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Cisco's Chambers Touts Integrated Security

LAS VEGAS -- It's understandable that John Chambers, the big dog of networking, was doing a little woofing Tuesday at Interop. That's because after years of telling customers that it was necessary to integrate security into their network infrastructures, Cisco's CEO could finally bark about a product that did just that in a single rack unit.

As part of his opening keynote speech here, Chambers formally introduced Cisco's Adaptive Security Appliance, an all-in-one box meant to consolidate security functions currently handled by multiple appliances and applications. And in both his speech and in a Q&A afterwards, Chambers and other Cisco execs took some swipes at competitor Juniper Networks, whose recent acquistions garnered much of the pre-Interop headline acreage.

Without naming Juniper by name, Chambers did say that networking vendors who don't integrate security "into their products now will get left behind." While Chambers didn't specifically note that Juniper has yet to integrate the security functionality it acquired when it bought leading security vendor NetScreen Technologies in 2004, he did say that Cisco's ASA device (a single rack-unit chassis) could significantly cut support and footprint costs for networking buildouts, making it a better buy "even if our competitors gave their products away."

Cisco's ASA is available now in three flavors, with different processing and throughput configurations, with starting prices ranging from $3,700 for a small-business model to $17,000 for a larger enterprise version. According to Cisco, the device incorporates a wide range of security functions and applications, from firewall deployment to application and traffic monitoring, as well as network access control.

Of course, the main problem the ASA fixes is Cisco's own history of offering mainly point products for different security problems. Jayshree Ullal, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's security products division, admitted that the integration "took a little time," but noted that combining the menu of applications and services together in a single, high-performance device involved "some non-trivial engineering."

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