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Firewall application shored up

Firebox 100, a new version of WatchGuard's hardware-software security bundle, simplifies secure connections and virtual networks.

WatchGuard Technologies, formerly called Seattle Software Labs, next week will ship a new version of its firewall appliance, a hardware device with bundled software dedicated to guarding corporate networks from intruders.

Firebox 100, the second in WatchGuard's line of firewall appliances after its Firebox 10 product, also includes the ability to create virtual private networks (VPNs) as a standard feature. A VPN wizard helps make it easier to set up secure connections to remote users or branch offices.

"We need to drive the intelligence...back into the software, so that the [user] puts it in, configures it, and it just goes along," said Larry Stelmat, WatchGuard technology evangelist and a cofounder of the company.

Gartner Group predicts firewall appliances, a relatively new phenomenon, will grab 40 percent of the firewall market by the year 2002, largely because they're easier to set up and configure than firewall software.

"Small enterprises will increase the quality of their security and reduce their operating expenses by selecting firewall appliances instead of general-purpose firewalls," Michael Zboray, a Gartner network security analyst, wrote in a July report.

Other vendors of firewall appliances include Cisco with its PIX firewall, Technologic with its Interceptor firewall appliance, and Data General, which bundles firewall software with a dedicated workstation.

WatchGuard claims to be the first company to offer VPN software at no additional cost for buyers of its $3,995 Firebox 100, although it will charge $1,495 for its "branch office" VPN software for companies whose network includes multiple locations.

Firebox 100 is a dedicated security appliance set up between a router and a secure corporate network to house all firewall functions. Firebox 100 can connect to a 100Mbit Ethernet; Firebox 10, an older product designed for 10 Mbit Ethernet networks, has a suggested retail price of $3,495. Both can be managed from a Windows 95 PC or Windows NT workstation anywhere on the network, giving customers the option of centralized or distributed management.