Symantec fires up firewall appliance for smaller firms

Looks to attract companies that can't afford to equip every remote user or branch office but still want some security.

Symantec plans to formally announce next week a new firewall security appliance, in a move to attract companies with remote users or branch offices.

The Symantec Gateway Security 400 series is the third product to be added to the company's firewall appliance line in the past 13 months, as the security vendor looks to further expand its offerings beyond its consumer business and focus on corporate customers.

"The 400 series fills a gap," said Barry Cioe, senior director of Symantec's product management. "We have customers with remote and branch offices that can't afford to spend thousands of dollars for every one of those sites. But they still want a certain level of security."

The 400 series is priced below Symantec's high-end 5400 series, which is also geared to corporate users and began shipping in September of last year.

"If you have a midsize business with only one location, you would need to chose either the 5400 or the 400, depending on the number of users you have and your sensitivity to security," Cioe said.

The 400 series can accommodate up to 200 users and carries a throughput of 55 megabits per second, selling anywhere from $400 to $1,000 per appliance. Meanwhile, the 5400 series can accommodate between 100 to 5,000 employees with a throughput of 2 gigabits per second and sells for $3,000 to $50,000.

Symantec's 400 series includes intrusion detection and prevention, content filtering and antivirus protection. (These features are also found in the 5400 series, as well as in Symantec's low-end SGS 300 series for small businesses.) The 400 series also has policy-based security management and can be scaled, if needed--features not included in the SGS 300 series, Cioe noted. The 400 series, however, lacks the antispam features found in the 5400 firewall appliances.

Demand for the 400 series is expected to be strong, analysts said.

"In reality, there will be quite a bit of demand. It answers the need for small and medium-size businesses, who are looking for a gateway security appliance," said Nitsan Hargil, an analyst with Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co. "Most solutions up until this point have been geared for larger enterprises, or the lower-priced solutions have been from smaller vendors, where often there is less comfort in acquiring solutions from them."

Other gateway security appliance vendors, such as Juniper Networks, with its Net Screen line, and SonicWall, have not fared well recently.

"Net Screen didn't do as well as they had hoped (in the most recent quarter), and Sonic Wall pre-announced poor results," Hargil said. "That could be a mixed message for Symantec. They are either gaining market share (in the small and midsize market), or the whole market is not doing well. I think Symantec is encountering a little bit of both. I think it's taking market share, while at the same time it is not growing very aggressively."