ConSentry Networks, a pioneer in network-access control (NAC) switching, is closing its doors.
Founded in 2003, ConSentry raised lifetime funding of approximately $80.4 million, borrowed in five installments, roughly one per year. Its final funding round, announced in January of this year, was for approximately $9.4 million and came from existing investors.
During the course of its existence, ConSentry was financially backed by some prominent Silicon Valley VCs, including Accel Partners (one of Accel’s partners became ConSentry’s CEO for a brief period) and Sequoia Capital.
Network Access Control, sometimes referred to as Network Admission Control — which fortunately resolves into the same acronym — is a market that has failed to deliver on its hype and promise. For a long time, it was billed as the next major wave in enterprise security.
To date, though, it has fallen well short of becoming a $1-billion market. Gartner reported that the NAC market grew 51 percent in 2008, but was worth just $221 million. That’s not enough to support dozens of players, including many established, brand-name vendors who tend to capture their fair share of NAC from within their broader installed bases of customers.
In that respect, ConSentry is not alone in failing to survive the economic downturn and the natural consolidation of the marketplace. All technology markets consolidate as they mature — with the marketplace eventually selecting winners and losers — and they consolidate faster during economic downturns. Consolidation is heightened further if it occurs in a market segment that isn’t living up to commercial expectations.
A few of ConSentry’s former rivals had closed their doors previously, and others have been acquired by bigger players.
In general, whatever spoils the NAC market has yielded have gone to the leading network-infrastructure players (Cisco, Juniper, HP ProCurve, etc.), who’ve built or bought their own NAC capabilities, and to the vendors who own security real estate on computing end points. Those vendors include Symantec, McAfee, Sophos, and, increasingly, Microsoft.
Each time the market’s music stops, signaling that another vendor must leave the party, fewer chairs are available at the table. Some of those chairs are permanently reserved for
the major players. Less and less room is available for standalone NAC switch or appliance vendors, even if they’ve attempted to tailor their value proposition toward providing security intelligence to the network infrastructure or endpoints belonging to the big guys.
Some observers still claim the “Year of NAC” will come, but it won’t arrive soon enough for ConSentry and others.