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Firewalls Forced to Adapt

Are data center managers moving away from firewalls to more specialized security? Today's $430 acquisition bid for intrusion prevention specialist TippingPoint Technologies Inc. by 3Com Corp. (Nasdaq: COMS) would seem to indicate that that might be the case (see 3Com Takes TippingPoint).

But the real story seems to be a trend toward a wider range of security products, including both classic security of firewalls supplemented with the highly defined defense of specialized security.

Jon Oltsik, senior analyst for information security at Enterprise Strategy Group, believes firewalls will continue to grow at a modest rate. Firewall sales are up from last year in the 5 percent to 7 percent range,” he says. “We see a lot of old software firewalls being upgraded to higher-throughput firewall appliances. We also see a lot of firewall consolidation.”

Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: CHKP) is one such firewall/VPN player that enjoyed a financially rewarding year in 2004 (see Check Point Gets Cheeky). Oltsik believes the company will slowly move beyond the firewall space in 2005.

Oltsik believes that companies, like Check Point, will focus on creating firewalls with integrated specialized security technologies. In the 1990s, firewalls evolved from static packet filtering to the application-layer inspection applications of today. “With the cost of hardware continuing to decrease, there is no limit to how much intelligence you can cram into an individual firewall box,” he says.

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