Why Open Source Matters to Cisco Security

SAN FRANCISCO – Cisco acquired SourceFire for $2.7 billion in 2013, adding new Firewall and Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) technologies.

Cisco also got something else in the SourceFire deal: SourceFire’s extensive cultural commitment to open source. 

Cisco is no stranger to open source and, more specifically, Linux. Cisco has been using and contributing to Linux for years and in 2008 was identified as a top contributor to Linux.

SourceFire’s open-source experience is a bit different. SourceFire founder Martin Roesch built the company on top of the open-source Snort IPS. During a press conference at the RSA Conference, Roesch said that open source enabled him to build great software

“Open source brought us credibility,” Roesch said. “This is an incredibly powerful way to develop software.”

Roesch said that when he first built Snort, it was entering a space that didn’t exist. Prior to Snort, there was no such thing as an open-source IPS.

Marty Roesch

“Very rapidly we went from having very primitive capabilities to having very sophisticated capabilities as a result of the open-source development model,” Roesch said.

Even now, Roesch said that with most IPS and firewall technologies, the only way to understand how the technology works is to pay a vendor to figure out if it works and has the right features.

“People being able to build their own open-source next generation firewall is a powerful capability that will take us in a new direction,” Roesch said.

Cisco is now continuing and extending the SourceFire open-source heritage with the announcement of OpenAppID, an open-source application identification engine.

Roesch hopes that the OpenAppID effort gains traction and grows within the open source community. Understanding applications on the network is the key to securing them.

Another key benefit of open source Roesch mentioned is that projects can live beyond the boundaries of the organizations and the people that created them.

“The thing about open-source technologies is that they never die,” Roesch said. “As long as someone is still maintaining them, they can stick around forever.”

Roesch added, “That’s what’s so great about competing with open source. There is no company to kill or take out.”

Header photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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