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Check Point to meld software

The company says it will merge its leading firewall software and its bandwidth management software into a single product by year's end.

In a major strategic pronouncement, Check Point Software Technologies (CHKPF) today said it will merge its leading firewall software, FireWall-1, and its bandwidth management software, FloodGate-1, into a single product by year's end.

The announcement, outlining Check Point's 1998 product road map for virtual private networks (VPNs), represents another sign of the early stages of the industry-wide convergence of the networking and network security markets.

Check Point also said it will incorporate digital certificates, a kind of electronic tag to verify users' identities, into its VPN, firewall, and bandwidth management software.

"It's a natural to merge firewall and bandwidth management because they're doing the same thing--sniffing the packets on a network," Jim Balderston, analyst at Zona Research, said.

Digital certificates give network managers a way to identify individuals, then give them access to appropriate data.

"We are strengthening the security piece by adding a certificate authority," Check Point spokeswoman Emily Cohen said.

Check Point positioned its strategic announcements to focus on VPNs, which are designed to link two different locations securely over the Internet.

VPN technology has been available for some time, notes Zona's Balderston, as part of firewall software. In fact, top-selling firewall vendor Check Point said its VPN offering is installed at more than 5,000 locations, far outdistancing the host of VPN start-ups.

Check Point said its VPN business is growing rapidly--18 months ago, one of every 12 FireWall-1-buyers also got a VPN module, while today one of every four firewall installations includes VPN capabilities.

Check Point will incorporate digital certificates by June by making its FireWall-1 server and its SecuRemote client remote access software work with Entrust Technologies, which sells software for issuing and managing digital certificates. Later this year, Check Point also will support digital certificates issued by VeriSign's digital ID service, also by June.

In addition, Check Point will bundle its VPN software with certificate authority software for issuing digital IDs by September.

To handle the heavy lifting in encrypting and decrypting data, Check Point is partnering with Chrysalis-ITS for 10 mbps and 100 mbps hardware crypto accelerator cards for Solaris and Windows NT in the second quarter.

"People will get the speed of a hardware solution and the flexibility of software solutions," Check Point's Cohen said.

To ease management of VPNs, Check Point will support directory services, including integration with LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) by mid-year.

Later in the year, Check Point said it plans to offer new VPN software packages at different prices for smaller customers.