Cisco looks to lock down small-office WAN links

Cisco Systems Inc. this week unveiled two routers aimed at tightening security for small-office and branch-office WANs (wide area networks).

The Cisco 806 Broadband Gateway Router and the 1710 Security Access Router are designed to let enterprises extend VPN (virtual private network) and quality-of-service (QoS) capabilities to branch offices connected to a central site via a cable modem or DSL (digital subscriber line). The company says both products can improve the security and performance of applications running over a corporate VPN.

The Cisco 806 Broadband Gateway Router has one WAN port and a four-port Ethernet hub for connecting nodes on a LAN. It can support 10 VPN tunnels. Cisco says this small box is targeted at very small offices and home-office users, and it can secure user connections with network address translation (NAT); a stateful inspection firewall; and IP Security protocol (IPSec) 3DES encryption; which uses three 56-bit keys for encryption and decryption.

The Cisco 1710 Security Access Router includes the same NAT and IPSec features as the 806, but supports more users, with 100 concurrent VPN tunnels. The box also supports IEEE 802.1Q virtual LAN (VLAN) tagging. This capability could be used to logically group workers in a remote office to VLAN-based workgroups located in a company's headquarters. VLAN tagging also provides intra-office security by distinguishing users, and allowing network managers to apply network policies to user groups.

Both routers support QoS traffic prioritization, which can be used to increase the forwarding rate of traffic such as IP voice. This could allow a branch office to bypass long-distance phone charges by installing IP phones.

Many of the features in both new routers are based on Cisco's IOS (Internetwork Operating System) software, which recently came under scrutiny by net security observers when a vulnerability was discovered in the router code. However, Cisco has since issued software fixes for the problem.

The Cisco 806 and 1710 are both available now, and cost US$650 and $1,900 respectively.

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