Cisco acquires Okena

Following on from its recent acquisition of Psionic Software, Cisco Systems has announced plans to purchase endpoint security vendor, Okena. The deal is part of Cisco’s plans to strengthen its network security portfolio.

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By  Zoe Moleshead Published  February 26, 2003

|~||~||~|Following on from its recent acquisition of Psionic Software, Cisco Systems has announced plans to purchase endpoint security vendor, Okena. The deal, which will set the networking giant back US$154 million in stock, is part of Cisco’s plans to strengthen its network security portfolio.

With the deal expected to be complete by the third quarter of this year, Cisco has already begun integrating Okena’s server, desktop and laptop solutions into its own security management software.

Okena’s StormWatch Management Console will be incorporated into Cisco’s VPN (virtual private network) and Security Management Solution (VMS), while its StormFront products are also expected to feature in the vendor’s enhanced security offering.

“Integrating this [Okena’s technology] with Cisco’s existing security offering will boost our existing host based intrusion detection system (HIDS) offering and will compliment Cisco’s family of network intrusion detection systems (IDS),” says Richard Palmer, vice president & general manager, virtual private network & security (VSEC) business unit, Cisco Systems.

“In addition, Okena technology will provide enhanced protection for Cisco server-based solutions, such as IP Telelphony Call Manager and Network Management applications,” he continues.

Okena’s solutions protect devices by analysing behaviour as opposed to matching signatures. According to Cisco, this offers higher levels of security because it negates the need to identify a signature before taking defensive action. Additionally, it tackles the problem of unknown signatures entering networks undetected.

“Okena’s technology goes beyond conventional host/desktop security by identifying and preventing known and unknown attacks before they can occur… Behaviour-based protection for unknown threats also reduces the urgency for deploying security-related patches to vulnerable systems and reduces the number of false-positive alarms, thereby cutting operating costs,” explains Palmer.

For Cisco, the acquisition of Okena is an opportunity to expand their existing network security offerings, while increasing the integration between the two components — network and security — which in turn should help it garner a larger slice of the market share.

“The acquisition of Okena reinforces Cisco’s commitment to leadership in the network security market and is part of a significant initiative to more tightly integrate network and endpoint security,” confirms Palmer.

However, Cisco’s move into endpoint security has been met with a mooted response from analysts. Gartner Group in particular has expressed caution about the network vendor’s decision, iterating its past success in reselling security software as opposed to developing its own solutions.

“To meet its corporate goal of providing solution sells, Cisco had resold — rather than acquired — software security solutions… Gartner believes that was a powerful strategy for Cisco to increase its leadership in network security over the long term,” says the analyst group.

“Although Okena has first-rate technology, this acquisition breaks with Cisco’s previous strategy. Cisco [does] not have any demonstrated competence in developing and selling server or PC-based security software, it also swims against some powerful market currents,” adds Gartner.

Furthermore, the analyst house highlights the limited scope of Okena’s solutions and the changes that are expected within the desktop security market with the launch of Microsoft’s Longhorn operating system in 2005. Gartner Group suggests that with the introduction of Longhorn, security application programming interfaces or web services will be embedded into operating systems and automatically support virus updates and other security products, which will negate the need for client software.

“Microsoft will make similar moves on the server side as well, thereby, limiting the demand for Okena’s StormWatch product in all Microsoft environments. Okena does not bring broad platform support to Cisco, beyond Windows, Okena supports only Solaris,” says Gartner Group.||**||

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