McAfee’s Stonesoft Acquisition: A Strategic Enterprise Move With Short- and Long-term Benefits

NGFW bolsters McAfee “Security Connected” initiative and links network- and host-based security

I received an email early this morning announcing that McAfee acquired European Next-generation firewall (NGFW) vendor Stonesoft for $389 million. I’m sure the trade press and young/rich Wall Street analysts are running around asking the obvious question: Who the heck is Stonesoft and why did McAfee cough up so much dough for a virtually unknown company? Allow me to respond to these inquiries via my NWW blog. First , who is Stonesoft? 1. Stonesoft is headquartered in Helsinki Finland. While the company hasn’t really cracked the North American market, it is doing quite well in Europe with over $50 million in revenue in 2012. 2. You may not have heard of Stonesoft but based on what I’ve seen it has very strong NGFW functionality. I’ve also been impressed with the engineering and security chops of the team. 3. Stonesoft has done extremely well in all the 3rd party NGFW tests I’ve seen. Stonesoft excels in high bandwidth and throughput – a critical attribute for 10Gbps campus and 40/100Gbps data center networks. I know what you are thinking: Doesn’t McAfee already have a firewall offering? Yes, McAfee has Sidewinder which came from the Secure Computing acquisition in 2008. Sidewinder is a good product but sales are pretty much limited to the U.S. Federal market. Here’s why McAfee was willing to pay around 7.5x revenue for the company: 1. McAfee can combine Stonesoft with its IDS/IPS into a formidable network-generation security architecture. It can also borrow Sidewinder functionality to expand its footprint in the public sector. As it integrates these products, look for McAfee to take direct aim at Cisco and Juniper with aggressive replacement programs. 2. Stonesoft enhances McAfee’s “security connected” story. McAfee is one of few security vendors with a full portfolio of enterprise products. These products combine to form McAfee’s “security connected” initiative. The goal here is to compete in a multitude of security product categories and also sell the value of an end-to-end enterprise security architecture. McAfee customers can then do tactical product replacements while putting together long term plans for building a McAfee architecture. Stonesoft gives McAfee an attractive foot in the door to make this happen. 3. McAfee can consolidate network- and host-based security controls. Security best practices are based on layers of defense, so doesn’t it make sense for host- and network-based layers to share policy management, enforcement, and intelligence? McAfee and Sourcefire are ahead on this integration already so Stonesoft only strengthens McAfee’s leadership position. Of course there are execution challenges ahead and the technology vendor highway is littered with bodies that underestimated Cisco. Nevertheless, Stonesoft could truly help McAfee raise its game. In the short term, look for McAfee to use its global resources to push Stonesoft in every account kicking the NGFW tires with Check Point, Dell, or Palo Alto. This alone should drive revenue growth this year. By 2014, McAfee should be pushing a unified next-generation network security architecture targeting large enterprise and service provider networks. All the while, McAfee will improve its “security connected” value proposition to go after end-to-end large enterprise deals. Stonesoft isn’t a security silver bullet but it just made McAfee’s overall strategy and success metrics a lot more plausible.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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