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Net security a team effort

Microsoft, Oracle, and other industry titans will team up with networking giant Cisco Systems to improve end-to-end network security.

The giants of the computer business are teaming up with networking equipment maker Cisco Systems (CSCO) to tighten network security.

Microsoft (MSFT), Hewlett-Packard (HWP), Oracle (ORCL), VeriSign, and Security Dynamics Technologies (SDTI) subsidiary RSA Data Security will team up with Cisco to improve end-to-end security between clients, servers, and network infrastructure equipment.

The heavyweights' decision to join the newly created Cisco Enterprise Security Alliance, whose members have developed a road map to offer network security, including improved authentication capabilities, gives the embryonic group a substantial lift.

Cisco said the initiative would result in a framework based on user authentication, uniformity of security policy, and auditing and management. Cisco will OEM VeriSign's Digital ID digital certificate technology.

Cisco and Microsoft said they plan to work on a specification to tie their distinct products together, as well as coordinate efforts on IPsec, a security enhancement for IP networks, and digital certificates.

Cisco has targeted the security software market segment recently, hoping to gain market share vs. competitors such as firewall company Check Point Software Technologies.

Check Point, a company that has quickly cornered 40 percent of the firewall market, believes its own framework satisfies the requirements for enterprise, policy-based security, and management. The Open Platform for Secure Enterprise Connectivity (OPSEC), which debuted in November of last year, has been adopted by 30 partners, including HP, Oracle, Microsoft, and RSA Data Security, who also will support the Cisco Systems initiative.

Though Check Point does not have the resources of the 800-lb. gorilla of networking, Cisco Systems, company executives believe the market for security is big enough for both of them.

"I think there is room for a couple of gorillas [in the security space] and we hope to be one of them," said Jackie Ross, director of marketing at Check Point.