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Security Poised To Grab Bigger Piece Of IT Pie, Gartner Says

Analyst firm offers view of security market as it prepares for summit next week
Despite widespread cutbacks in spending and new initiatives, IT security continues to hold its own in most enterprises, and is actually climbing up the corporate ladder in many organizations.

That's the consensus of opinion at leading industry analyst firm Gartner, which is preparing for its annual Gartner Security Summit in Washington, D.C. next week. The consulting firm will release its yearly, forward-looking report on the security industry at the event.

In a preview interview with Dark Reading earlier today, Gartner security analyst Adam Hills said that security projects and functionality are gaining attention in the corporate boardroom and claiming a larger portion of the IT budget pie.

"IT spending in 2009 is basically flat, with some companies making cuts, but we're seeing security spending increase slightly," Hills says. "If both of those hold true throughout the year, then it's clear that security spending will end up comprising a larger portion of the total IT budget [than in 2008]."

Perhaps just as importantly, security is gaining attention at the highest levels of the organization, according to Gartner. In the company's latest figures, some 32 percent of companies say they are holding regular discussions and making security decisions at the corporate board level, and another 5 percent said those decisions are made at the owner, president, CEO or CFO level. Only 20 percent of companies said those decisions were made at the CIO level, and only 10 percent said the buck stopped at the CSO's desk.

"What that means is that security decisions are being recognized as central to the business, which is one of the reasons why the security is comprising a larger percentage of the IT budget," Hills says. "The CSO can no longer go and hide in a corner and make all the decisions."

This assertion is supported by a separate IT plans and priorities survey released earlier today by Microsoft and Harris Interactive. In that survey, companies rated security as the No. 1 challenge in managing their IT infrastructure, and 73 percent of respondents said that protecting customer and company data will be the top priority for IT decision-makers during the next one to three years.

While enterprises are continuing to push security in the boardroom and on their balance sheets, the way they spend their money is shifting slightly, Hills observes. While investment in large, next-generation security projects is frequently being put on hold, there is a strong movement toward spending on outsourcing and third-party security services. Some 30 percent of companies now say they are spending at least 10 percent of their security budgets on software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings.

"While overall security spending is increasing slightly, the investment in capital expenditures is actually on the downturn," Hills says. "Companies are looking for creative ways to finance their security spend, and that means they're taking a harder look at managed services and SaaS." Commodity security capabilities -- such as antivirus, anti-spam, email security, and Web security -- are among the most likely functions to be outsourced or converted to SaaS, he says. "Log management is another area that we see emerging as an opportunity for service providers," he adds.

And large companies are looking to further consolidate the number of security vendors they support in their IT infrastructure, Gartner says. In the study, some 42 percent of enterprises said they prefer to use one vendor for most applications, with best-of-breed technologies entering only for specific functionalities. Thirty-four percent said they favor security suites.

"A couple of years ago, there was a study that said the average large enterprise had 31 security vendors in its IT infrastructure," Hills recalls. "That number has shrunk significantly, and I think we'll see it shrink even more as companies like McAfee come out with multifunctional capabilities like firewall, end point protection and DLP. It costs less to manage 15 vendors than 31."

But there's still room for smaller security players to make an impact on the market, Hills says. "Look at some of the anti-botnet vendors," he notes. "They have made a major impact in just the last year or so. And there is still investing going on in startup companies."

And although Gartner predicts overall growth in security software spending will increase at a modest 9.5 percent annually through 2013, there are some significant markets still waiting to be captured, Hills says. Small and midsize businesses, many of which haven't made significant investments in security infrastructure, are being pushed to implement more technology because of government and industry compliance guidelines, he notes. And the federal government is poised to do significantly more spending on cybersecurity initiatives, opening up new markets for security vendors.

"If you judged simply by the number of vendors briefing us on their federal government initiatives, you'd think the market has already doubled," Hills joked. "There definitely are a lot of vendors that are expecting a big bump in federal security spending."

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