Days Numbered for Standalone NAC Firms?

Bargain hunting was all the talk of the 451 Group event this week in Boston, where one security pro quipped that vendors should be paying customers to install their software and where anyone remotely smelling of money became suddenly quite popular with other attendees looking to sell things.

"There's a sale on right now, I don't know if anybody's noticed?" said Nick Selby, the chief security guru for 451 Group, which in keeping with the money talk theme dished out phony $1 million bills to attendees as incentive for them to evaluate speakers. "I've never seen such a fantastic opportunity to pick up stuff," he added later, referring to security start-ups whose rock bottom valuations make them relative steals.

Network access control and anti-data leakage are among market segments in which companies and technology assets are already flying off shelves. Selby said the market for standalone companies in those security areas will be kaput by the end of next year, with companies either falling by the wayside or merging/being acquired by others. With respect to NAC, Selby said the technology is getting sucked into identity and access management and NAC vendors are looking to get bought by vendors in the IAM market. (Compare NAC products.)

Such consolidation has happened big time on the anti-data leakage front, where Selby said the number of vendors has been slashed from about 40 to a dozen in the past year as antimalware companies gobble them up. (Catch up on this year's biggest tech M&A deals.)

Bargains are of course also to be had for customers in light of the down economy, Selby said. He asked panelist Grady Summers, chief information security officer at General Electric, about this, and Summers replied -- tongue in cheek, we think -- that anti-malware vendors should be paying customers to put their agents onto their machines given the prime real estate this represents.

Summers also urged customers during negotiations to make sure they aren't just dealing with the No. 1 company in any market segment (Selby earlier in the session made mention of GE booting Symantec in favor of Sophos on the desktop). Summers further called on vendors to listen to his needs instead of hyping him to death: If a vendor could solve his particular data leakage need, for example, he said he'd buy the product tomorrow.

Talk of bargains and wireless market consolidation was also in the air. Jim Somers, vice president of marketing for Antenna Software, said during an interview that CEO Jim Hemmer became suddenly very popular at the event among investment pros in light of Antenna's announcement Monday that it had paid an undisclosed amount for the assets of Vettro, a privately held vendor of mobile applications for the field service industry. They figured Antenna, a privately-held company that sells a mobile applications platform, might have more money to spend.

Hemmer said one reason his company is optimistic despite the condition of the broader economy is that Antenna's software lets customers make what they already have in the way of CRM, ERP or custom applications more efficient. "It's not a replacement strategy," he said.

Money matters also permeated sessions on "Eco-Efficient IT" and open source software.

Michael Crouch, software delivery manager for Wachovia, said that while much of the talk about IT-related energy consumption strategies has focused on the data center, saving energy at the desktop is the really low-hanging fruit. He talked about targeting more than 100,000 desktops that previously were on all the time even though they were only being used five or six days a week. Putting technology in place that can automatically shut down or wake up machines can save a company millions of dollars a year (though he noted in his case, the savings might show up under real estate, not IT). Crouch said Wachovia was able to roll out technology in about six months and found the main challenge to be political issues with various lines of business, not the technology.

On the open source software front, speakers said that it's not all about cost savings. For example, Jack Steadman, manager of architectural development for Smarter Travel Media, said his outfit would gladly have paid Red Hat for support if the value was there. But he said Smarter Travel ditched Red Hat support in favor of handling software maintenance internally because his company had to spend so much time dealing with Red Hat's front line support that it made more sense to just do the support itself.

Raven Zachary, 451's open source research director, said one interesting result of the economic downturn is that more open source projects will be adopted, and down the road that should lead to more commercial open source products.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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