Extreme, McAfee Partner for Enterprise Network Security

Last week, intelligent switching infrastructure vendor Extreme Networks announced a strategic alliance with the computing/networking security giant McAfee, Inc.

In the first stage, the partnership will be primarily market focused, Extreme director of marketing for enterprise convergence Huy Nguyen told Enterprise Networking Planet.

“The definition of the alliance is a Joint Go-to-Market as well as Meet the Channel,” he said. Given the amount of channel overlap between the two organizations, it made tremendous sense ” to develop this alliance to go after mutual customers – as well as to go after our mutual competitors’ customers,” he said.

McAfee was an ideal choice of partner for Extreme, Nguyen said, as it is a strong brand with strong recognition in the area of security “and a lot of very great security technology overall.”

One of the key advantages, Nguyen pointed out, is that “they are one of the few out in the market that provides anything like their ‘Global Threat Intelligence’ ” (a system of sensors and other intelligence gathering devices spread throughout the Internet – and its customers’ premises). “They’re able to gather information about new threats that are emerging, as well as tracking existing threats – worldwide.”

Indeed, the scope and resources of McAfee’s GSI platform are impressive, with 50 million enterprise and 100 million consumer nodes being tracked, 25 million Web sites classified (with over 400,000 ‘zombies‘ identified every day), 50,000 malware samples taken daily (and 1.5 million instances detected in 2008) – and ongoing research in e-mail security, network vulnerability, regulatory compliance, and more.

Moreover, McAfee has a very comprehensive, multi-purpose security platform, according to Nguyen – although the portfolio the Extreme is looking to McAfee to provide is relatively simple, at least at this stage, he said.

“We’re looking at going to customer accounts with them in regards to their IPS IDS (intrusion protection/detection system) platform, also the firewall platform, the data leakage solutions, as well as their webmail and e-mail security platforms.” These and other McAfee capabilities will, going forward, be part of Extreme’s ‘Extensible Ecosystem,’ supplementing Extreme’s in-house security products, Sentrient AG (for network access control) and Sentrient NG (for threat detection by behavioral analysis), which focus on activities within the LAN.

Down the road the Extreme/McAfee alliance will be enhanced by technical integration of the two product lines. Although the timeline is not yet in place, the roadmap is already being sketched out.

One focus of the integration effort, according to Nguyen, will be McAfee’s centralized security consold, ePolicy Orchestrator, which gathers security related information – virus attacks, for example – from all the endpoints on the network.

“What we want to do when we come in and innovate with McAfee is provide the network infrastructure view – provide those events to the centralized location as well. So that way, from the IT perspective, it’s not just viewing the end-host security console, but also viewing the events of the network infrastructure,” Nguyen said.

“For example, if there’s a CPU DoS attack on our switch, we could send that alert to the ePolicy Orchestrator. If there’s a broadcast storm, if there’s a rogue access that we detect, we’re going to alert that and send it back to the McAfee. So for the IT guy, all that is residing within a central location.”

The other area of integration we’re looking to work towards is where once McAfee’s IPS or firewall determines that there is an actual threat, we can have McAfee communicate with our switches to take action at the port level – ‘denied’ or ‘rate limit’ or ‘quarantine’ – at that specific IP or MAC address at the point of entry.”

Current Analysis research director Andrew Braunberg sees the alliance as “a good move for both companies.” Up till now, Extreme had to go into sales meetings without a comprehensive companion security offering, he pointed out to Enterprise Networking Planet – a serious disadvantage when going up against the big guys – particularly Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks – who have long had solid security portfolios.

“If Cisco and Juniper are tier one players,” Braunberg said, “I’d have put Extreme in tier three as a security solutions provider. This alliance with McAfee catapults them up at least one level.”

For McAfee, which has a lot of OEM relationships, the visibility of this partnership accelerates its push into the enterprise mainstream. And “from a sales point of view, Extreme couldn’t find a better partner than McAfee,” Braunberg suggested – although the relationship may not be without some risks for the switch vendor. “What if HP bought McAfee?” he speculated.

In any case, industry dynamics aside, the partnership “will take six to twelve months to work through to see how much fruit this will bear for the customer,” Braunberg said.

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