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MCI Worldcom joins security force

Add the telecom player to the parade of companies entering the security services and outsourcing market.

Add MCI WorldCom to the parade of companies entering the security services and outsourcing market.

Knitting together pieces from its many acquisitions, MCI WorldCom's new security unit will compete with GTE Internetworking, Pilot Network Services, IBM, the Big Five accounting and consulting firms, and Lucent Technologies, which entered the security fray last week.

"We can bring together networking, security, and Internet hosting," said Jason Comstock, general manager of the new security unit. The service includes offerings from CompuServe Network Services, ANS, UUNet, and GridNet, all WorldCom acquisitions. "We see security as a core offering for MCI WorldCom, especially security consulting."

As corporations move toward Internet commerce and sharing corporate information with partners on so-called extranets, network security has become a growing concern. Even the largest corporations are having trouble hiring scarce talent in the field, so security outsourcing has boomed.

"When you look at security as an enabling technology that allows you to make money safely, then it starts to make sense to outsource," said Jim Balderston, security analyst at Zona Research.

Matthew Kovar, an industry analyst at the Yankee Group, likes MCI's move. "MCI WorldCom has made a great stride to catch up to the leader in this area, which has been GTE Internetworking," he said.

MCI WorldCom's new security service comes barely a week after the company's complex, $17 billion deal to sell its MCI Systemhouse computer services unit and 12,000 employees to Electronic Data Systems.

The security services unit is far smaller than Systemhouse, with about 170 people, a data center in Reston, Virginia, and a limited range of outsourcing options.

Housed within MCI WorldCom's Advanced Networks unit, the managed security services' menu includes outsourcing or installation of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs); firewalls; authentication services; security training; and security assessment. The SecureSweep service, which checks networks for holes intruders might exploit, is handled by independent contractors.

"Security outsourcing is a subset of the larger market moving toward application service providers, or ASPs," Balderston said. The ASP movement, which emerged last year, involves an ISP or other service provider hosting e-commerce, enterprise resource planning, or other applications for customers.

Comstock said MCI WorldCom will add managed authentication, broader training programs, and partnerships with certificate authorities for using digital IDs for security on corporate networks or extranets.

In addition to offering managed security directly to multinational corporations worldwide, MCI WorldCom plans a "private label" version that resellers can market to smaller U.S. companies and in Latin America.

The service will use internally developed firewall software as well as products from Check Point Software, authentication servers and tokens from Security Dynamics and Secure Computing, and scanning tools from Internet Security Systems.