Cisco updates firewall appliances

Cisco this week is introducing software upgrades that boost the speed of and allow more concurrent users on some of its low-end PIX firewall appliances.

By virtue of a software upgrade, the performance of the two PIX firewalls, the PIX 501 and PIX 506E, jump fivefold. For example, PIX 501 firewall performance leaps from 10M bit/sec to 50M bit/sec with Cisco PIX OS version 6.3. The upgrade also adds support for advanced encryption standard (AES).

The company is introducing a software license for the PIX 501 that allows unlimited users. Previously, the top number was 50 users. The unlimited license costs US$1,000.

Boosting performance of these devices is important to Cisco because it faces competitors whose devices are based on custom processors and provide high speed at relatively low costs, according to a report by Current Analysis. WatchGuard and NetScreen, for example, rely on these application-specific integrated circuits.

Cisco is also announcing two new models, the PIX 515E-6FE and PIX 525-2GE, as its midrange appliances. The 515e-6FE features six independent 10/100 Ethernet ports for segmenting traffic as it goes in and out of the device. Similarly, the 525-2GE features two independent Gigabit Ethernet ports. These can be used to set up separate network segments known as demilitarized zones for servers that need to be isolated from the local network.

The 515E-6FE costs US$7,500, and a pair of them that back each other up costs US$11,000. For the 525-2GE, a single box costs US$14,000, and a redundant pair costs US$20,000.

At the high end, a software upgrade available in April will enable the Catalyst 6503 and 6506 modular security switches to handle any combination of intrusion detection, firewall, VPN and SSL acceleration. Before, the device could handle only certain combinations.

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