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10/12/2015
05:30 PM
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Dell Acquisition of EMC Has Big Cybersecurity Implications

The devil will be in the details, but if company cooks up a winning integration strategy to combine the likes of SecureWorks and RSA, it is poised to become a major cybersecurity player.

Today’s landmark purchase of EMC by Dell for $67 billion has set the entire tech industry ablaze with talk about what the integration of these two powerhouses will do to the enterprise IT marketplace. With much of the talk focused on the storage play this adds to Dell’s portfolio, it’s easy to forget the security implications of the deal. But both sides of this marriage bring significant security assets to the table—Dell with components from SecureWorks, SonicWALL, and Quest Software and EMC with RSA. There’s significant opportunity for Dell to leverage this deal to make a serious bid for dominating the security market.

“They're getting a tremendous portfolio,” says Richard Stiennon, chief research analyst for IT Harvest and a partner for TrueBit Cyber Partners, which helps investors and IT security vendors do due diligence prior to acquisitions and other big deals. “RSA is a leader in anti-fraud, they've got one of the best security analytics tools – and of course they've got 30,000 customers that use the SecurID token. So I think the security presence in the marketplace will certainly help Dell, because Dell also has a huge overlap with EMC's customer base, but the security of course will really give them a foot in the door, if they can leverage it.”

In particular, Stiennon believes there’s a ton of opportunity for Dell to leverage RSA’s product offerings and executive braintrust to take its SecureWorks MSSP to the next level. However, he says the “confusing” announcement this summer by Dell to take SecureWorks public could potentially throw a kink in that integration. There is a chance that the company could pull back from that decision, as they’re not locked into that move just yet.

Regardless, a huge chunk of RSA’s portfolio lends itself to the services model, Stiennon says.

“For example, NetWitness in particular holds opportunity because its complicated and expensive, and would be an ideal addition as a maintenance service,” he says. “As are managed identity services, which is a big business and there’s tons of potential for that synergy right there.”

Tactically, the combination of the company’s technology could help fill some glaring holes for each, says Rod Simmons, director of product management for BeyondTrust.

“Dell will likely merge their token solution into the RSA product to aid in RSA's poor Active Directory integration issue,” he says. “We can also hope the knowledge Dell brings on the Unix front will solve the painful lack of knowledge that seems to exist at EMC.”

Of course, any kind of synergy that Dell can build from combining the two security organizations all depends on how well the company integrates. And that means not just figuring out how to handle distribution and merging channel strategies but actually making meaningful technological integrations, says Chris Drake, founder and CEO, Armor (formerly Firehost).

“For this enormous acquisition to be successful, all those capabilities must be leveraged on the engineering level and not just on the distribution level,” he says. “Generally organizations struggle on distribution synergies and never get to the product synergies. Only a private company could pull this off, but in doing so must have an authoritarian leadership approach with a committed GM leadership structure.”

It will take quite a while to tell from the outside how that integration will fare, though Stiennon suggests keeping an eye on the team assembled to make it happen. He agrees with Drake that this will depend on how the very top of the food-chain decides to execute its security strategy.

“It all depends on the team that gets assigned and whether there’s a top-down strategy to make the unit a security powerhouse,” he says. “They have to have the right people in place and give them the right marching orders to turn this into a big component of what Dell does.”

He says EMC has done a good job of keeping key thought leaders at the helm at RSA -- like Amit Yoran, formerly CEO of NetWitness and head of the national cybersecurity division within the Department of Homeland Security. Stiennon says EMC's decision to keep Yoran as president of RSA after it acquired the firm was a sign of its commitment to innovation.

“So I’d keep track of what [Yoran] does during this transaction—if he’s still there then expect big things, but if he moves on then it’s probably going to just be more of the usual,” he says.

Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.  View Full Bio

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