It has been interesting to watch security vendors scramble to deal with the new Gen3 marketing paradigm. The biggest impact seems to be in the security appliance space. While the landscape is quickly changing, I really think it is consumers that will benefit the most as product offerings become more diverse and competition leads to lower pricing.
So what’s driving the change? It comes back to the differences between the Gen2 and Gen3 deployment models. Back in the Gen2 days, SMB and LE networks we’re pretty similar. You deployed an internal infrastructure and grew it as requirements necessitated. Both SMB and LE followed this model. What set them apart was size and complexity. To fit this model vendors would produce a low cost security appliance for SMB space, and then offer larger models to scale through the network achieving LE status. Good deal for vendors, because if you can embed early its difficult to get displaced by a competitor. Swapping out appliances can be extremely resource intensive.
The kink with Gen3 is that SMBs are leveraging public providers for compute, storage and networking. This has changed their buying habits from infrastructure investment, to pay as you go. It is not uncommon to see mid size SMB networks with little to no internal infrastructure beyond a few wireless APs and an Internet connection. So trying to sell a modern SMB an up front cost heavy appliance is like trying to sell an SUV to a Tokyo commuter. You’re going to have a hard time convincing them the huge up front costs are somehow more beneficial than cheaper and highly accessible public options.
For example many vendors have done well selling patch and configuration management appliances. Part of the appeal is that maintaining patches and proper configuration policies is such a baseline security requirement, that everyone needs to address this issue at one point or another. So in the Gen2 days, if you could sell a patch management appliance to an SMB, chances are they would stick with your solution as they grow to LE status.
In the era of Gen3, we are seeing patch and configuration management being offered as a SaaS solution. Besides CloudPassage, we’ve even seen huge companies like Microsoft get into the game. Why pay an up front cost for an appliance that will eventually reach end of life, when you can subscribe to a cloud service with no end of life worries and a far more flexible cost model?
The other benefit the SaaS model brings to the table is geographic flexibility. An onsite appliance may only be capable of managing onsite servers. A SaaS based solution can bring visibility and control to systems world wide. So with the onsite appliance, you may need a secondary solution for servers located in public space. The SaaS model however can cover both public and private deployments.