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Check Point merges Net traffic

Firewall market leader Check Point Software is moving into a new arena--helping companies manage heavy traffic pouring onto their networks from the Net.

    Already dominant in the security firewall market, Check Point Software (CHKPF) will announce next week that it is moving into a new arena--helping companies manage heavy traffic pouring onto their networks from the Net.

    The new software, FloodGate-1, is a bandwidth management product targeted primarily for corporate networks but also useful for Internet service providers. It lets network managers set policies that prioritize types of traffic on the network when bandwidth becomes scarce.

    "FloodGate-1 clearly addresses a very acute requirement in the market right now--'How do I figure out how to allocate bandwidth to some very demanding applications?'" said Mike Rothman, vice president for global networking strategies with consultancy Meta Group.

    Multimedia applications such as video or sound over the Internet eat up big hunks of bandwidth on a corporate network. So do some push applications such as PointCast, which some network managers have banned because they hog bandwidth.

    Although the bandwidth management market is nascent today, Rothman expects it to sizzle soon: "This is a huge market, and we're going to see a lot of activity."

    Check Point's Asheem Chandna, vice president of business development, agrees. "We believe it will heat up next year. We have a more comprehensive, flexible product set than anyone out there today."

    Like Check Point's firewall, FloodGate-1 is based on Check Point's patented "stateful inspection" technology. Stateful inspection allows Check Point products to examine individual IP data packets as they enter a network, identifying their origin as well as the application they are associated with.

    With that information about the IP packets, FireWall-1 can block unauthorized packets, while FloodGate-1 can classify them by application, user, or source.

    In general, FloodGate-1 lets network managers set up policies that assign priorities to different types of IP traffic, essentially deciding that some types of applications--Web traffic, for example--gets a bigger share of bandwidth than others. Or traffic for particular departments can be assigned different priorities.

    Check Point claims that FloodGate-1 allocates bandwidth dynamically, letting high-priority traffic more bandwidth but not "starving out" traffic given lower priorities.

    So far, few products address the bandwidth management market. Start-ups Packeteer and Structured Internetworking take different technical approaches than Check Point, analyst Rothman said, and giant Cisco has a product that addresses the same problem.

    Check Point expects to use its market share for firewalls--it owns 35 to almost 50 percent, depending on the market researcher--to boost FloodGate-1.

    "Check Point can get its resellers into the bandwidth management world," said Rothman. "There is a huge incremental revenue opportunity for everyone associated with FireWall-1. That's an advantage Check Point has over Packeteer, which is still trying to establish its channel."

    It will be sold separately from FireWall-1, but integrating it with FireWall-1 carries certain advantages, the company claims. FloodGate-1 is compatible with firewalls from other vendors.