Effective MSS about more than alert monitoring: new Dell SecureWorks head

Managed security services (MSS) providers are set to enjoy growing demand from enterprise customers as increasing pressure to stay on top of security threats pushes them to enlist outside help, according to the newly appointed head of Dell SecureWorks.

A 20-year veteran of Australia's IT industry, Simon Ractliffe was named by the Dell subsidiary as director and general manager of its Australia-New Zealand operations as it seeks to strengthen its position in the buoyant local security market.

Many were turning to MSS providers after realising that today's threat environment had become too complex to manage effectively using only internal resources, Ractliffe said, noting that increased demand for security capabilities from small and medium businesses had put the squeeze on the local market for security skills.

“A lot of large enterprises have not been able to develop their security operations to a level that they had aimed to develop them to,” Ractliffe told CSO Australia. “And, in the lower and mid-market there is now much greater consciousness and awareness of security.”

“This has created much greater consciousness of the importance of security services, and of having really top-notch security services in the market. The market has just been waiting for a very strong, credible global organisation to enter this market.”

Ractliffe – whose resume dates back to 1990s-era Cabletron Systems and includes stints at CSC, earthwave, and other firms – served as Australasian general manager with security-technology darling Internet Security Systems, helping it to become a $20m business in Australia before it was sold to IBM in 2006.

ISS' work in this region – including the concentration of skills within its newly established security operations centre (SOC) – was “a catalyst for the global acquisition,” Ractliffe reflected, noting that Australia has traditionally had a strong base of IT security skills that was, a decade later, continuing to fuel “very aggressive, dynamic growth” in the overall security market.

Strong demand had made effective recruitment trickier for service providers, he said: “there are so many vacancies these days that it's just an impossible challenge to find the right people,” he explained.

“If you've got a company that knows how to attract these folks, challenge them, excite them, and keep their fingers on the pulse, that's a very appealing proposition. We will always hire threat intelligence experts and incident response experts wherever we find them.”

With skilled staff in high demand, the company will focus both on expanding its internal capabilities and on enlisting channel partners to augment those capabilities. Such partnerships will help Dell SecureWorks strengthen its engagement with customers and the channel alike, with Dell's expanding global MSS business supporting “a symbiotic relationship” with what he expects will peak at around 15 to 20 different channel partners.

The key to success, Ractliffe believes, will be in leveraging those relationships to become a strategic partner for customers – including embedding staff onsite in a 'residency' model that is already in place within some Australian customers – rather than simply providing commodity security monitoring services.

“There has to be a lot more maturity in the way these services are delivered to organisations,” he explained. “A lot of the market is tending to back away from client intimacy; they take the view that they'll take all of a client's logs and tell them if anything goes wrong.”

“That's such a shotgun approach that you can't possibly be successful that way. You've got to learn and to be more intimate with those clients, because you're actually augmenting their capabilities.”

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

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Tags Simon Ractliffemanaged security services (MSS)Dell SecureWorksalert monitoringenterprise customersMSSAustralia's IT industrysecurity skills

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