Showdown at Network Security Corral

News Analysis: The transformation of Cisco from a pure hardware vendor into a network security powerhouse has begun to take shape, casting a giant shadow over point product vendors and forcing competitors into interesting business decisions.

After dominating the market for routers and switches, Cisco has barged into the security market, using a series of multimillion-dollar acquisitions to build out its product portfolio.

Now, as part of a new ATD (Adaptive Threat Defense) initiative, the company believes it can boost revenues from the sale of multi-purpose security appliances.

The first such appliance—Ciscos Adaptive Security Appliance 5500 series—enjoyed top billing at this years Interop show in Las Vegas, where CEO John Chambers made it clear that network security based solely on single-purpose appliances was no longer practical.

San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Systems Inc. believes the mess of securing all layers of an enterprise network could be untangled with a single product that combines multiple security technologies.

The ASA 5500 appliance, for instance, packs about a half-dozen security products into a single box, promising to block network attacks from spreading while reducing the cost of deployment for enterprises.

The security-in-a-box approach presents a lucrative market. According to statistics from IT research firm IDC, approximately 80 percent of all enterprise security products will be delivered via appliances by the year 2007, and companies like Symantec Corp., Internet Security Systems Inc. and Fortinet Inc. have already started to cash in.

But as that market ripens, it figures that point product vendors with standalone security offerings will feel the squeeze.

Not quite, says Bill Jensen, product marketing for Check Point Software Technologies Ltd., a point product vendor that sells standalone security software products ranging from firewalls, intranets and extranets.

"Anytime a company like Cisco starts to take security seriously, its a wonderful thing. But this is a half-measure to deal with the real threats," Jensen said in an interview with Ziff Davis Internet News.

"Theyre taking existing products and piling them into a box. We already have those products addressing the threats that come out on a daily basis."

He said Check Point Software had found its niche among large enterprises by broadening its scope to add internal and Web security point products.

"We already have all this stuff integrated in high-end products, so Im not worried at all by what Cisco is trying to do," Jensen said.

Next Page: A security makeover juggernaut.