers, a product intended to help organizations ensure security and compliance of their cloud container workloads.

Mvision Cloud for Containers integrates container security with McAfee’s cloud access security broker (CASB) and cloud security posture management (CSPM) tools, according to the company.

“Data could … move between SaaS offerings, IaaS custom apps in various CPSs, containers and hybrid clouds. We want security to be consistent and predictable across the places data live and workloads are processed. Integrating CASB and CSPM allows McAfee to provide consistent configuration policies and DLP/malware scanning that does not restrict the flexibility of the cloud,” said John Dodds, a director of product management at McAfee.

According to Andras Cser, vice president and principal analyst for security and risk management at Forrester, when it comes to evaluating a product like Mvision, it’s worth looking at factors such as “price, cost of integration, level of integration between acquired components and coverage of the client’s applications.”

Mvision Cloud uses the zero-trust model application visibility and control capabilities by container security startup NanoSec for container-based deployments in the cloud. McAfee acquired NanoSec in September in a move to expand its container cloud security offerings.

Mvision Cloud for Containers builds on the existing McAfee Mvision Cloud platform, integrating cloud security posture management and vulnerability scanning for container workloads so that security policies can be implemented across different forms of cloud IaaS workloads, according to the company.

Other features of McAfee Mvision Cloud for Containers include:

  • Cloud security posture management: Ensures the container platforms run in accordance with Center for Internet Security and other compliance standards by integrating configuration audit checks to container workloads.
  • Container images vulnerability scanning: Identifies weak or exploitable elements in container images to reduce the application’s risk profile.
  • DevOps integration: Ensures compliance and secures container workloads; executes security audits and vulnerability scanning to identify risk and send security incidents and feedback to developers within the build process; and monitors and prevents configuration drift on production deployments of the container workloads.

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Accenture cloud tool aims to shorten decision cycle

Accenture has rolled out a tool that the company said will help customers navigate complex cloud computing options and let them simulate deployments before committing to an architecture.

The IT services firm will offer the tool, called myNav, as part of a larger consulting agreement with its customers. The myNav process starts with a discovery phase, which scans the customer’s existing infrastructure and recommends a cloud deployment approach, whether private, public, hybrid or multi-cloud. Accenture’s AI engine then churns through the company’s repository of previous cloud projects to recommend a specific enterprise architecture and cloud offering. Next, the Accenture cloud tool simulates the recommended design, allowing the client to determine its suitability.

“There’s an over-abundance of choice when the client chooses to … take applications, data and infrastructure into the cloud,” said Kishore Durg, Accenture’s cloud lead and growth and strategy lead for technology services. “The choices cause them to ponder, ‘What is the right choice?’ This [tool] will help increase their confidence in going to the cloud.”

Accenture isn’t unique among consultancies in marketing services to aid customers’ cloud adoption. But industry watchers pointed to myNav’s simulation feature as a point of differentiation.

There are many companies that offer cloud service discovery, assessment and design services for a fee, said Stephen Elliot, an analyst with IDC. “But I don’t know of any other firm that will run a simulation,” he added.

Yugal Joshi, a vice president with Everest Group, cited myNav’s cloud architecture simulator as an intriguing feature. “Going forward, I expect it to further cover custom bespoke applications in addition to COTS [commercial off-the-shelf] platforms,” he said.

Joshi, who leads Everest Group’s digital, cloud and application services research practices, said most mature IT service providers have developed some type of platform to ease clients’ journey to the cloud. “The difference lies in the vision behind the IP, the quality of the IP, articulation and the business value it can provide to clients,” he noted.

Accenture cloud simulation’s potential benefits

Elliot said myNav’s simulation is interesting because it could help customers understand the outcome of a project in advance and whether that outcome will meet their expectations.

Despite cloud being around for quite some time now, it is still not a done deal.
Yugal Joshivice president, Everest Group

This could help Accenture close deals faster while fostering more productive conversations with IT buyers, Elliot said. “In any case, customers will have to trust that the underlying information and models are correct, and that the outcomes in the solution can be trusted,” he said.

Customers, meanwhile, could benefit from faster cloud rollouts.

“Where Accenture myNav is focusing is leveraging the expertise Accenture has gathered over many cloud engagements,” Joshi said. “This can potentially shorten the decision-making, business-casing and the eventual cloud migration for clients.”

