Security as a Service - Is it Time?
The Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) market came into existence in the late 1990s. It was built on the premise that dedicated teams of security specialists could provide cheaper and more efficient security services than any enterprise could in-house.
For the most part, MSSPs have failed to deliver on this premise and those that couldn't sustain themselves on thin operating margins were acquired.
The survivors have been relegated to delivering 'plain vanilla' services like firewall or IPS management that help offload some operational burdens, but fall short of the industry's holy grail of end-to-end protection and lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).
However, the market dynamics are changing and demand for a services-based approach to security may finally be arriving.
The Security Dilemma
Enterprises large and small are facing a security dilemma - a widening staffing and skills gap, coupled with a growing arsenal of new security tools to manage.
To help customers address this dilemma, security product vendors are moving into security subcategories such as 'next-gen' endpoint security. Vendors offer these products as proprietary managed services or as optimized white-labeled versions through third-party service providers.
But another option is the 'specialist' MSSP with a singular focus on complex security offerings such as DLP, encryption and key management, identity and access management (IAM) and SIEM tools. These are typically labor-intensive solutions that require substantial resources to deploy and manage.
Unlike the traditional MSSP model, specialist MSSPs go beyond simple 'eyeballs on a screen' monitoring. In addition to reducing operation workloads, they also add needed expertise through industry best practices and hard-to-find experience.
Cloud service providers have also been busy adding their own native security features, both internally developed and via white-labeling relationships.
Cloud provider solutions are largely intended to remove security concerns as a roadblock to cloud adoption, although vendors such as Microsoft, Salesforce and VMware clearly have broader ambitions.
These vendors view their cloud-based security offerings as an avenue to a new revenue source and not just a 'check-the-box' offering.
The security industry as a whole has been forced to reinvent itself every few years to try to keep up with constantly evolving attacks and changing computing models.
Unfortunately, the gap between what enterprises need to do to remain secure and what they are capable of doing on their own continues to widen. This points to the inevitable rise of service-based delivery models to fill the void.
Product vendors will need to embrace a variety of service-based delivery models, whether proprietary, managed by a third-party provider or white-labeled for cloud providers to maximize their reach with resource-constrained customers.
Traditional MSSPs will need to re-tool, re-focus and take advantage of new computing architectures to drive greater economies of scale and better ROI for customers.
Transitioning to higher value-added services will likely help boost top-line performance, though margins will remain a challenge.
- Cloud-friendly product vendors
. Vendors that architect their products for delivery via a multi-tenant architecture can deliver cost efficiencies and economies of scale that exceed the linear scalability of most traditional MSSPs.
- High-touch product vendors
. Vendors offering complex products that require significant implementation times, tuning and staffing could see improved uptake.
- Resource-constrained enterprises
. Though typically viewed as an SMB problem, enterprises of all sizes are faced with the double threat of a security skills shortage and a growing array of increasingly complex security tools.
- Traditional MSSPs that fail to adapt
. Traditional MSSPs will need to evolve to avoid being marginalized by the new security approaches demanded by cloud, mobile, big data, and soon IoT.
- Slow-footed incumbents
. Product vendors that lack the vision or resources to package their products for services-based delivery will see their opportunities slowly erode.
For most enterprises, the numbers are no longer adding up. As new computing models continue adding layers of complexity, beleaguered IT professionals will be forced to rely increasingly on security functionalities delivered as a service-based offering as a matter of sheer survival.
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