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New firewall for the little guy

Cisco next week will release a Windows NT firewall called Centri that is targeted at small businesses.

Cisco (CSCO) will release on September 1 a Windows NT firewall called Centri targeted at small businesses.

Cisco's Centri 4.0, designed for companies with fewer than 500 desktops, can be set up in 20 minutes and administered without an in-house security expert, the company said. Cisco acquired the software in June for $40 million from Global Internet.Com.

Cisco's initial firewall product, the high-end, hardware-based PIX firewall, has 8 percent of the firewall market, enough to grab the No. 2 spot last year among firewall makers, according to International Data Corporation.

Established players like Cisco and McAfee (MCAF) are making inroads into the security firewall market, still dominated by Check Point Software Technologies (CHPKF), which holds 35 percent market share, and other Internet security companies.

Frank Roys, marketing director of Cisco's Internet appliances and applications unit, said in an interview last month that the user interface was a key factor in Cisco's decision to acquire Centri from Global Internet.Com. Elements of Centri's interface also will be incorporated in the PIX firewall, he said.

"Small and medium-sized companies need simplicity, not a solution that is as elegant or complex as a larger organization," Roys said. He added that commonly used firewall features come preconfigured with Centri, including support for TCP/IP Web applications such as File Transfer Protocol (FTP), telnet, and email.

Other standard features include ActiveX, Java applet, JavaScript, Vbscript, and URL blocking; port and network address translation; proxy services for Web, Telnet, and FTP; and support for RealAudio, NetMeeting, CoolTalk, H.323 videoconferencing, and VDOLive.

Priced from $3,495 for 100 users, Centri will be available for download from Cisco's Web site, distributors, and value-added resellers. Pricing for 250 users is $4,995 and $7,495 for an unrestricted number of users, although Centri is recommended for sites with up to 500 users.

A version for the Japanese market is due by year's end.