Cisco Pushes Big Features in Little Products

eLABorations: Enterprise heavy-hitter ups the ante in a new arena-SOHO products.

Cisco Systems Inc. announced a raft of security related products and software enhancements on Nov. 19 that are good news for IT managers. Continuing a trend weve seen over the past year, the company is pushing big-time features from its high end routers into devices that sit much closer to telecommuters and workers in branch offices.

Starting this month, the companys IOS (Internet Operating System) will start showing up in the Cisco 800 series and SOHO 90 series secure broadband routers. Aggressive pricing makes these little beauties roughly competitive with other low-end offerings in the branch office arena. The Cisco products crucial difference from other vendors devices is that the Cisco wares support QoS functions along with management features that give corporate IT managers much greater control over the configuration and customization of these devices.

eWEEK Labs will be getting the gear into the Labs to do a thorough test and will tell you if the features and functions, as shipped, match the hype. Almost regardless of the answer, though, this is an advance as far as IT managers are concerned. Performance-improving features and advanced management capabilities mean that IT managers will likely be able to improve staff and equipment productivity with only marginal increases in capital costs.

Cisco, of course, is hoping that the adoption of its SOHO products is going to increase the acceptance of the companys VoIP (voice over IP) telephone handsets and switching gear. The new devices should make it possible for IP handsets to more easily slip onto telecommuters and branch office workers desktops.

(As a side note, well be taking a look at newly revised VoIP assessment tools from NetIQ Corp in the coming weeks. The question that IT managers need to ask is: Will the installed equipment and broadband links support the high expectations that end users demand of telephone equipment?

With Ciscos new products, the equipment answer, at least, is going to be yes.

I think another good question to ask is: Where is the best place to secure IT assets? Ciscos announcement, it almost goes without saying, focuses on using the network to provide comprehensive security solutions. IT mangers need to think about the wider range of answers including how to deal with mobile users who routinely cross the network perimeter, bringing their dirty laundry—in this case, possibly contaminated files—with them.

In the coming quarter, eWEEK will be looking at ways to blend network, system and application security with emerging authentication and authorization technologies for Web services. At the end of the day, security needs to be the smallest possible productivity drain, while allowing the widest intended use of IT assets to support the business of the enterprise.

Senior Analyst Cameron Sturdevant can be contacted at