Friday Summary: May 13, 2011

If you follow me on Twitter (@rmogull) you might suspect that last week I took a short vacation. And that said vacation started somewhat auspiciously. And said event really pissed me off to a degree I normally don’t let myself hit. And, just perhaps, American Airlines was responsible. Like many of you I spend a heck of a lot of time in airports. Enough that I tend to shun personal travel since it isn’t really worth the hassles. Starting a vacation at the airport is, for me, like trying to start a vacation by heading to work in a traffic jam, hunting for a parking spot, getting groped by the security guard at the door, and having my ass duct taped to a chair for 5 hours while being force-fed flavored cardboard. Well, I suppose there’s beer and wine. If by “beer” you mean some piss-yellow watered down crap with a german name, and by “wine” you mean a small bottle of grape juice likely fermented in a cattle stall. Back to the story. This trip was special. It was the first time my wife and I would get away without the kids since our second little nugget showed up. Plus it was for my 40th birthday and our 5th anniversary. The idea of sleeping more than 3-4 hours at a stretch was drool-inspiring. Our first plane took off on time. It even landed early. WAY early. At the airport we started from. With a mechanical. As soon as we hit the runway I was calling AA and holding a space on a backup for our connecting flight. Then we were told it would be a 2 hour wait (at least) so I was back on the phone getting our next flight, and then an even later connecting flight to our eventual destination. Our new flight was then delayed. With a mechanical. We landed with mere seconds to spare for us to get to our connecting flight, so we literally sprinted through the airport and arrived maybe 60 seconds after the 10 minute cutoff. Most airlines will hold a connecting flight for a minute or two, or at least leave the gate door open a little longer, if they know there are connecting passengers and it’s the airline’s fault they’re late. But not AA. That door slammed closed leaving about 5 of us (from different delayed flights) waiting another 4 hours for the next one. For the first time ever I asked to speak with a supervisor. He told me that because they were #16 of 17 for on-time rate, they never hold flights. Nice. So they get to maybe improve their numbers and piss off their passengers in the process. While I was speaking with him about a half-dozen other passengers from different flights and connections all made the same complaint. This is a classic example of focusing on a metric to the detriment of the business. As for us? We finally got to our destination over 7 hours late. On the upside it was the Margaritaville Beach Resort and the bar was still open. I wasn’t quite as angry after my first top-shelf marg. By the time we saw Jimmy Buffett at the New Orleans Jazz Fest? Well, heck, I would have kissed one of those crappy AA planes. On the nose, not the tail. It isn’t like I’m some sort of weirdo. On to the Summary: Webcasts, Podcasts, Outside Writing, and Conferences Adrian’s Dark Reading Post on Secure Access to Relational Data. Rich’s Cloud Encryption Use Cases. (registration required) Favorite Securosis Posts Adrian Lane: Thoma Bravo Trips the Wire Fantastic. Money trumps security strategy. Mike Rothman: SIEM: Out with the Old. SIEM is not the only technology companies are looking to swap out in the near term. Adrian does a good job of dealing with how to select that new SIEM. Rich: Sophos Wishes upon A-star-o. First we like RSA/NetWitness, now this. I swear we must be going soft or something. Other Securosis Posts Incite 5/11/2011: Generalists and Specialists. Incomplete Thought: Existential Identities (or: Who the F*** are You?). Favorite Outside Posts Gunnar: Process kills developer passion. Best practices sound good in isolation, but they can suck the life out of developers. Adrian Lane: Process kills developer passion. When you de-Agile Agile, it’s no longer Agile, and no freakin’ fun! Mike Rothman: A Veteran of SEAL Team Six Describes His Training. Not security related, but a great read. These guys are bad ass. Pepper: Apps to stop data breaches are too complicated to use. Sounds like folks need guidance, eh? 😉 Rich OpenStack Beginner’s Guide for Ubuntu 11.04. I’ve been banging my head against OpenStack and this is the best how-to guide I’ve hit. Research Reports and Presentations React Faster and Better: New Approaches for Advanced Incident Response. Measuring and Optimizing Database Security Operations (DBQuant). Network Security in the Age of Any Computing. The Securosis 2010 Data Security Survey. Monitoring up the Stack: Adding Value to SIEM. Network Security Operations Quant Metrics Model. Network Security Operations Quant Report. Understanding and Selecting a DLP Solution. Top News and Posts Google Fixes Two Chrome Bugs, Adds Flash 10.3 to Browser. Microsoft Security Intelligence Report (SIRv10) released. Zeus Source Code Leaked. VUPEN Whitehats Claim To Have Broken Chrome Sandbox. FCC Chairman becomes FCC Lobbyist. For a firm she just ruled in favor of. Meredith Attwell Baker rates an 8.5 on the scumbag scale. Microsoft Patch Remote Code Execution Vulnerability in WINS. Anonymous Splinter Group Implicated in Sony Hack. FBI Spyware and Electronic Surveillance. Blog Comment of the Week Remember, for every comment selected, Securosis makes a $25 donation to Hackers for Charity. This week’s best comment goes to Zac, in response to Earth to Symantec: AV doesn’t stop the APT. I’d like to point out one of the massive flaws in our security systems – one that all the vendors out there exploit: those that make the purchasing/planning decisions at most of the businesses / institutions / governments / etc.

