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At McAfee Focus 10, customers await integrated chip security

Intel's $7.7 billion acquisition of McAfee could broaden chip-based security initiatives across the entire industry, said McAfee CEO Dave DeWalt at the vendor's annual Focus 10 conference.

LAS VEGAS – When it was announced, there were those who had questions or concerns about Intel's $7.7 billion marriage with security vendor McAfee Inc. Jim Phan of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc., however, wasn't one of them.

A manager for endpoint security at New York-based Pfizer, Phan said he doesn't think the acquisition will have much of an effect on customers like Pfizer and the current product set. McAfee has too much invested in its customer base, Phan said, and its continued push to integrate all its products around a centralized management console -- the ePolicy Orchestrator (ePO) -- is proof the company is investing in research and development to roll out new products.

"In the end, the acquisition doesn't matter because we're still dealing with the same people," Phan said. "It's really just about what makes sense for the two companies."

Those themes were also present in the opening keynote at the McAfee Focus 10 annual user conference. Attendees viewed a taped message from Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini, reassuring McAfee customers and partners that the chip giant plans to keep its hands off McAfee, at least in the near term. He reiterated Intel's message that security works best when integrated with hardware.

"We're not moving McAfee away from the software-based endpoint security technologies that it is best known for today," Otellini said. "McAfee will maintain all its current product lines and support for all its platforms."

McAfee President and CEO Dave DeWalt reiterated that message. During his time on stage, he said the two companies would work in tandem to create new products for emerging technologies that can architecturally benefit from hardware-based security.

"There's a lot of work that we can do together to build out the next generation of products with Intel," DeWalt said. "This going to be a whole new era for this company. They're going to invest in us and make this work ... and they're going to give us the autonomy that is necessary."

The goal is to enable down-the-stack protection, DeWalt said, using chip-based security to wipe, lock and kill lost or stolen devices or improve management technology that can talk to a device's firmware. For example, McAfee could use its patch management capabilities and leverage silicon to improve power management and save enterprises money, he said.

"Instead of running in the application layer, we have to think about technologies at a lower level in the stack," DeWalt said.

Conference attendee Tim Mooney, senior business leader of global information security at Visa Inc., said DeWalt's message is quickly aligning with Intel, which has talked about integrated chip security since 2003. Future products that offer that level of security, he said, could be exciting.

"I think we've reached the point where some of this can finally become a reality," Mooney said. "When you marriage the chip set with security you take out almost the entire OS game from the bad guys."

DeWalt also addressed some of McAfee's latest product announcements, including the release of McAfee's new virtualization platform, McAfee Management Optimized for Virtualized Environments AntiVirus (MOVE AV). The security vendor has worked with Citrix Systems Inc. on the desktop side and VMware Inc. on the server side to apply antivirus in the network layer of a virtualized environment with minimal performance degradation. McAfee is integrating the MOVE platform into ePolicy Orchestrator.

Wee Ming Teo, an IT security specialist at Malaysian-based satellite broadcaster Astro, said the proof that Intel is successfully managing its acquisition of McAfee will be in the details of future security products, which so far have not been revealed. For now, he said, McAfee seems focused on building out its current product set.

"I look forward to seeing future products," Teo said, "but I guess we'll have to wait and see."

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