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Grand networking plan drawn

With the ink barely dry on a deal to buy Trusted Information Systems, Network Associates outlines its security strategy.

MENLO PARK, California--With the ink barely dry on a buyout deal, Network Associates today showcased software from soon-to-be-acquired Trusted Information Systems as a key part of the networking company's security strategy.

In a strategy presentation for analysts and the press, Network Associates (NETA) detailed plans to integrate products from its raft of recent acquisitions--Trusted Information Systems (TISX), Pretty Good Privacy, and Network General--with an emphasis on simplifying the job of network and security managers by unifying how they manage their networks.

"We have historically come in and cut prices to cut prices to gain share," CEO William Larson said, aiming to disrupt existing players.

Network Associates executives hinted broadly that more acquisitions will be coming, but Larson stressed both the difficulty of absorbing acquisitions and the need to draw new revenues from existing products.

"The deal is the easy part in doing acquisitions," Larson said. "The hard part starts after you close the deal."

He expects revenue from the company's help-desk software, ServiceDesk, to kick in this year. But he's giving the security software acquisitions a little more time--next year, when he's counting on the security offerings, including TIS's firewall, intrusion detection, and virtual private network (VPN) software, to increase revenues rapidly.

Steve Walker, TIS's chief executive, showed up to pitch those products, as well as deliver a warning to the top-selling firewall vendor, Check Point (CHKPF).

"Check Point got into the firewall market early, established channels, and sort of blew everyone away. We couldn't catch up," Walker said. "Now with Network Associates, we just got channels. Check Point, watch out--we're coming fast."

Beyond baiting competitors, the day's theme was integrating security and network management into NA's Net Tools console, then expanding it.

"We can plug any acquisition into our console," said Tracey Mustacchio, vice president of the Net Tools division. "We need to create an application for IS that integrates security and network management."

That unified management software could be finished by the end of the year, she said. The next version of Net Tools will integrate consoles from IBM's Tivoli network management software and Computer Associates' Unicenter. She said the software already works well enough with Hewlett-Packard's OpenView management software.

Network Associates' security software acquisitions have resonated with customers, vice president Peter Watkins said, because they like dealing with fewer vendors.

"It's really a surprise how fast and how strong the drive is from customers," Watkins said, pointing to cross-selling opportunities as new products are added, as well as integrating antivirus server software with encryption and firewalls.

Although PGP is best known for its desktop encryption software, Network Associates is promoting its certificate authority software too, giving corporations the ability to issue digital IDs to their employees, then manage them without relying on an outside service like VeriSign.

"We don't think anyone else in the industry provides our breadth of product," said Chip Messec, director of product management for security products.

As an indication of how Wall Street has received Network Associates' strategy, today Morgan Stanley Dean Witter initiated coverage of Network Associates with an "outperform" rating. Morgan Stanley's merger and acquisition practice also represented Network Associates in the TIS deal.

Network Associates purchased TIS on February 23 for about $300 million in stock.