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Security Suite or Best-of-Breed Product? Yes, and Yes.

April 07, 2010

I was recently asked by a reporter, “Is the trend towards comprehensive security suites a positive development, or does Accuvant prefer to assemble a solution from various best-of-breed products?” Personally, I don’t think this question can be easily answered, nor do I necessarily agree that the trend exists, at least to any greater extent than it has over the past ten years.

When making a decision between competing products - assuming there were no considerations beyond which technology performs best, solves the problem or enables the business most efficiently – then a ‘best-of-breed’ approach would clearly be preferred over a product suite. In fact, that approach is Accuvant’s preference when presented with a ‘perfect world’ scenario. However, we don’t live in a perfect world. If we did, John Elway would be getting ready to lead the Denver Broncos to a record 15th straight Super Bowl victory, and he is not. In this world, we need to consider things like budget constraints, technology interoperability, training investments and the New England Patriots.

While I don’t think an organization’s security strategy should be dictated by cost considerations, there is a tendency towards overkill in the technology sector, especially in our space. Time and again, we’ve seen ant-sized problems that dozens of manufacturer salespeople are ready to sell a sledgehammer, a trebuchet or an ICBM, with the only question being which color trebuchet is best suited. (Of course, I am not referring to any of Accuvant’s partner reps here, all of whom are saintly.)

Instead, I am presupposing that a best-of-breed approach is more costly than the adoption of a product suite, which I think is safe. What I’m not saying, however, is that individual point solutions in a suite are inferior technologies to those offered by independent, focused, niche players. In fact, even when that is the case, it is usually short-lived as larger companies – the big fish - acquire the innovators – the small fish - and incorporate them into their solution suites. Data loss prevention (DLP) technology provides a great example of this dynamic, as demonstrated by the flurry of acquisitions over the past few years.

DLP also offers an example of other factors that an organization must weigh when making a technology decision. If we assume – solely for the sake of argument – that all DLP solutions are equally capable and that they all cost the same amount, then it is safe to say that the client’s decision will be based on its relationships or the investment it has made in the “big fish” company. If the client has made a significant investment in EMC and RSA, for example, then the RSA DLP solution will likely win based on its interoperability with other EMC/RSA products, the client’s (IT staff) knowledge of RSA solutions, and probably even volume pricing arrangements in place with EMC/RSA. Again, I am not saying all DLP products are the same, but I do not think an organization would be well-served by comparing DLP products without considering how each DLP product fits into the manufacturer’s solution suite.

To sum up, I think there is a place for both a best-of-breed and a product suite approach. I also think a good reseller partner should take the time to understand its client’s needs, be knowledgeable and current on manufacturers’ products, consider the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches, and only then arrive at and offer the best possible solution. “Is the trend towards comprehensive security suites a positive development, or does Accuvant prefer to assemble a solution from various best-of-breed products?” Yes, absolutely.


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