VPNs, integrated security on tap

Virtual private networks and software that integrates disparate security functions are likely to be hot product areas at the RSA Data Security Conference which started yesterday, according to executives from IBM and Cisco Systems.

The show, which has outgrown its roots in San Francisco hotel ballrooms and so will be held at San Jose Convention Centre this year, gives experts a chance to debate public policy and provides developers with a forum to discuss new standards and technology. More than 100 exhibitors will be showing off their hardware and software products at the show, many of which will focus on securing Internet communications.

"Virtual private networks (VPNs) are coming into their own," Kathy Kincaid, director of IBM's IT security program, said in a phone interview last week. VPN technology, which enables internal networks to be securely opened to public networks like the Internet, is embedded in IBM operating system and networking software. "As VPNs become more of an embedded capability, we'll be able to VPN from anything to anything," Kincaid added.

VPNs are the foundation of intranets and extranets, which are the "rocket science of networking right now," said Roger Farnsworth, marketing manager of Cisco's security Internet services unit. "I think remote access VPN is heating up and intranet VPN is heating up even faster, and extranet VPN is all the buzz this year."

Cisco will be demonstrating its VPN technology, as well as firewall and intrusion detection tools and authentication servers at the show. Cisco and IBM are also among the companies that will be making announcements at the event this week.

IBM's Kincaid predicted another trend to emerge at the show will be products that combine different security capabilities and that include policy management systems. "Consultants help customers set up a security policy," she said. "Now, what we're trying to do and others are potentially doing is to start putting the capabilities to manage that electronically into some of the offerings."

However, Farnsworth at Cisco cautioned that security suites often lack common management interfaces that allow them to be managed by the same console.

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