Despite Cisco buy, Sourcefire promises Snort will stick around

October 27, 2013

As KEYW begins its effort to move into commercial work, one neighboring company may provide something of a model.

Earlier this year, Columbia-based cybersecurity company Sourcefire, known for its open-source technology and used by commercial firms and government agencies alike, was acquired by San Jose-based networking-equipment giant Cisco for $2.7 billion.

The deal was one of the most visible illustrations of the way large commercial players are concentrating on cybersecurity, particularly looking to specialized companies to help them advance their own capabilities.

Under the acquisition, Sourcefire, which was founded in 2001 and reported $223.1 million in revenue last year, becomes part of Cisco’s security organization.

Chris Young, senior vice president of Cisco’s security group, said Cisco isn’t just integrating the roughly 650-employee Sourcefire but looking at how Martin Roesch , who founded Sourcefire and now serves as vice president and chief architect for Cisco’s Security Group, and the company can influence the rest of Cisco’s security work.

In particular, Young said Cisco intends to learn from Sourcefire’s focus on open-source products, which he described as “the way forward.”

Young also said the company will benefit from Sourcefire’s location near Fort Meade, which is rapidly becoming the hub of government security efforts. Fort Meade is home to the National Security Agency, the Defense Information Systems Agency and U.S. Cyber Command.

“In many ways, the location in Maryland is strategic,” he said. “A lot of the next of experts in cybersecurity are coming out of that part of the country.”

Roesch and Cisco officials said that Sourcefire will maintain its leadership team and Columbia location.

Major technology companies from Cisco to Dell as well as contractors such as Boeing are increasingly buying or partnering with smaller cybersecurity companies to improve their expertise.

Sourcefire isn’t the only local company benefiting. Dell announced earlier this year that it will install software produced by Fairfax-based Invincea on its computers, particularly those targeted at commercial businesses and public-sector organizations.

Invincea has said it expects the subscription-based service to be installed on more than 20 million computers in the first year.

As Cisco integrates Sourcefire into its company, top executives said the company’s quirky culture will be preserved. Sourcefire had endeared itself to many through its embrace of a pig mascot, used to advertise Snort, its popular open-source security product.

Each year, Sourcefire released calendars featuring the pig; in the 2013 version, he reenacted key moments in history, playing “Albert Swinestein” and “Amelia Warthart,” among others.

“I think Snort is a pretty big global brand,” Roesch said. “Keeping that around is something that will be important long-term.”

He said there may be ways to adapt the brand — including its signature squishy pigs — to be a little more Cisco-like.

“Maybe the squishy pigs will have blue suspenders on or something like that,” he joked, referencing Cisco’s signature logo of blue lines in the shape of a bridge.

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