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Breaking Analysis: How CIOs and CISOs are Taking the COVID-19 Budget Hit

How CIOs and CISOs are Taking the COVID-19 Budget Hit

CIOs and CISOs in some of the hardest hit industries see significant near-term and many permanent shifts to their IT and security strategies. This was the consensus of four technology executives at leading companies that are feeling the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Welcome to this week’s CUBE Insights, Powered by ETR. In this Breaking Analysis we want to accomplish three things:

  1. We want to introduce a new piece of research from ETR. It involves an intimate, focus-group-like analysis via an open discussion with leading technology executives. We interviewed Erik Bradley, the Managing Director of ETRs Venn program and we’ll bring him into this discussion. 
  2. Next, we’ll drill into the various sector commentary from the four leaders. 
  3. We’ll wrap up with our take and some of the specific vendors that were mentioned by the execs. 

What is ETR Venn?

The ETR Venn is a roundtable discussion that applies a tried and true methodology similar to focus groups or in-depth interviews (IDIs). 

ETR invites executives from its community to participate in a private but open conversation. ETR clients get to listen in. The names of the execs and their companies are transparent but theCUBE is only allowed to refer to them generically as shown on the slide above. We can attest to the fact that these participants were legit CIOs and CISOs, some at very well-known firms.  

Summarizing the CIO & CISO Sentiment 

The overall budget impact for these four organizations is severe as they are in industries that were significantly impacted by COVID-19.

Budget Crunch: Large projects being put on hold – Although Digital transformation initiatives remain a priority.

Broadly, there were four significant areas of emphasis cited by the execs:

  1. Cloud first – On-Prem losing out to cloud, SaaS and remote access solutions – in fact the best comment on the panel was As-a-Service is saving our SaaS.
  2. Traditional networking shifts to SD-WAN especially away from rigid MPLS networks.
  3. Securing endpoints & zero trust solutions are winners at these firms.
  4. Several vendors are rising to the occasion and are critical to these leaders. 

As-a-Service is saving our SaaS

Here’s a clip of how Erik Bradley of ETR summarized the VENN takeaways.

Verbatim Comments from CIOs & CISOs

While there were so many to choose from, the slide below gives a good summary of the overall sentiment within the panel.

More on “Cloud First”

Sometimes it feels like all we do is talk about the cloud. But it’s clear from the data that cloud will only be accelerated. We said this in 2008 and 2009. Downturns have been good to cloud. One exec even said:

I would like to see my data centers completely deleted. 

Let’s listen to Erik’s Bradley’s take on this comment:

We’ve been talking a lot about those aspects of people, process and technology that may be permanent post-COVID and clearly you see C-level execs as having a bit of an awakening for things like cloud and work from home. Not that they didn’t see them before coronavirus, but these things will accelerate in our view as a result of this pandemic. 

Let’s talk about Networks, SaaS and More Cloud

The panel members really trashed MPLS networks in a big way. MPLS stands for Multi-Protocol Label Switching. You find this infrastructure in big telecom networks and it’s there to route traffic. MPLS is used to create dedicated and reliable connections and enables VPNs, QoS, and traffic engineering or shaping. While MPLS is cheaper than T1 it’s more expensive than Ethernet and came into prominence well before cloud. These execs and many other customers see it as outdated and inflexible. 

This is where SD-WAN comes into play– Software Defined Wide Area Networks are gaining popularity, especially with the SaaS-ification of applications and the general trend toward cloud. 

Here’s a clip of Erik Bradley explaining what the panel members said on this topic: 

The challenge of course is customers have multiple MPLS contracts with several different vendors and often they just rubber stamp the renewal. But what customers are going to do is start layering in SD-WAN and letting those agreements expire. 

CISOs on Secure Endpoints and Zero Trust Solutions

We’ve said many times on theCUBE that the idea of digging a moat around the castle doesn’t protect your queen anymore because your Queen (i.e. your data) has left the castle. We feel the companies that can secure gateways and endpoints are going to have continued momentum going forward. 

