Juniper's latest Network and Security Manager (NSM) supports a wider variety of its gear, including its emerging line of switches, and it features a future-proofed API for forthcoming product launches.
Previously labeled as Netscreen Security Manager, the NSM 2008.1 uses a SOAP/XML-based API, which Juniper claims can monitor and apply security policies to any Juniper hardware on the network, even products not yet released.
"The release is quite instrumental and the industry's first policy and configuration platform that manages security, routing and switching platforms in a single application," said Sanjay Kapoor, Juniper's director of product management for foundation technologies.
Kapoor said customers had told Juniper they did not want to update NSM with each new product release and that reconfiguring the back office software that interacted with the management suite with every update was a costly pain point.
Simplified and unified management tools are integral to operationally efficient networking departments, according to Jim Metzler, vice president of Ashton, Metzler Associates. Traditional "stovepipe" tools siloed responsibilities and let problems fall through the cracks, he said.
The real winner, however, may be the S in NSM.
"It hasn't been necessarily the kind of thing that people say, 'I'm going to choose my network hardware based on management,' " Metzler said. "But security is a different piece; security scares me."
With NSM, Juniper is providing a single tool that can update and monitor security threats across its product line, he said. That's a message even otherwise-IT-phobic management can appreciate.
NSM, which is available immediately, now offers centralized management for Juniper Networks J-series services routers, EX-series Ethernet switches, Secure Access SSL VPN and firewall/VPN, and intrusion detection and prevention appliances.
It also manages Juniper's newly announced Unified Access Control (UAC) solution, version 2.2, which is available as a software package or on two new Infranet Controllers (IC 4500 and IC 6500).
The drive to provide more comprehensive access control and network management comes at a time when Juniper is aligning itself more directly against Cisco Systems, with the launch of its first enterprise-oriented Ethernet switches.
"They've been talking about getting more serious about the enterprise, and they've been successful in some parts, particularly on security," Metzler said. "This is another signal."
Having a simplified management scheme provided benefits in a number of areas, he said, but the most compelling one may be the security angle: A single view shared across departments means fewer areas where things can fall through the cracks.
To stand out against Cisco, Juniper has tried labeling itself as the "high-performance networking leader," going after niche markets willing to spend more for lower latency and the consistent experience offered by JunOS, Juniper's portfolio-wide operating system.
As well as the NSM update, Kapoor talked about Juniper's focus on ease of deployment.
"Someone would use NSM to bootstrap a device, install a security policy, and get it on the network," he said. "It's an out-of-the-box solution you can get up and running in less than five minutes."
Metzler said he would reserve judgment on how well NSM could quickly get equipment up and running, but he said it was the right direction for Juniper to be taking.
"What you're seeing is another round of increased competition in a very large market," he said. "That's good for everyone."
Juniper's UAC software starts at $1,000 for a 25-endpoint license for new customers, while NSM is priced starting at $6,900 or $10,000 for a dedicated appliance. Upgrades are free to customers with existing contracts.