I have been at the McAfee (NYSE: MFE) Fusion Conference this week, and this group is clearly fired up about their acquisition by Intel and their recent sales successes against much larger Symantec (Nasdaq: SYMC). The firm is the first to truly look at the need to provide end-to-end security and include as the end points iPhones and iPads, with the realization that IT folks just don't have the power to say no, and they need a way to allow these products in without compromising company security.

Kicking Symantec Butt
We spend a lot of time talking about the need to focus in my industry, and this appears to be at the core of why McAfee has reportedly been kicking Symantec's butt over the last few months. Symantec went into storage and systems management and took on giants like EMC in the process. To do that, they evidently replaced their sales force with storage sales folks who don't understand how to sell security products. The result is they are reportedly bleeding revenue like a stuck pig.

McAfee, on the other hand, doubled-down on security companies, buying two that bracketed consumer and corporate device security. It was this move that made them so attractive to Intel, because Intel needed a security solution for their entries in the tablet, smartphone, and embedded markets.

Now, McAfee is the only major vendor who can deal with these new classes of connected devices, and it has resulted in a money machine for them.

Kicking Cisco Butt
What most people don't seem to get about Firewalls is that they are a security product more than a networking product. Their differentiation isn't network speed, but their ability to effectively prevent intrusion and block malware. You don't buy a Firewall, or any type of security product, because it is the fastest -- you buy it because it is the most secure, and just as you wouldn't shop for a lock from a company that specialized in fast hinges, you likely shouldn't buy a Firewall from someone that specializes in speedy networks.

Show vendors like Brocade are pointing out that McAfee's routers are between 3 times and 10 times more effective at protecting the enterprise than routers from vendors like Cisco. This is why they resell them rather than building one of their own, they simply don't have the needed security expertise.

This is kind of fascinating, because I was unaware that McAfee routers were this much better, suggesting they should take some of the money they just got from Intel and fund a stronger marketing program because, in this unsecure world, that kind of an advantage should be a bigger money machine than it currently is. Few companies can kick Cisco's butt, but where they do, it is because Cisco simply doesn't have the expertise, and Cisco isn't a security expert.

Coming Up
Security is in the process of evolving from a reactive technology which, after seeing a threat, responds to it. To a proactive technology that anticipates threats and prepares defenses against them. It does this by analyzing malware and attack methods to determine future attack methods, and then uses the network to update the appropriate security components to prevent the success of these anticipated attacks.

But this isn't just against PCs and servers, but increasingly against smartphones and tablets as well. These newer products don't have the headroom for internal analysis, and they increasingly depend on cloud-based services to identify and black-list malware before it can even get to the phone. But, if you think about it, with cars, aircraft, and embedded systems becoming increasingly connected, these mobile systems will be asked to protect these systems as well.

In short, the future of security is likely to be largely hosted systems that increasingly protect everything from cars to TVs, and that is what McAfee is attempting to build.

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