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Cisco vows to maintain IronPort tech, talent

As it completes the purchase of IronPort Systems, Cisco vows to maintain IronPort's talent base and make investments to keep its newly-acquired technology fresh.

In some past cases where big IT vendors acquired stand-alone security software companies, customers were dismayed to find the quality of their security tools and services diminished. But Cisco Systems Inc. promises that won't happen with its newly-acquired IronPort technology and staff.

Using acquisitions to boost security:

In an effort to improve the security of their products, many large IT vendors have acquired third-party software companies. Here is a look at some of them:

-- JUNE 2007: HP announces it will acquire SPI Dynamics.

-- JUNE 2007: IBM announces it will acquire risk management software vendor Watchfire Corp.

--FEBRUARY 2007: EMC Corp. announces a definitive agreement to acquire data security firm Valyd Software Private Ltd.

-- JANUARY 2007: Cisco Systems Inc. announces plans to buy Internet security gateway appliance vendor IronPort Systems for $830 million.

-- JANUARY 2007: Fortify Software Inc announces its acquisition of Secure Software Inc.

-- DECEMBER 2006: IBM announces plans to acquire Consul Risk Management Inc., whose software tracks employee behavior and unauthorized records access.

-- SEPTEMBER 2006: EMC Corp. announces its $175 million acquisition of security event management vendor Network Intelligence Corp.

-- AUGUST 2006: IBM announces the $1.3 billion acquisition of Internet Security Systems Inc. (ISS) to bolster its position in the managed security services market.

"We've lost none of our engineers [in the acquisition]," Scott Weiss, former CEO of IronPort and now general manager of the IronPort Business Unit, said last week during a meeting with editors of and Information Security magazine. "We're not merging IronPort into Cisco. We'll still have the same team, the same office and I don't think the culture is going to change. We're keeping the band together."

The San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant announced Monday that it has completed the acquisition of Internet security gateway appliance vendor IronPort Systems Inc. for $830 million in cash and stock, and will add IronPort's email and messaging security features into its security product set. Cisco said the acquisition is also a major step forward in the evolution of Cisco's Self-Defending Network initiative.

IronPort, based in San Bruno, Calif., was founded in 2000 and has 3,000 customers. Its 400 employees are expected to remain on board and the company will continue to run as a separate business unit in Cisco's Security Technology Group.

The IronPort acquisition reflects the larger trend of consolidation in the IT security market, as standalone security vendors struggle to survive and big IT infrastructure providers use acquisitions to integrate more security into its product development lifecycles. In the last month, for example, HP has announced its acquisition of SPI Dynamics and IBM has announced its purchase of Watchfire Corp.

While IT professionals have lauded the smoothness of some acquisitions, such as the merging of Internet Security Systems (ISS) into IBM and the merging of CipherTrust Inc. into Secure Computing Corp., they say they've watched other vendors buy up good security technology only to let it languish.

During the meeting with editors from and Information Security magazine, Weiss and Mick Scully, VP of product management in Cisco's Security Technology Group, promised a seamless integration in which IronPort's talent base is retained and more investments are made in the company's technology. Scully noted that one of the things Cisco looks for when making an acquisition is the talent of the company in question. He added that there has been very little turnover after past acquisitions.

Weiss said keeping good people has a lot to do with company culture and that IronPort and Cisco have established cultures that retain talent.

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