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Cisco pitches new security hardware

The modules are intended to safeguard networks at a lower cost than standalone security appliances.

Cisco on Tuesday announced hardware intended to safeguard networks at a lower cost, but it could lead to infighting in information technology departments.

The five new security modules plug directly into Cisco's Catalyst 6500 line of data switches, which regulate the flow of data on a network. The modules can tap into the switches' wide bandwidth and eliminate the need for separate, costly hardware to control security features such as a company's firewall, the equipment maker said.

"We're integrating security into the network," said Tom Russell, director of marketing and product development for Cisco's security business unit.

Security and network administrators should be able to manage the modules more easily than the standalone security appliances they replace, said David Passmore, a networking analyst with the Burton Group, a research and consulting company. But adding security functions to a networking device could lead to trouble within companies' IT departments, he said.

The IT specialists who are in charge of security at an organization are typically not the same people who handle networking, so having both types of functions on the same device could lead to some infighting, he warned.

"Security folks in particular tend to be control freaks," Passmore said. "The idea that they're going to give up control of the firewall and let the networking guys stick it within the networking switch may not go down well with them."

But integrating network and security hardware into one box has its benefits, Russell said. It would let customers put security services to work throughout their networks--for instance, a customer could set up a dynamic, multipoint VPN (virtual private network) service, instead of the typical point-to-point VPN connection, Russell said.

Cisco's five new hardware products consist of a firewall services module, an Internet Protocol (IP) VPN services module, a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) module and two network analysis modules. Cisco plans to release the firewall and SSL products in September. The others are available now.

Pricing ranges from $17,995 for one of the network analysis modules to $35,000 for the VPN module. Cisco's Catalyst 6500 line of switches start at about $24,000.

The firewall services module, which will cost $34,995, offers 5gbps of data throughput and 100,000 connections per second. A comparable standalone firewall device would cost upwards of $100,000, Russell said.