Cisco Beefs Up Network Security

Cisco Systems has taken another step toward moving intelligent services from the center to the edge of mid-size networks by beefing up security features of its Cisco Catalyst switching portfolio.

Switches are devices in networks that filter and forward packets of data between local area network (LAN) segments.

The enhanced security measures are part of the networking giant’s plan to increase the benefits of pervasive security by establishing enforcement points across wide area networks (WAN) and LANs.

Striking a Security Balance

“To conduct business successfully, companies are striking a balance between sharing information among customers, partners and employees while keeping confidential information and network assets secure,” said Kathy Hill, vice president of Cisco’s desktop switching business unit.

Hill said the new security capabilities of the Cisco Catalyst 3550 and 2950 Series Intelligent Ethernet Switches give customers a solid foundation for delivering consistent security services throughout the network. Therefore, she added, businesses will gain greater control over critical information resources, allowing more effective policy management.

On the Edge

Specifically, the new software features more secure network administration, stronger user authentication, improved security management, IEEE 802.1x authentication-based security, a dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP) interface, and a complete set of port-based virtual LAN-based and interface-based Access Control Lists (ACL).

Cisco also has extended the best practice guidelines in SAFE, the security blueprint for its AVVID (architecture for voice, video and integrated data). The company said this allows mid-size businesses to maximize both security and benefits from Internet business applications.

Ahead of the Pack

Cisco’s new security features represent a move by the company to differentiate itself from the competition, Gartner Dataquest senior analyst Lawrence Orans told the E-Commerce Times.

Dell presents perhaps the biggest threat to Cisco’s switch business. The PC giant is introducing three new models of its PowerConnect data switches aimed at small and mid-size businesses, and reportedly plans to announce pricing and availability of those switches before the end of July.

Analysts said Dell is likely to make an impact with its switches, mainly because of its low-cost pricing strategy. But Dell is not the only switch maker hoping to steal market share from Cisco.

“Cisco is facing price pressure from Dell, 3Com and Allied Telesyn,” Orans said. Orans added that he expects Cisco’s competitors to play catch-up with their own security enhancements, which will be a positive move for the entire industry.

Welcome Additions

Cisco customers probably will welcome the new security plug-ins, according to analysts, especially since they are available as a free download.

The company’s latest enhancements put it at the forefront of a trend toward pushing security features to the edge of networks. Gartner research has shown that companies are especially concerned about authenticating users and tracking new workstations as they enter the network.

“Security is at the forefront of everybody’s mind these days,” Orans noted. “There is increased pressure to secure the network, and Cisco is doing a good job here.”

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