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Q & A With ConSentry's Jeff Prince

Given the acquisition mania surrounding networking appliance companies these days, it's probably not too bad a time to be at a startup in the field. Though the comapny hasn't formally announced a product yet, the still-stealth-mode ConSentry Networks (formerly Tidal Networks) is prepping a new box targeting both the security and network-access areas of enterprise computing. Advanced IP Pipeline editor Paul Kapustka recently sat down with ConSentry chairman and CTO Jeff Prince (whose track record includes helping "found" Foundry Systems) to ask some questions about networking appliances, security, and the startup atmosphere in Silicon Valley, circa 2005.

Advanced IP Pipeline: It seems like technologies that now make it possible to inspect networks at the packet level are converging with a greater concern for network security. Is that where ConSentry's headed?

Jeff Prince: It's funny, because I spent earlier parts of my career solving every problem in the LAN by throwing bandwidth at it. You can fix QoS by throwing bandwidth at it. But now there's an infrastructure out in the LAN that's just this huge pile of bandwidth, and anyone can get at it. The situation now is that it's unlimited bandwidth with which bad things can propagate.

We've moved beyond just forwarding packets. Now it's about controlling what gets on the network and what has access to what, because with that unlimited bandwidth you can do very large amounts of damage very quickly if you can't control it.

The other thing that happened is that networks are no longer static. Now half the computers [on an enterprise network] get up at the end of the day and walk out the front door, then go plug into untrusted sources, then come back into your building. So things are coming into your building that you can't control. The concept of a 'perimeter' is changing a lot.

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