Cisco bolsters network security offerings

Cisco Systems last week announced plans to introduce two new products as well as enhancements to its Safe security product suite, including a small-office firewall, upgrades to its intrusion-detection software and a router module designed to help virtual private networks (VPN) scale by 60 percent.

Cisco's offerings include Pix 501, a smaller version of its enterprise firewall Pix 5, with a four-port Ethernet hub. The firewall is designed for use by individual telecommuters and remote offices with 10 to 50 users.

Y.Y. Chen, a senior network architect at Miami-based Carnival Corp., the holding company for Carnival Cruise Lines, said he has been evaluating the firewall and is considering the product for securing network connections with 200 Carnival travel agents who work from their homes.

"The Web interface is easy to use, and we can use it to add our VPN configuration into the box," Chen said.

While there's certainly a demand for firewall technologies among small businesses and remote offices, "the smaller Pix is a reactionary move to companies like NetScreen and SonicWall," said Joel Conover, an analyst at Current Analysis Inc. in Sterling, Va., referring to NetScreen Technologies Inc. and SonicWall Inc., two Sunnyvale, Calif.-based makers of integrated firewall and VPN products for small businesses.

The 10-user version of the 501 firewall will sell for US$595, and the 50-user version will cost $1,195, Cisco officials said. Both systems will be available by the end of the month.

Cisco also announced plans to add a host-based intrusion-detection system called IDS Host Sensor to its security product lineup. The application is aimed at extending the software's ability to analyze and detect intrusion attempts from within the enterprise, in addition to Cisco's network sensor technology, which handles intrusion detection on the network perimeter. Conover said that Cisco's intrusion-detection system had lacked adequate host-based functionality and that the new system should fill the gap.

Cisco's IDS Host Sensor is available immediately as part of CiscoWorks VPN/Security Management Solution (VMS), which sells for $7,995 or for $5,000 in a stand-alone console. Each host computer protected against intrusion requires special agent software that communicates with the Host Sensor console. The agent software is priced from $1,750 to $2,100.

Cisco also announced plans to offer a VPN accelerator add-on module for its 7100 and 7200 Series routers. Priced at $5,000, the integrated network Layer 3 compression technology is designed to enable routers to scale up to 5,000 concurrent VPN sessions, an increase of 60 percent over VPNs without acceleration.

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