Security / May 15, 2023

Partner Spotlight: Gigamon and Blackwood Take Cybersecurity to the Next Level

Headquartered in Annapolis, Maryland, Blackwood launched in 1977 and was one of Gigamon’s earliest partners, jumping on board before we even launched our first product. Blackwood boasts an impeccable reputation and is known for providing some of the most advanced technology available.

We spoke with Ryan Morris, President of Blackwood, to find out how the company partners with Gigamon to deliver cutting-edge cybersecurity and data analytics that secure and enable the digital enterprise for some of the country’s most important government agencies and commercial businesses.

Gigamon: Who is Blackwood, and what is the company’s history?

Ryan: Blackwood is a team of solution architects focused on cybersecurity and data analytics. We were founded to work on some of the big, hairy problems the U.S. federal government was facing from signals intelligence. As networks evolved, our data intercept and replication expertise became relevant to other verticals, and the company expanded to support the need.

Blackwood President Ryan Morris

We provided voice and data test equipment in the 1980s, protocol analysis for WAN and Ethernet analyzers in the 1990s, and more comprehensive network monitoring in the 2000s. We’ve since applied our monitoring and analytics pedigree to security and have become a trusted architect and adviser to some of the world’s most targeted networks. We continue to support the federal government, and over the past decade, we’ve expanded to support a large amount of public sector and commercial enterprise accounts up and down the East Coast of the United States.

Gigamon: What does your company name stand for?

Ryan: We were founded in 1977 by my grandparents, Bob and Linda Blackwood. Like many companies at the time, we launched as “Last Name Associates, Inc.” The company was known as Blackwood Associates Incorporated — or BAI — until 2020, when we branded simply as Blackwood — a tip of the hat to my now-late grandparents.

Gigamon: When and how did you become a Gigamon partner?

Ryan: Blackwood was one of the first four Gigamon partners. We had worked with the founders at prior companies and saw enough promise in their vision to sign up before a product had even been developed. From the time Gigamon launched its first product, it has been an engineering-led company with great vision, which it continues to be. As the industry has evolved, Gigamon has done a great job extending its product offerings to ensure that monitoring and observability tools maintain access to any traffic they need to complete their jobs.

Gigamon: Describe your company culture. What makes you tick?

Ryan: The people who work here are passionate about technology and unapologetically authentic in their interactions. We’ve done a good job of identifying future market leaders in cybersecurity and providing the level of service they need to win their market. Technology partners love us because we are focused and committed and hold ourselves accountable to the goals we set. Customers love us because we understand how markets are likely to evolve, and we have strong opinions on technology.

Gigamon: If you had to describe Gigamon with just one word, what would it be?

Ryan: Essential. Blackwood began working with Gigamon pre-product because we understood the need to facilitate comprehensive visibility across rapidly evolving networks. Fast-forward nearly two decades, and requirements have only become more complex, but Gigamon customers are well positioned to support modern deep observability needs that lead to more reliable and secure networks.

Gigamon: What are some of your market’s specifics, advantages, and challenges when it comes to network security and visibility?

Ryan: The institutions we serve are highly regulated, air gapped, and many deal with classified information. The restrictions they have in place to secure their environments make it difficult to facilitate comprehensive monitoring. Gigamon has done a wonderful job of building products that can accommodate the unique needs of this customer set.

The company has also made considerable investments into standards such as NEBS, NIAP Common Criteria, USGv6, FIPS 140-2, and ATO declarations on all levels of classification for the DoD, which allows us to operate in these environments.

Gigamon: Which Gigamon features stand out the most and make the product outstrip its competitors?

Ryan: Feature parity in support of hybrid networks. Gigamon is the only visibility platform that allows us to say “yes” when monitoring physical servers, virtualized servers, and containers across on-premises, fully cloud, or hybrid infrastructures.

Gigamon: How do you see Blackwood fitting together with Gigamon to solve your customers’ problems?

Ryan: The mutual trust developed over nearly 20 years of partnership is unparalleled. We have become a frictionless extension of their team, allowing us to focus all our energy on facilitating outcomes for the customer.

Gigamon: Where do you see the trends in network security and visibility in three years’ time?

Ryan: Connectivity digital transformation will require considerable shifts in visibility strategy. As businesses move increasingly toward hybrid cloud and lean on Zero Trust network architecture (ZTNA) and Secure Service Edge (SSE) as methods for secure connectivity, security teams must evolve their approach so existing monitoring investments aren’t blind.

Gigamon: Provide an anecdote that customers share when they talk about our products and your products and services.

Ryan: It’s simply that we solve problems. Enterprise networks are changing rapidly, and customers need us to ensure the sensors they depend on can always keep up. The network must continuously modernize, and in many cases, the security team is not always aware of the plan or timeline. With Gigamon products and our advisors, we are always able to bridge the gap between network transition and existing tools, people, and processes. 

Gigamon: What is the most memorable moment associated with Gigamon as a partner?

Ryan: Gigamon founders were kind enough to include me when they closed the market at the New York Stock Exchange in 2016. My first few years in the industry were spent watching them build a product category that did not exist, so witnessing that milestone was special.

Gigamon: What are the wow moments associated with Gigamon?

Ryan: The ease with which customers can test new capabilities and, at times, move to new solutions is astounding. Evaluating enterprise monitoring tools used to be a nightmare. With Gigamon, all network packet data is always on tap and available, so bake-offs and subsequent deployments are as easy as plugging in the new tool and mapping traffic to the tool port that it’s plugged into.

Gigamon: What are some of the new challenges you see in the market that your partnership with Gigamon can solve?

Ryan: Many of our customers are moving toward extended detection and response (XDR), which combines vendor-proprietary telemetry and third-party telemetry into a consolidated data platform that dramatically expands security context and hunting capabilities. Gigamon will be very helpful in delivering network insights to the Open XDR platforms we support.

Gigamon: What are the positive business outcomes as a Gigamon partner?

Ryan: Simplifying security architectures is satisfying. Gigamon enables more elegant security architectures that are easier to maintain, so we end up having more time to focus on mitigating evolving threats.

Gigamon: What unique capabilities does this partnership bring to your business?

Ryan: Many of our projects require network instrumentation. Gigamon is almost always the first investment because it considerably drives down costs while putting requisite infrastructure in place to support future deep observability needs.

Gigamon: What are some of the benefits of the Gigamon Partner Program that stand out? Trainings? Incentives? Discounts? Co-marketing?

Ryan: Trust. The program is run by good people who have partnership in their DNA. They enforce the rules of the program and always do the right thing. It gives me the confidence that I need to build a business around them.

Gigamon: Thanks, Ryan, for making time for us and for being such a wonderful partner!


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