NAC from South Korea

Like you, I’ve been carefully following the diplomatic talks between North and South Korea these past few weeks. Those striking images of the two leaders pledging to end their long war were encouraging, and I guess the subsequent posturing from the North Korean leader was predictable. But amidst all this consequential news from the Peninsula, my own thoughts turned, as usual, to cyber security and technology.

Sadly, my cyber security-related experience with Korean technologists has been limited. There were visits to Bell Labs over the years by academics from the region, and more recently, I spent a productive day at Samsung’s beautiful technology center in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan. But none of this provided meaningful insight into that important region, and for a professional analyst, this seemed like an issue.

To that end, I was pleased to connect over the past month with South Korean cyber security technology company Genians. My tour guide through three long sessions was Doseok Kim, who runs the Boston office for the growing public firm. We spent most of our initial time together going through their next-generation enterprise NAC technology solutions, which look quite solid – and which I will reference in my comments below.

But as our discussion progressed, I decided to ask him about the region, and the people, and the work environment, and the hopes and dreams of South Koreans. I apologized for my total ignorance, and asked if he’d be kind enough to share some personal insights. I acknowledged that an hour chat would be a poor excuse for proper learning, but Doseok was willing to give it a shot. “You’re the first analyst to ask about this,” he said.

As he began his explanation, I was struck by the repeated reference to Japan. “Our cultural tendencies are similar,” he said, “so this makes for a good shared business environment.” Doseok explained that just as in Japan, there is intense pressure on young South Koreans toward achievement. “The stress level in our high schools is significant,” he said, “because there is such a strong desire to pursue a higher degree and to become successful.”

I asked about the South Korean work environment, with images in my mind of Samsung’s futuristic center in New York. But Doseok painted a slightly different picture: “We’ve traditionally had a work environment with strict work hours and people in cubicles, although things are starting to loosen up.” (A positive effect of such enterprise arrangements is that they tend to rely on perimeter-protected LANs, which are well-suited to Genians NAC.)

I asked about the cyber and technology interests of young people in the region, and Doseok, who was raised in South Korea and later attended Rochester Institute of Technology, was quick to point that out as a great strength. “Our education system is highly competitive with lots of emphasis on science and math,” he said. “Look at our team at Genians, for example. We are proud to have over 70% of our team working directly as engineers.”

Doseok added that with such strong emphasis on technology, entrepreneurs in South Korea are experiencing great success. Take Genians founder, Kyeyeon Kim, for example. His personal story looks like something right out of a Silicon Valley script. “The truth is,” he wrote in a recent blog entry,” I didn’t go to college. My very first job, I worked as a technician in a computer store.” That is so Dell.

I spent time talking with Kyeyeon, and was impressed with his highly personal approach to dealing with customers. As large portion of this connection stems from his reinforcement that his identity remains one of programmer. “The real message that I want to get across,” he wrote, “is that I am still, at the core, a developer like many of you.” That is so Sergey and Larry (or at least earlier versions of them).

Now, many of you know that basic NAC is not my favorite technology, simply because the traditional enterprise LAN is dissolving in favor of hybrid and pure cloud usage. But many excellent solutions do exist and considerable demand remains in this segment. And I suspect that in South Korea, NAC will continue to be an especially important protection. Genians has seen 4X growth in revenue and staff in the last few years. That is so Palo Alto Networks.

Furthermore, in my discussion with Kyeyeon, it was clear that he fully understands how to bridge the emerging gap between traditional NAC on a LAN, and the progression of most companies to hybrid cloud. Genians manages this through expert integration with the best network solution providers such as Cisco, as well as through orchestrating access decisions between cloud-hosted workloads and on-premise networks.

My conclusion, based on obviously limited interactions with Genians, is that South Korea seems to be developing a world-class cyber security technical community – and this is already producing global business implications. For example, in addition to NAC dominance in their region, Genians also offers commercial NAC solutions to major firms around the world such as Starbucks, eBay, Prudential, Cigna, and BMW. This is an impressive list.

So, if you have interest in a solid next-generation NAC solution (including a publicly available download), then connect with Genians and ask about their offering. And if you are near Boston, ask to visit with Doseok, and I suspect you will find him to be an engaging tour guide to a region that is more than likely to continue advancing as a significant and consequential contributor to cyber security.