In the panel, Zscaler came up a lot in this context. As did Fortinet who as we’ve reported has been done a good job in getting its cloud products to market. And the ETR data shows Fortinet and Zscaler both have strong Net Scores or spending momentum and Fortinet especially has pervasiveness in the ETR data set. We’ve also reported that there’s been a valuation divergence between Palo Alto and Fortinet. And how Zscaler is a disrupter in this space.

Here’s a clip of Erik Bradley’s take on Zscaler and Palo Alto as well as zero trust networks

We agree with Erik that Palo Alto is definitely going to be in the mix – customers we’ve talked to want to work with Palo Alto but there’s a seachange going on here and it’s being driven by SaaS, Cloud and now COVID accelerating the trend to remote workers.  

Specific Vendor Mentions   

This chart shows some of the vendors that were called out as either being great to work with or super important to the CIOs and CISOs. These executives really stressed how thankful they are for those companies that have worked closely with them and have been flexible on pricing and payments. They also specifically mentioned how off-put they were by “ambulance chasing” and trials that required them to make some type of commitment – they just don’t have time right now. 

Here are some comments on a few companies that were cited in a positive light. Microsoft is all over the ETR data set. Microsoft Teams, security solutions, cloud, etc. IBM was mentioned as being a great partner as was Oracle – many times. We talked about Fortinet and Zscaler earlier. Also Cisco was called out as a strategic vendor that was very helpful both in networking and with Cisco Teams for collaboration. CrowdStrike and Trend Micro came up quite a bit and Carbon Black got a mention via the VMware acquisition. And of course Mobileiron makes sense in terms of securing and managing remote worker devices. 

Finally, salesforce was also brought up many times as a critical vendor. Interestingly, one exec said that before coronavirus, multiple workers could share salesforce licenses but with the spike in WFH they had to purchase more licenses. 

Will Startups Suffer? 

You might think in this climate, especially among four hard hit customers, that they might be risk averse as it pertains to using startups. One CIO said the following (we’re paraphrasing)

You always hear about the guy who says I pick out three guys in the upper right hand corner of the Gartner Magic Quadrant and test them out. What I always do is pick two from the upper right, and one from the lower left – one of the emerging techs – and give them a shot.

Here’s how Erik Bradley describes that comment

So really interesting and somewhat non-intuitive comments on startups. Which of course means – despite all the consolidation and acquisitions, many parts of the IT industry will still be highly fragmented as we’ve said many times – especially in the security space. 

We realize these are narrow comments from four CIOs and CISOs but they give us added texture and color to the core ETR data set. We’ll continue to report on these trends and share more details as they become available. And over the next several weeks we’ll really dig into the ETR data set on a regular basis. 

Look for updates on the ETR Web site and make sure to check out SiliconANGLE for all the news and analysis.

Remember these episodes are all available as podcasts wherever you listen.

Ways to get in touch:  Email | DM @dvellante on Twitter | Comment on our linkedin posts.

Also, you may want to check out this ETR Tutorial we created, which explains the spending methodology in more detail.

Watch this week’s full video analysis:

Keep in Touch

Thanks to Alex Myerson and Ken Shifman on production, podcasts and media workflows for Breaking Analysis. Special thanks to Kristen Martin and Cheryl Knight who help us keep our community informed and get the word out. And to Rob Hof, our EiC at SiliconANGLE.

Remember we publish each week on theCUBE Research and SiliconANGLE. These episodes are all available as podcasts wherever you listen.

Email | DM @dvellante on Twitter | Comment on our LinkedIn posts.

Also, check out this ETR Tutorial we created, which explains the spending methodology in more detail.

Note: ETR is a separate company from theCUBE Research and SiliconANGLE. If you would like to cite or republish any of the company’s data, or inquire about its services, please contact ETR at or

All statements made regarding companies or securities are strictly beliefs, points of view and opinions held by SiliconANGLE Media, Enterprise Technology Research, other guests on theCUBE and guest writers. Such statements are not recommendations by these individuals to buy, sell or hold any security. The content presented does not constitute investment advice and should not be used as the basis for any investment decision. You and only you are responsible for your investment decisions.

Disclosure: Many of the companies cited in Breaking Analysis are sponsors of theCUBE and/or clients of theCUBE Research. None of these firms or other companies have any editorial control over or advanced viewing of what’s published in Breaking Analysis.

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