Customers can get to the results faster, rather than spend weeks or, potentially, months in assessment and roadmap exercises, he said. Whether the Accenture cloud platform delivers the anticipated results, however, will only become evident when successful client adoption case studies are available, he cautioned.

Durg said cloud assessments can take eight to 12 weeks, depending on the scale of the project. The migration phase could span two months and require 80 or more people. The simulation aspect of myNav, he noted, lets clients visualize the deployment “before a single person is put on a project.”

Help wanted

Accenture’s myNav tool arrives at a time when the cloud matured — the public cloud is more than a decade old — but not completely. The multiplicity of cloud technologies introduces uncertainty and sparks enterprise conversations around skill sets and adoption approaches.

“Despite cloud being around for quite some time now, it is still not a done deal,” Joshi said. “Clients need lot of hand-holding and comfort before they can migrate to, and then leverage, cloud as an operating platform [rather] than an alternative hosting model.”

Elliot added, “The market is at a point where every cloud deployment is almost a snowflake. It’s the organizational, skills and process discussions that slow projects down.”

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Avaya revenue slump expected to continue in 2020

Avaya shares closed down 5% Wednesday after the company failed to hit its financial targets for the fourth fiscal quarter and predicted that revenue would likely decline again in 2020.

Avaya brought in $723 million in the three months ended Sept. 30, despite projecting revenues between $735 million and $755 million. The quarter capped a year of disappointing returns, with the company generating just under $2.89 billion after initially telling investors it would sell between $3.01 billion and $3.12 billion worth of products and services.

Avaya attributed its underperformance in the fourth quarter in large part to a delay in executing a 10-year $400 million deal to sell phone systems and contact center software to the Social Security Administration. A competing vendor has challenged the contract, sparking a procurement review that Avaya expects will further delay revenues at least through the current quarter.

Meanwhile, the Avaya revenue slump is projected to continue in fiscal 2020, which began Oct. 1, with the company forecasting receipts of $2.81 billion to $2.89 billion. But analysts credit Avaya for at least significantly slowing the rate of its revenue decline in the two years since emerging from bankruptcy in late 2017.

Company executives said 2020 would be a transformational year for Avaya as it finally introduces a unified communications as a service (UCaaS) offering in partnership with RingCentral. The product will plug a gap in the vendor’s portfolio, which cloud-based competitors had exploited to steal the longtime customers of Avaya’s on-premises gear.

But Avaya is poised to face a significant challenge in a few years, said Steve Blood, analyst at Gartner. Many large enterprises aren’t ready to replace on-premises communications gear because they spent a lot of money on it. But, eventually, that calculation will change.

In the meantime, Avaya is selling maintenance and other services to those customers. The company has highlighted the growth of its software and services segment, which now represents 83% of total revenue, up from 71% in fiscal 2015.

“Avaya will talk about that as having loyal customers,” Blood said. “We will look at that differently. We don’t think they are so much loyal as they need a stop-gap to hold off while they build their strategy with other providers.”

Avaya’s answer to that impending problem has been to invest in a single-tenant cloud product called ReadyNow. It gives each customer a separate instance of the software on servers in an Avaya data center. The architecture allows for a higher level of security and customization than would be possible in a multi-tenant cloud. Avaya said its large enterprise customers prefer that approach.

Partnerships have emerged as another critical aspect of Avaya’s cloud strategy. Avaya is now relying on vendors like RingCentral and Afiniti to deliver innovative products and features. Just last week, Avaya announced it would partner with Google to bring a suite of AI capabilities to contact center customers in 2020.

Avaya plans to begin reporting to investors the percentage of revenue attributable to cloud, partnerships and emerging technologies combined. As of last quarter, that figure stood at 15%, but Avaya expects it will reach 30% once the RingCentral partnership ramps up.

The cloud alone accounted for 11% of revenue in fiscal 2019. That’s up from 10% last fiscal year but below the company’s original estimate of 12% to 14%. Avaya has sold nearly 4 million licenses for cloud telephony and contact center software, up from 3.5 million at the end of fiscal 2018.

Meanwhile, Avaya is retooling its executive team. On Tuesday, Avaya announced that its top cloud executive, Gaurav Passi, was no longer with the company.

Anthony Bartolo will become chief product officer overseeing on premises and cloud portfolio next month. He is currently a top executive at Tata Communications, a networking and communications service provider, and previously spent four years with Avaya.

As part of the shuffle, Chris McGugan, currently senior vice president of solutions and technology, will become CTO.

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