IN THE HOT SEAT: Securing business

While Gary Mitchell is a relative newcomer at Enterasys, he’s no stranger to the world of tech. Working for Computer Associates for the last 15 years — in about every role imaginable — he has seen his fair share of market twists and turns in the security arena.

Running CA’s strategic accounts division — focusing on the large clients in the banking, finance, telco and government — he fine-tuned his skills in sales and marketing. But Mitchell will tell you he’s better known as the “start-up guy”, and gets a kick out of building things from scratch, whether it’s a channel program, a professional services division or nurturing business development initiatives.

He joined Enterasys in February 2003.

What are your main responsibilities in your role as managing director?

GM: The organisation has undergone quite a bit of transition over the last few years. Today, we’re focused on our secure networks strategy and technology. That’s the number one driver throughout the organisation both in Australia and around the world. It’s very timely because most of the IT managers I speak to say security is a bigger issue for them today than it was last year. If you look at 2003, it could be classified as the Year of the Worm or the Year of the Virus.

What does the strategy entail?

GM: If you look at the way the market is focused at the moment, there’s a lot of bolt-on security solutions. Our focus is that the network itself needs to stand up and play a much greater role in the overall security posture of an organisation.

With the bolt-on model, there are more and more things being added to the network: firewall technology, advances in antivirus, intrusion detection, intrusion prevention ... Don’t get me wrong, all of it is very good and necessary and you can never have too much security, but at the end of the day, the question has to be asked, “Where is the network itself in playing a role in the overall defence of an organisation?” If you look at what’s happened over the last 24 months with viruses and that sort of thing, the network has done a fantastic job of pushing that stuff around very quickly. So we’re seeing the focus from the IT department has moved from connectivity and capacity — from the speeds and feeds — to a control focus of the network (how to react in a much more efficient and automated way when some anomaly appears on the network).

What are some of the things the network can do?

GM: We’ve built security capability into the fabric of all of our switching devices. That gives us a couple of different areas where we can add security armour into an organisation’s capabilities.

Firstly, there’s an opportunity to be proactive on day one in terms of deploying security related policies where the switch will recognise something that shouldn’t be in the network and drop it out of the network.

What we need to do is adopt a proactive stance that can deploy policy across the network that says, “If you are this type of device, we will limit your network traffic to only things that are associated to that device.” It makes the network more intelligent.

The second thing is the ability to react quickly to anomalies. We see the network playing a greater part in areas, such as intrusion response, where if an anomaly occurs in the network it should be smart enough to detect it. But, more importantly, is also capable of taking an automated action to terminate the user from the network or put them in the sin bin for 10 minutes.

GM: It’s really looming to be a David and Goliath battle between Enterasys and Cisco in the space around secure networks. We’re the two organisations that are very focused on this area. We have two main differentiators in the battle. The first one is the way we approach secure networks. The approach is focused on access and control, reacting to anomalies in the network, and offering a proactive stance.

And all of the technology and capability to do that is available today. We’ve got clients who are using it and we’re demonstrating it on a weekly basis. Cisco is still in the process of developing it all, and bringing it to market. We believe we have a 12-month lead time ... Partners tell us Cisco is still talking about it and unable to deliver until next year.

How is the company engaging partners to take up arms for Enterasys?

GM: Our approach with the channel is not glossy. You don’t see a lot of glossy ads from Enterasys, but we’ve presented the idea to more than 1000 people this year and shown them the technology that is available. The response from that has been fantastic each week, right around the country. We’re doing technology demonstrations to groups of between five and 25 people.

What are your channel plans for this year?

GM: As we focus on the secure networks strategy, we’re working with channel partners to ensure they are capable of moving to the next step, moving beyond purely connectivity and capacity related sales into security sales — and for some of them that requires a step up. With that in mind, we’ve undergone quite a bit of training with our partners. We are looking for additional partners who come from a security specialist corner of the network marketplace.