Paramount gears up for security shift

Facing a fresh challenge from the incursion of global systems integration giants, Premchand Kurup CEO of Paramount Computer Systems, is resolute that not only is his company equipped to deal with the new threat, but that it has the answers to what it foresees as the impending 'paradigm shift' in Middle East companies' data protection priorities.

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By  Julian Pletts Published  May 11, 2008

Facing a fresh challenge from the incursion of global systems integration giants, Premchand Kurup CEO of Paramount Computer Systems, is resolute that not only is his company equipped to deal with the new threat, but that it has the answers to what it foresees as the impending 'paradigm shift' in Middle East companies' data protection priorities.

Is Paramount Computer Systems a hybrid distribution-reseller company or do you play in just one field?

We are a systems integration company focused on information security. We understand the technology in its entirety, up the value chain; the process part of information security which is really penetration testing, viability testing and risk assessment.

We're the first Middle East company to be ISO 27001 certified and have the people element with specific knowledge and skill sets that customers need to provide staffing solutions, both short and long term. Our business stands on three pillars: technology, process and people.

What are the trends that you expect to see affecting your business over the coming year?

We see a couple of major trends. One is secure content management. Customers will move to outsourcing the inspection of incoming traffic to organisations like MessageLabs. We have a relationship with MessageLabs because they are the best for our customers in this region.

Also, the customer's attention will move towards inspecting outgoing traffic. Therefore, there will be a huge growth spurt in data leak prevention.

In internal network security there will be a greater number of web application gateways implemented. Customers are becoming more aware of the threats to web applications and that traditional firewalls don't really protect them. The next growth we see is in intrusion prevention systems where we work with TippingPoint.

The third growth area will be in network behavioural analysis. We were the first company to launch a tool in this market and we work with Lanco. We also have one installation in place in Dubai and see customers adopting a combination of IPS and network behavioural analysis.

What is your strategy for the security market this year?

Until now everybody has been focusing their attention towards the perimetre. If you are interested in protecting your data assets look at the data first and take it seriously. The other area of focus is application security.

75% of attacks are directed at applications, but 90% of security spend is on network protection. We've announced a partnership with OunceLabs who have the best solutions for vulnerability assessment. They already have the single biggest order in the Gulf in Saudi.

The other area is identity and access management where we have a dual appliance strategy and six implementations in the UAE.

Explain the paradigm shift in information security solutions, processes and practices.

The industry always looks at physical security first. Then they look at host security, application security and data security. There are two reasons for this. One is that 99% of people involved in security come from a networking domain. There is hardly anyone from an application background.

This is the paradigm shift - start from the data and the application and come down.

How do you address countries in the region outside of the UAE?

40% of the market across the six GCC states is Saudi Arabia - roughly US$100m in 2007 out of US$250m across the six states. Paramount does not exist in Saudi. We have a US$150m market across the other states. We had a company in Saudi, which we sold back to the nationals.

Ultimately it is not just return on investment, it's also return on headache. If there's low headache in other countries and decent growth opportunities then you should grow your business there. In Bahrain and Kuwait we have a joint venture with Intercol. It has been working very effectively and going forward we will scale this relationship.

What annual sales did Paramount achieve last year and what's your target for 2008?

For 2007 we were about US$14m across the countries that we cover, only in information security. Our target for 2008 is to move this to a little under US$25m. We are growing over 70% in both our top and bottom lines.

What does the Middle East channel have to be mindful of in the security solutions market?

The whole business of managed services. I don't think this market will move to managed services at the speed that international players would like it to. This market is an elephant and it takes time to move an elephant.

It has been a very product-focused market in Dubai with excellent traders. It will take time but managed services are still a good growth opportunity.

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