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IBM Buys Into Security Compliance

Acquisition of Consul gives Big Blue a new weapon in match between enterprises and security auditors

IBM did its holiday shopping a little early this year, picking up security information management and compliance tool vendor Consul today for an undisclosed sum.

Consul, a 20-year-old company originally founded to do mainframe data and usage auditing, is one of several smaller security vendors that makes tools for collecting information about user access and activity across an enterprise. Such data is critical in the effort to meet security requirements outlined in a variety of government and industry policies and regulations, including Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA.

The buyout of Consul, a privately-held company, is IBM's eleventh acquisition this year. Financial terms were not disclosed. IBM already has acquired Internet Security Systems (ISS), which offers a variety of security management tools, and Micromuse, which offers software for IT event management and correlation.

"This adds a missing element to our portfolio: a tool that helps manage the compliance effort," says Steven Adler, program director for IBM's Data Governance Solutions group. "Customers have been telling us for some time about the challenges surrounding audits -- we've heard of CSOs who are now spending more than 50 percent of their time just reporting audit results."

IBM has been offering security tools for years through its Tivoli subsidiary, which offers identity and access management applications for large enterprises. The Consul products will be integrated with the Tivoli line, and perhaps with the ISS security products and the Micromuse event management tools down the road, Adler says.

Consul's "auditor-in-a-box" tool set will help IBM collect data not only about how security access is programmed, but also about the ways that enterprise systems are used, Adler says. "It gives us the validation layer that we didn't have before, where we can see who's using which resources."

Adler compared Consul's product to the "black box" that some auto insurance companies have given to customers in order to track their driving habits and behaviors. "It allows the insurance company to get a better idea of what the risks are when they insure a given customer," he says. "The same principle applies to security auditing -- if you collect information on what the end user is doing, then you'll have a better idea of what your risks are."

There are several security information management (SIM) companies rumored to be on the selling block, according to Eric Ogren, security analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. "The SIM market has always been a displacement market, where a vendor simply displaces an incumbent that cannot meet expectations," he says. "It is a vicious cycle leading to a crash event, where small vendors are getting scooped up for pennies on the dollar."

IBM was attracted to Consul by its support of a variety of operating systems, including IBM mainframe environments, Adler says. "There is still a lot of critical data residing on the mainframe, and a lot of other audit tools don't address that."

Big Blue hasn't developed a plan for integrating the Consul technology with its Tivoli, ISS, or Micromuse offerings, but tying it to the Tivoli Access Manager suite will probably be a first step, Adler predicts.

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

  • Consul Risk Management Inc.
  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)
  • IBM Tivoli
  • IBM Internet Security Systems
  • Micromuse Inc. (Nasdaq: MUSE)
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