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In an announcement that was originally going to include IBM’s participation, Brocade and McAfee have announced a strategic partnership to address the changes transforming the network security market.

"We’re really starting to see the security market change," says Amy Medeiros with Brocade’s Strategic Alliances group. "The industry is changing really quickly and there are a lot of new dynamics. We’re getting prepared for convergence in the market."

Brocade supported its view with a recent Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) survey on IT spending intentions that found information security initiatives ranked in the top four among a list of 25 IT priority areas for 2010. In particular, network security was considered to be a top priority among IT managers for the coming year, as “increased Internet and internal bandwidth demand faster network security systems” that can protect data within all levels of the networking environment.

"I think customers are feeling what Brocade is feeling. There are thousands of solutions out there, so who do I use?"  Throw in growing government regulatory requirements, rising costs and shrinking budgets and the situation just becomes even more complex. Lots of companies have made a lot of acquisitions, like Cisco, but they haven’t done the integration, says Medeiros.

"Customers are really frustrated because there’s not a common thread across the entire portfolio."
So Brocade and McAfee — and eventually IBM — are looking to cash in on this situation by integrating their solutions to offer customers end-to-end security solution throughout their entire network. Medeiros says the interoperability with IBM still stands, but there was a recent change in management so the partnership couldn’t be announced at this time.

IBM and McAfee are the only two vendors to have complete product sets, says Medeiros, and that’s critical."We need to provide customers with long-term solutions that are better." She adds there are only a handful of vendors that fall into that category, and Brocade and McAfee want to be careful who they get into bed with. "So we must be really selective."

In addition to all the changes impacting the market, there’s also the reality that networks are typically sold first and security is an afterthought, says Medeiros. "Customers really wanted simplified deployment. Security came later in the sale."

By bringing together partners that offer the broadest set of solutions in their respective markets, the group can address the broadest set of customers — and channel partners. "Convergence is going to influence channel," she says. Part of the multi-year, multi-tier partnership relationship with McAfee includes joint sales and channel initiatives.

To provide customers with a full range of best-in-class products necessitates much more than a marketing announcement, she says. "We looked at shared risk, shared marketing strategy… how we’re going to provide the channel with more tools to give them more money. We want to enable them to begin talking security up front."

The companies have already spent a lot of time building presentations, solution overviews and mapping of joint channels and joint distributors. This is a fantastic opportunity for the channel, says Medeiros. "In terms of sales, we’ve increased their TAM (total addressable market) by almost double. We also increase the services opportunity. Customers are looking for what do I do, it’s changing so fast."

There are already joint customers, but Medeiros says they want to change when the conversations begin. Another key focus will be the federal government, especially for the channel, she says.

Currently, the combined solutions will include: McAfee Firewall Enterprise and intrusion prevention technologies operating with the Brocade NetIron MLX Series of routers; Brocade ServerIron application delivery controllers that load-balance the McAfee Firewall Enterprise technology, providing protection against Denial of Service (DoS) and SYN attacks; McAfee Network Access Control (NAC) solution interoperating with Brocade FastIron CX and FastIron WS compact edge switches to secure the network access layer; enabling the network infrastructure to take automated actions in response to security events generated from McAfee network access control, intrusion prevention, and firewall solutions with Brocade IronView Network Manager.

The next stage of the partnership will involve extending the network management integration to further utilize metrics and security intelligence information.