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Thoma Bravo Trips the Wire Fantastic

With the global economy apparently warming and lots of IPOs hitting the Street, it was a bit surprising to see TripWire opt for a buyout by Thoma Bravo, as opposed to continuing with their IPO plans. But I found an article by the local Portland OR Business Journal which explained things a bit. Basically, TripWire is growing at 20%/year, but that does not create a lot of buzz on the Street compared to monster growth stories like Groupon. They also mismanaged expectations a bit last year when they issued the S-1, by talking about hitting $100MM in 2010 revenues, then missing their target (hitting $86MM on the top line). It’s ancient history, but ask SourceFire about not hitting investor expectations when going public. So the stock was likely to languish and that’s not good for anyone. Clearly their investors were tired (having been with the company since 1997), so something had to give. The private equity buyout by Thoma Bravo provided liquidity for the investors (and some founders/early employees) and the runway to continue building the company. Thoma Who? You probably haven’t heard of Thoma Bravo before. They are a buyout firm, specializing in tech companies. You may know a couple of the companies in their security/IT management portfolio: Attachmate (which just acquired Novell after swallowing NetIQ a few years ago), SonicWall, Entrust, LANDesk, and now TripWire. It’s a pretty broad portfolio of mature companies that aren’t really leaders in their respective spaces. That’s why they got bought out in the first place, but these mature companies generate significant revenue, which can be milked and perhaps used to buy other assets. You all know the game in private equity, right? They acquire assets (usually using a mix of equity and debt), clean things up either by fixing operations or merging with other companies to gain scale, and then take the asset public again or sell it to a strategic buyer. If it works out, they generate tremendous returns using the leverage of the equity/debt mix. If you buy an asset like Chrysler (as Cerberus did), that might not work out. But if you look at the Forbes 400 of really rich folks, quite a few specialize in buyouts. So evidently it can be a pretty good model. Thoma’s security portfolio is pretty comprehensive and they have the pieces to compete against some of the bigger players in the space. But only if the various companies are integrated to some degree. Thoma has not talked about any larger strategy in the security market but don’t assume they have one. Maybe they just see a couple companies that can operate more efficiently and at some point provide a decent return on the investment – we will see. Market Impact The fact that the deal was announced as a standalone may mean they plan to leave TripWire alone, especially since the Business Journal story reports that Thoma tends not to mess with its companies. If so there will be little to no impact on existing TripWire customers. Given the market opportunity in security this seems like a mistake to me. Moving forward, security is all about reducing the complexity of protecting a very complicated environment. Having 5 standalone security companies does not reduce complexity for customers, wasting any leverage TripWire could provide with Thoma. If you believed in TripWire as a long-term, sustainable standalone company, this approach is fine. Personally, I think there are only a handful of sustainable, standalone security companies, and TripWire isn’t one of them. So over time I hope they fold into a more comprehensive offering. For the time being, TripWire keeps doing their thing, looking for smaller tuck-in acquisitions and trying to grow to the next level. That just seems like a horrible waste of assets. Folks like McAfee and Symantec have spent years assembling large portfolios of products to package into solutions for customers. Thoma Bravo now controls a significant security portfolio, and with a few more strategic acquisitions (such as monitoring, endpoint protection, and professional services/integration) they could have enough to legitimately compete with Big Security. That assumes competing with Big Security is the end goal, and I’ve been around way too long to think I understand the strategy of any financial buyer. I know the motivation (generate return on investment), but there are plenty of ways to skin that cat. Share:

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