• Slimmed‑down list of partners expected to simplify the BT Security sales pitch while ensuring an effective and synchronised managed services wrap.
  • Tenacious smaller vendors maintain a role in the ecosystem, but sector giant Check Point’s role modest, and well‑established ally Symantec off the radar.

Symantec absent as BT picks key security partners

Symantec absent as BT picks key security partners

Source: Roberto Catarinicchia / Unsplash

BT Security unveiled a list of 15 security service providers that are to form a stable of key partners as it seeks to focus its portfolio. The BT Global unit was said to have undertaken a full‑scale appraisal of security suppliers in the context of the wider security vendor ecosystem, and slimmed down its network of solution providers with the aim of simplifying security decisions for its customer base.

BT warned that the current plethora of solutions available in the current market may lead to clients adopting overlapping systems, which increases the difficulty of managing the security estate, harbouring inefficiencies, and potentially having a negative impact on the level of protection offered by the technology. The trimmed down partner list will, according to BT, enable the operator to offer a harmonised portfolio to its enterprise customers on a managed services basis.

BT identified three tiers of security partners:

  • Critical Partners: Fortinet, McAfee, and Palo Alto Networks.
  • Strategic Partners: Cisco, IBM, and Microsoft.
  • Ecosystem Partners: Check Point, CrowdStrike, F5, ForeScout, Netscout, Okta, Qualys, Skybox, and Zscaler.

BT also highlighted the role of its stable of partners in collaboration on new customer solutions.

The security team sheet is expected to be fluid, with BT reviewing vendors, and the sector as a whole, on an ongoing basis.

Familiar names and new faces

Core security solutions look set to be delivered by the Critical Partners with their services incorporated in the BT Security portfolio and the vendors providing commercial and operational backing to the BT unit. The selected partners could not be considered left‑field choices, featuring among the biggest revenue generators in the sector, and already well‑established BT collaborators. BT Security also expects to work with these Critical Partners on development of a roadmap for developing security solutions, with security automation singled out as an area of interest.

The Strategic Partners’ role appears based on their wider relationship with BT Group, and Global’s role as a reseller of their offerings within its own portfolio. Cisco, in particular, is a key BT partner in networking services, and IBM and Microsoft have also entered strategic alliances with BT Global in cloud and virtualised networking services (BTwatch, #292, #308, and passim).

Meanwhile, the Ecosystem Partners appear destined to fill in gaps in the portfolio, through their “complementary technology capabilities”. Several of these BT partners have been working with the operator for some time, including industry giant Check Point (longstanding firewall partner), CrowdStrike (endpoint security and threat intelligence), ForeScout (white label IoT security), Skybox Security (security analytics), and Zscaler (cloud platform security).

Meanwhile, network performance management player Netscout, identity management and authentication service provider Okta, and cloud platform security vendor Qualys, have had a lower profile relationship with the operator.

Comley emphasises importance of integrated security

Speaking to BTwatch earlier in the summer, Adrian Comley, BT Global General Manager for Dynamic Network Services, noted the increasingly enmeshed relationship between selling connectivity and security solutions, and evidence of BT’s integrated approach can be seen in the latest partnerships announcement.

Comley noted that corporate customers are increasingly using solutions that may face the internet in various ways, raising the risk of being hacked or falling victim to DDoS attacks, without the protections afforded by a fully private network — and as such need to have security built in as “an integral part of networking”.

“Years ago, we would have had a separate conversation about networking solutions and security solutions, but these days, it’s fully joined up in terms of having a customer conversation…Having control over their data, making sure that security is applied everywhere in a solution —SD‑WAN, cloud, physical security, authentication of the employee, authentication of the application —all of these things are very much meshed into our discussions with customers around the network solutions.

— Comley.

Comley also promised new solutions that more closely integrate SD‑WAN and security as the Dynamic Network Services portfolio develops, further underlining the importance of the concentrated partner approach that BT Global is undertaking.

BT has already been working with partners on solutions development from a security perspective. Comley highlighted the proactive advisory work BT Global undertakes as part of managing its customer accounts in relation to security, and the collaboration with vendors in ensuring that new solutions and iterations of technology are secure. He highlighted work with Cisco in particular on early testing of the vendor’s solutions as they were adopted for an SD‑WAN environment where BT “helped them effectively evaluate that code before deployment. “Having that kind of test capability, and specifically security capability is quite a big part of our service to our customers”, he added.

Name’s not down, you’re not coming in…

One of the higher profile names missing from the BT rollcall is Symantec. BT has previously flagged around a dozen security products powered by the now Broadcom‑owned solutions provider with multiple solutions introduced under an alliance that appears to have last been renewed in 2017 (BTwatch, #284).

However, the vendor has appeared to struggle in recent years, with the 2019 Broadcom acquisition seeing the split of consumer‑ and enterprise‑focused businesses and diminishing its reach. The new owners also appear to be tightening the focus of the enterprise business, with reports emerging in early‑2020 that under Broadcom it is shedding all but its most profitable customers, and reducing the number of resellers it works with dramatically. It may therefore be that the decision to end the BT relationship was, at the least, a mutual one.

In 2018, BT joined a Microsoft‑led cybersecurity alliance, the Cyber Tech Accord, featuring 30+ members, largely from the security software sector, although with Nokia and Telefónica among the notable telecoms sector signatories. Among the goals of the alliance was the pursuit of engagement and partnership between members. Microsoft aside, none of the alliance’s sign‑ups appear to have progressed a relationship with BT Security, however. This includes BT stalwart VMware, which with its integrated security features in virtualised offerings, might perhaps have expected strategic partner recognition.

Other security partners previously flagged by BT, but now apparently on the wrong side of the velvet rope include Arbor Networks, Darktrace, FireEye, LogRhythm, SecureCloud+, Threat Connect, and Wandera.