With its recent announcement that it would acquire managed security services provider SecureWorks Inc., computing giant Dell Inc. made clear its intention to beef up its security offerings and compete against other large vendors for sales of both systems and services.
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For that reason, solution providers and analysts are optimistic about the opportunities the Dell-SecureWorks deal will create for Dell resellers, while recognizing that the acquisition will likely cause disruption before benefits can be realized.
The MSSP security opportunity
Prior to this acquisition, Dell was not a player in the the MSSP security market. IBM established a foothold in the market with its acquisition of ISS in 2006, and Hewlett-Packard Co. followed by acquiring StillSecure in 2009 and ArcSight in 2010. The moves gained IBM and HP positive reviews from research firms Gartner Inc. and Forrester Research Inc.
With Atlanta-based SecureWorks in hand, Dell inherits a base of MSSP security customers. Forrester estimates that SecureWorks currently has 2,800 MSS customers; this immediately gives Dell an installed base between IBM (with 3,800 MSS customers) and HP (with 1,000 customers), according to Forrester data.Midsized businesses are as likely, if not more likely,
to sign up for managed security services, so this acquisition is absolutely a good thing for Dell resellers right now.
Although SecureWorks had established a channel partner program, it didn't sign up many solution providers. Forrester estimates that just 5% of SecureWorks' revenue came through its channel partners.
Solution providers react to the Dell-SecureWorks deal
Hudson, Mass.-based Networks Unlimited Inc., is both a SecureWorks partner and a Dell partner. Harry J. Segal, president of Networks Unlimited, said he will wait for the dust to settle before he can assess the effect of the acquisition on his company, but he is guardedly optimistic.
"Compared to most acquisitions of our business partners," Segal said, "we're slightly more comfortable with this one, in large part because we are already a Dell channel partner."
Dell's acquisition of SecureWorks is good news for Dell partners, according to Khalid Kark, vice president and research director at Cambridge Mass-based Forrester Research Inc.
"We are seeing a huge shift in midsized businesses toward using a third party to manage core security requirements," Kark said. "Midsized businesses are as likely, if not more likely, to sign up for managed security services, so this acquisition is absolutely a good thing for Dell resellers right now."
Rick Donnelly, vice president of professional services at San Diego-based Technology Integration Group, a Dell Certified Partner, welcomes the new offerings from Dell and said he looks forward to offering his customers an increased variety of security product options.
Changes following the acquisition
The changes involved in any acquisition can disrupt sales and support, which is often a primary concern for solution providers. "We've been very confident in SecureWork's managed services. Some of that confidence is diminished by this acquisition, due to the importance of the business processes and people that make SecureWorks successful," Segal said. "It would be highly unusual for this type of acquisition to avoid being disruptive to both of these [business processes and people]."
SecureWorks and Dell resellers can expect questions about the acquisition from their customers. In its published analysis on the acquisition, Gartner advised Dell customers who are interested in MSSP to ask for discounted pricing on SecureWorks offerings. But details such as the pricing strategy of the combined companies are not yet clear, and solution providers should proceed with caution.
"What we are told during the few months before and after an acquisition isn't nearly as important as the reality that arrives later," Segal said.
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