Physical security is an important new initiative for Cisco Systems. In 2006, the San Jose-based computer networking giant jump-started its security initiative with the purchase of network-based video manufacturer SyPixx Networks. Since then, Cisco also has announced plans to develop its own access control system. Ray Coulombe, business development manager for Cisco’s Converged Secure Infrastructure business unit, talked to SDM recently about the company’s plans in the physical security market.

SDM: What is the focus of Cisco’s Converged Secure Infrastructure business unit?

Coulombe: The main focus is physical security. The goal is to address physical security with a network-based focus. Increasingly, the network security issues that have been a focus of Cisco all along will come into play. If you deploy devices that have portals into the network, those portals have to be secured.

SDM: Cisco seems to be building its security plans around its Intelligent Converged Environment. Tell me more about that.

Coulombe: First, let me tell you what it isn’t. Traditionally, you’ve had multiple independent systems — CCTV, access control, fire and elevators. All of these were different systems. If you look at just the security portion — video and access control — the linkages are loose at best. In most cases, there are different vendors, and they may have written code to allow the systems to communicate. But I wouldn’t call what’s in the market today tightly integrated or working as a single unified system.

The vision we have is one where the basic intelligence resides in the network. The standard architecture that Cisco has promoted is called SONA, or Service Oriented Network Architecture. What it really means is that you have a standard defined architecture and network plan. Then layered on top of that are business applications. We see security functions being additional applications fitting within that existing, well-proven architecture that could easily interact with other applications.

SDM: What development will Cisco be doing internally involving security products or services?

Our last major announcement was at the ASIS show about access control. Our work there from the network standpoint is internally based. The products will be done in partnership with ASSA ABLOY, but the software and network-based functions are all being done internally.

SDM: Have you already determined channel-partner criteria and selected some partners?

Coulombe: Some partners have been selected already. The criteria were finalized earlier this year. We have a dedicated channel team that is working to identify partners as well as further train those partners.

SDM: How has Cisco positioned itself in the physical security marketplace, especially in comparison with other security manufacturers?

Coulombe: Over the last two to three years, the market has begun migrating toward being IP-based. Cisco comes into this marketplace with a core competency of network expertise. To us, the network isn’t just a cloud. It’s hardware, software and protocols that make it work. Cisco brings a deep network of understanding to the marketplace.

Prior to Cisco’s entry, security was usually deployed on a dedicated network. You could take Category 5 cable and various switches, and depending on the extent of the network, put video in one end and a network out the other. But corporations are interested in taking advantage not only of the existing infrastructure but also in the integration we discussed.
What Cisco brings is to expand beyond where the physical security industry is today. As you deploy the next application onto the network, Cisco will make sure it works just as it has made everything else work. It will settle for nothing less.