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Are you responding to the opportunity?

ImageWhat a difference a year can make. Last September we ran a Q&A with John Sheridan, then the newly-named director of security solutions with Nortel Networks. Nortel was getting into the security game, although no one was really sure what their play would be. The best guess was that, like Cisco, they wanted to take advantage of the huge customer installed base that would be looking at integrating IP surveillance devices on to their networks in future.



October 14, 2008
By Jennifer Brown

Sheridan also spoke that fall as part of a panel called “The Industry’s
Magicians: Systems Integrators,” at Securing New Ground in New York.

But on the first day of ASIS International in Atlanta last month I
learned from Sheridan, who is now a security consultant with another
firm, that Nortel was reconsidering its physical security play. It was
the same week the maker of telecom equipment cut its sales forecast for
the year and announced it was looking to sell a key division to raise
cash.

Perhaps it was just bad timing for the seemingly ever-troubled Nortel
to be exploring the security space. Like some other IT companies that
have been testing the waters, it hadn’t been able to make any real
traction in the market.

Then there’s IBM. IBM had a much smaller booth at ASIS than the one it
had at ISC West the previous year, but what I managed to glean is that
IBM is doing what it has always done in these situations — partner with
best-of-breed companies like Genetec and Firetide. However we have yet
to hear about any large projects being deployed here in Canada.

There was also much buzz at the Cisco booth, where it was tough to get
a glimpse at their IP camera technology and access control offerings
because the booth was so busy.

So almost three years in, what has been the impact of the traditional
IT companies as they try and get a piece of the physical security pie?
At a panel I attended at ASIS one industry observer noted that the
presence of these big IT companies has served to push the traditional
manufacturers and integrators to do better.

Industry commentator and former integrator John Honovich of IP Video
Market Info predicted that security integrators will continue to
assimilate people with IT skills into their organizations. And while
the threat has been looming that the IT companies will start to take
over the security integration space because of their blossoming
relationships with the CIO’s office, he predicts companies like ADT and
Diebold will still be the integrators of choice.

In fact Honovich called Cisco’s play in the security industry “mediocre at best.”

“Is its IP camera better than Axis’ (Communications)? No way,” he said.
Cisco wins by doing the “bits and bytes” portion of a project and by
default may make some camera sales.

“I can’t see Cisco being a best-in-class security company. They are pressuring security companies to work harder though.”

Steve Hunt of Hunt Business Intelligence concurred, saying Cisco is simply “responding to the opportunity.”
That’s the state of the industry right now. Given a few more years,
perhaps analysts like Honovich and Hunt might have different views on
Cisco’s hardware or the strength of the IT giants in the market.

What the current state of things does suggest, though, is that security
systems integrators will also want to respond to the opportunity and
keep pushing themselves to better their talent base and improve product
to answer real customer needs.

These IT giants will not lay dormant for long.