Check Point gets into appliance business

Check Point Software Technologies -- formerly a software-only company -- now offers a line of low-end VPN firewall appliances for branch offices and home offices.

The Safe@Office boxes take over for the appliances made by Check Point subsidiary Sofaware, which will no longer sell appliances, but will rather develop Check Point software specifically for small, low-end VPN firewalls.

The SOHO line consists of four boxes in the Safe@Office family that cost between US$300 and US$600, and the branch-office devices include three Edge X Series boxes and one Edge S8 model ranging from US$400 to US$2,000. The Safe@Office devices are manageable via a Web GUI, making them better suited to smaller operations such as home offices or small businesses where less sophisticated staff might have to care for them.

The branch-office line consists of VPN-1 Edge family S and X boxes, which are manageable via Check Point's enterprise SmartCenter software, its service provider Provider-1 software and Simple Management Protocol (SMP)-compliant platforms, making them suitable for enterprises with small offices.

The S8 costs US$400, has a four-port LAN switch and a single WAN port, a 22M bit/sec firewall and 3M bit/sec VPN encryption.

The X16 costs US$800, has an 80M bit/sec firewall and greater than 20M bit/sec VPN encryption. The X32 costs US$1,200 and has a 150M bit/sec firewall and greater than 20M bit/sec VPN encryption. The XU costs US$2,000, has a 150M bit/sec firewall and 30M bit/sec VPN encryption. All the X-series boxes have a four-port LAN switch, a WAN port and a second port that can be configured either to connect to another X box for high availability or to a second WAN link, for back-up Internet connectivity.

Check Point compares the VPN-1 Edge gear to NetScreen Technologies Inc.'s 5GT Plus and Cisco Systems Inc.'s PIX 501. They can also be compared to appliances made by Check Point partner Nokia Corp., such as its IP 130 and 330.

Check Point compares the Safe@Office's family to Cisco PIX 501, SonicWall Inc. SOHO3 and Watchguard Technologies Inc. SOHO6TC. They are also comparable to Nokia's IP 130 and 330.

Meanwhile, Nokia has announced its own group of applicances basd on the same VPN-1 Embedded NG software that runs the Safe@Office appliances. The four new Nokia boxes are IP40 Tele 8 for US$550; IP40 Satellite 16 for US$800; IP40 Satellite 32 for US$1,200; and IP40 Satellite Unlimited for US$2,000.

The new Check Point appliances can make things simpler for customers, says Mark Bouchard, an analyst with Meta Group Inc. Rather than have Check Point software on an appliance made by another vendor, they can buy it on an appliance made by Check Point. "It's one appliance and one vendor, not two vendors you have to deal with. No finger-pointing allowed," he says.

He says that financially the move by Check Point is a bit of a risk because software-only companies earn higher margins than hardware companies, so the stock market might not respond well to the idea.

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