After months of diligent vendor evaluations, last week we officially published The Forrester Wave: Managed Security Services: North America, Q1 2012. This report features our detailed analysis on nine of the top managed security services providers (MSSPs) offering a robust set of security services to their North American clients.

Through this process, we uncovered a market that we believe is currently ripe for a major disruption: market demand for managed security services (MSS) remains extremely strong, customer satisfaction is higher than we’ve seen in the past, and current MSSPs tend to compete on delivery, customer service, and cost.

This isn’t to say MSSPs all currently offer the same services with the same level of quality – not by a long shot. Selecting the right provider still means that you must understand your needs and the areas you feel they can enhance your security program the most. Each MSSP we evaluated has solid overall security capabilities, but has unique strengths in certain security areas and use different deployment methods to bring their offerings to bear.

At the same time, however, we hear more decisions today come down to cost and execution, and as this becomes more commonplace, we begin to prepare ourselves for a shift in the market. In fact, we believe we’ll see significant changes over the next couple of years for three primary reasons:

  1. Clients want more engaged partnerships with their MSSPs. Today, more and more chief information security officers (CISOs) are coming to terms with the fact that they will have to begin outsourcing at least portions of their security services to these providers to meet the demands of the business. As this happens, CISOs realize that MSSPs can handle more than the basics and increasingly become trusted advisors for CISOs’ most important strategic decisions.
  2. Innovation will come in the form of advanced threat intelligence and correlation. Many of the security services MSSPs offer today have become routine, check-the-box services that they can all offer at relatively similar level of quality, such as SPAM filtering. We, however, believe that a few of these players will begin to move ahead of the pack, and differentiate in the areas of advanced analytics with behavioral- and heuristic-based detection techniques.
  3. Niche players remain highly competitive due to unique, lightweight delivery models. While the nine participants in this Wave offer the most comprehensive set of security services, there are many mid-tier MSSPs that provide small- and medium-size businesses (SMBs) with solid services, often leveraged through unique cloud delivery models. We would not be surprised to see one or two of these mid-tier players compete and even begin to win larger and larger deals against some of the more traditional, mainstream MSSPs.

For a more comprehensive view of our analysis, dive into the report, and be sure that you download the actual Wave Vendor Selection Aid, which provides a detailed view of our analysis for each vendor, on every criteria.

And please continue this discussion on our Security & Risk Online Community, or in the comments section below. Send us your feedback.