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Not everyone was happy to see IBM acquire Internet Security Systems, according to officials at McAfee, which launched a new program Nov. 27 aimed at convincing ISS customers and partners to move over to its own technology.

When IBM snapped up Atlanta-based ISS for $1.3 billion in late August 2006, a number of the security company’s customers and partners were left wondering what the deal meant to their businesses, said John Vecchi, group product marketing manager for McAfee.

As IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., has not made it clear what its long-term intentions for ISS are, even more firms have begun to wonder how the change in ISS’ status will play out, he said.

Since IBM is not known as a security company, customers are unclear as to whether the firm is planning to make a significant commitment to building out ISS’ products for the future, while systems integrators and other resellers who already compete with IBM’s massive services business don’t want to provide their rival with additional revenues, Vecchi said.

As a result of those issues and the opportunity created by potential uncertainty over the future of the security company within IBM, Santa Clara, Calif.-based McAfee introduced its ISS Switch Program, which aims to help companies shift from ISS’ tools to its own products.

McAfee’s ISS Switch Program specifically focuses on the area of corporate security risk management, and is built around moving customers and systems integrators from ISS’ software and appliances over to McAfee’s IntruShield network intrusion prevention technology, as well as its Foundstone compliance software and services.

As McAfee has seen the market for its core anti-virus products become increasingly commoditized, a trend being influenced heavily by the arrival of security features in Microsoft’s next-generation Vista operating system, the company has shifted its own overriding focus from those types of technologies to such risk mitigation products and services.

“Customers are seeing a vendor with whom they have invested a lot of time and money acquired by a company that hasn’t had a longtime commitment to network security, one who has already said that they’re not interested in the security hardware business,” said Vecchi.

“And many outsourcing companies, managed services providers and systems integrators who use ISS technology as part of their solution have found themselves in the position where these products are now under the control of a direct competitor.”

Under the marketing program, the security company is officially offering free installation of its products through the McAfee DAP (Deployment Assistance Program) to companies swapping out ISS technologies, along with free training courses and Platinum Support for its own products, including a designated technical account manager.

Companies who purchase McAfee IntruShield will also get a free Security Manager appliance, and with Foundstone customers receiving a free FS-1000 appliance.

Click here to read more about McAfee’s purchase of Foundstone.

McAfee said that it will provide resellers moving over from ISS products with onsite technical training and other additional incentives to sell its technologies.

While Vecchi said it will be unlikely for end users to rip out their existing ISS installations as a result of the acquisition, or the McAfee program, he said the company expects to see systems integrators make their move over the next fiscal quarter.

By putting an official program in place to address the IBM-ISS deal, he said that McAfee should have some advantage over other rivals looking to steal away some of the acquired firm’s business.

For its part, IBM has been actively pushing the ISS brand and the company’s existing technologies, launching new versions of the security specialists’ network appliance devices and unveiling a new iteration of the ISS Proventia Desktop Endpoint Security package, due out before the end of this year.

IBM officials said that McAfee’s program is little more than an attempt to capitalize on shifting trends in the security market, and unease related to an increasing number of mergers and acquisitions in the space.

“It’s not unexpected that competitors attempt buy-back programs during times of industry shifts and change; however, these programs are challenged to be successful since they are based on price, versus providing the customers the right solutions to their business problems,” the company said in a statement.

“Interestingly, competitors’ price-based approaches essentially acknowledge their declining ability to compete on security value and address the evolving threat spectrum, and focus on their ability to compete solely on price; just like choosing a surgeon, when it comes to securing critical business infrastructure, cheap is not always the best choice.”

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