Any doubts that cloud access security broker (CASB) technology is seriously hot should vanish into, well, thin air with Cisco's intent to purchase CloudLock, a privately-held CASB company, for a whopping $293 million in cash.

With CASB technology companies can monitor user behavior and critical data in cloud applications like Office365, Google Drive and Salesforce and enforce cloud security policies, points out Rob Salvagno, VP of Cisco Corporate Development, in a blog post.

"CloudLock's unique cloud-first, platform and API-based approach means that they're able to deliver an incredibly detailed level of understanding of how users are sharing data, what's being shared, and potential security risks associated with sensitive information that shouldn't be distributed. They do this while remaining invisible to an end user who is accessing the cloud," writes Salvagno, who leads Cisco's M&A and venture investment team.

Customers listed on CloudLock's website include HBO, NASA and DreamWorks Studios. The company, which was founded in 2011, says it has more than 700 customers in 150 countries.

According to Salvagno, CloudLock's team will join Cisco's Networking and Security Business, led by Senior Vice President and General Manager David Goeckeler.

As eSecurity Planet reported earlier this year, Gartner forecasts that 85 percent of large enterprises will use a CASB with their cloud services by 2020. CASBs help companies with cloud visibility, compliance, data security and threat protection, according to Gartner.

Different Approaches to CASB

In Cisco's announcement of the news, Salvagno mentions that CloudLock uses an API-based approach to cloud security, which makes its solution easy to deploy and manage.

According to the eSecurity Planet article, CASBs can be set up as a proxy - either a forward or a reverse proxy - or they can work in API mode, using cloud providers' APIs to control cloud access and apply security policies. Some CASBs use both proxying and API technology, to incorporate the advantages of both approaches. Gartner believes that APIs may ultimately remove the need for proxies, assuming APIs mature enough to offer real-time visibility and control.

CASB Market Consolidation

The CASB market will consolidate a great deal in the next few years, Gartner predicts, with the market dwindling to no more than seven standalone CASB providers by 2018.

Cisco is the latest of several large players to purchase a CASB company. In 2015 Palo Alto Networks bought California-based CASB CirroSecure, Blue Coat Systems acquired both Virginia-based CASB Perspecsys and California-based Elastica in November, and Microsoft purchased Israel-based CASB Adallom.  

In addition to CloudLock, other CASB vendors include Netskope, Bitglass, CipherCloud, Palerra and Firelayers.