How to Become a “Visionary” Managed Security Services Provider

By Stephan Tallent | December 21, 2017

A number of IT market analyst firms promote graphical quadrants or grids as a popular means for evaluating vendors. These grids typically portray how vendors stack up against competitors and the degree to which their products or services deliver customer value on a “X” axis, against vendor ability to make, sell, service, and evolve their offerings along a “Y” axis. These evaluation tools place vendors into different regions on the chart, with the upper right as the most desirable location.

Product vendors aren’t the only organizations that care about how they rank in such analyst quadrant exercises. Managed Security Services Providers (MSSP) care about their rankings in such things as well. But there is an issue in some of the MSSP rankings I’ve seen lately. In many of these analyst reports, no MSSPs are considered to be innovators or visionary, and the lower right section of the grid is empty.

Calling All MSSP Innovators

In the past, I’ve always viewed MSSPs that managed to fall into the visionary category as up and comers. Very often, these are smaller companies with breakthrough offerings that haven’t yet evolved or grown to their full potential. In a market segment as dynamic, rapidly changing, and urgently in need of innovative solutions as cybersecurity, the lack of recognized visionary MSSP vendors signals a huge market opportunity begging to be filled.

The nature of the MSSP business offers an ideal playing field for fast-footed players to develop innovative offerings targeting the most vexing cybersecurity problems facing private and public organizations. MSSPs thrive by integrating off-the-shelf products with innovative thinking and effective action to address urgent customer needs. The recipe for MSSP visionary success calls for equal parts technical savvy, street smarts, and fanatical devotion to end-customer success.

Burning Issues Seeking Visionary Solutions

I can think of several burning issues ripe for resolution by visionary MSSPs. Not only are these unsolved problems, but they offer tremendous rewards to whichever MSSP can deliver solutions to resolve them in the marketplace. The following are some of the ones that I believe are ripe for picking:

AI and Machine Learning. These MSSPs will figure out how to incorporate artificial intelligence or machine learning into the incident response process. Although our industry has made great strides in identifying and sharing information about developments in the threat environment, this process is woefully lagging behind adversary innovation. What if IT environments could self-diagnose and respond to previously undocumented anomalies that signal an intrusion or breach? Usage-based machine learning filters and artificial intelligence (AI) engines from providers such as Amazon and Google make this capability available to MSSPs that have the ingenuity to put them to work in active-response security services.

Multi-cloud Security. Organizations increasingly rely on multiple clouds that communicate and exchange data between each other. Operating separate security within each cloud silo is no longer practical or possible. Instead, organizations require transparent visibility and controls within each as well as across all of them. Guidance for customers on data ownership, work load migration, and cloud federations are currently the domains of specialized companies. The problem is that they leave security up to the customer. Security is hard enough, and cloud migration and multi-cloud environments exacerbate the situation. The world will beat a path to the door of the MSSP provider who figures out how to solve this challenge.

Internet of Things (IoT). IoT devices lack the processing power or memory to support anything but most basic native security functionality—if they even possess those capabilities at all (viz., some are headless). These dumb devices present unique—and difficult—security challenges. It’s still early days for IoT security, and the nature of innovations yet to come is hard to predict. One thing is for certain, however. IoT will increasingly become a preferred attack vector for the bad guys.

Big Data. Big data has emerged as a strategic tool for supporting security policy decisions and countermeasures. The world’s computing infrastructure generates countless petabytes of unanalyzed operational data that can conceal malfeasance or reveal unsuspected vulnerabilities. Bringing big data analysis to cybersecurity, along with proactive policy formulation and enforcement, could open up new vistas in predictive threat identification and preemptive response. The same capabilities being used in big data analytics to ascertain health risks and criminal activity can be put to use in next-generation managed security services.

360-Degree Threat Picture. Almost every customer struggles under the weight of managing multiple security technologies that do not talk to each other. They need a 360-degree view of the threat landscape in order to effectively protect their environments from malicious intrusions and to detect and mitigate them when they do occur.

Historically, security operators deployed multiple technologies, often from diverse vendors, to address different security challenges and the different pieces of their IT infrastructure. Needless complexity and blind spots have inevitably ensued, creating a complex security technology sprawl. Providing a true “single pane-of-glass” view into the threat environment not only resolves this fractured approach to security, but also paves the way to responding to threats in virtual real time as well as developing and managing policies across all of the segments of the attack surface. Increasing RESTfulness among market-leading security companies creates a new opportunity to integrate multiple security technologies through new managed security services offerings.

Fortinet + MSSP = Visionary Synergies

Fortinet makes one of the broadest and most innovative lines of cybersecurity products on the planet. In addition, they are also fully integrated with automated controls, allowing them to not only communicate seamlessly with each other, but also with other third-party solutions. Combined, these solutions comprise the Fortinet Security Fabric, where the sum of Fortinet’s technologies is much greater than the individual parts. Individually, they are world class solutions, but as building blocks they are able to deliver extreme levels of value when integrated into complete solutions.

I am continually amazed at the technical savvy and entrepreneurship of the growing Fortinet MSSP community. I’m sure that more than a few of them have the drive and instincts to become visionaries, and that Fortinet’s offerings will play a major role in enabling them to address today’s and tomorrow’s burning issues across the cybersecurity space. To gather more insights on digital transformation and how it is creating opportunities for MSSPs, download a copy of our recent paper, “How Digital Transformation Is Impacting Managed Security Services Providers.”