Tuesday, December 18, 2012

TippingPoint IPS: Yes, we've reached the tipping point

TippingPoint was once considered one of the best network IPS.  Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Network IPS of 2008 and 2009 put it in the the top right quadrant, meaning the product was full of features and was backed by a solid company.  The 2009 Magic Quadrant showed it surpassed every other network IPS.  While I don't put 100% faith in Gartner, it is a useful source of information.

My first experience with TippingPoint was in a proof-of-concept bake-off between TippingPoint and McAfee.  TippingPoint boldly said their IPS could be put inline and with the base profiles would provide valuable network protection without interrupting network traffic.  I was impressed with the features, protection and GUI.  McAfee's GUI was painful at the time and it had some other things that made the TippingPoint preferable.  So TippingPoint won.

TippingPoint served us well enough but since the HP acquisition things have been going down hill. Gartner has downgraded TippingPoint to the point where they are almost out of the top right quadrant.  This isn't because of HP's inability to execute (although it should be).  This is because when compared with other network IPS they are falling regarding capabilities.

Nowadays, I consider TippingPoint to be mud and I place the responsibility solely on HP.  At the start of 2012 they put out a new version of the TippingPoint management console. It was a big disaster to say the least.  TippingPoint support said in an email to customers, "At this time we recommend that you do not upgrade to Security Management System (SMS) 3.3.  Our customers have reported several issues with this release during and after the upgrade process.   For those customers who have already upgraded to SMS 3.3 we are working on an additional patch to address the issues"  This situation didn't resolve itself for months.

Then came the time for our support renewal.  We asked our reseller for a support quote a full two months before the end of the contract.  We then spent the next few weeks following up with the reseller only to be told that HP wasn't getting back to them with the support quote.   They kept hounding HP for a quote and received silence.  On the off chance that the reseller was having issues with HP, we tried another reseller only to find the same story.  We became concerned that HP, with all its other business woes, that it would do something unfortunate like announce they were discontinuing TippingPoint. Finally, a week before our support was supposed to expire, we received quotes from both reseller.

The lesson to vendors is this: Support contracts are just paperwork so there shouldn't be any huge delays in renewing... If you delay giving your customers a quote, they'll get worried that something is wrong and go elsewhere.  This is especially true when your product is not top of the heap anymore and the competition is cheaper (i.e. Palo Alto  firewalls).

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