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Cisco launches new security, manageability tools

Cisco has released several new product upgrades and features as part of an effort to extend security and management functionality across the network.

Cisco Systems Inc. this week announced a series of new upgrades and product features designed to increase manageability and security across its switching portfolio.

Among the features announced by the networking giant are improvements to its Catalyst line of switches, new management software called Smartports, and enhancements to the company's 10 Gigabit Ethernet XenPak products.

Cisco is enhancing its Catalyst 6500, 4500 and 3750 switches. In order to prevent some forms of network attack, the devices will now prevent DCHP snooping by identifying the port the DCHP server is using. The system can then prevent another DCHP server from using any other port.

Cisco has also given its Catalyst line a series of 802.1x enhancements. The switches can now dynamically assign different vLANs to users who authenticate using 802.1x, which is the standard for authenticating network users.

These upgrades are Cisco's response to increased customer demand for reliability, security and improved application communication across the network, said Steven Shalita, Cisco's senior manager of product marketing for LAN switching. "Customers are not just looking for connectivity any more," Shalita said.

With these announcements, Cisco is demonstrating how security features can permeate the entire network, said Chris Kozup, program director with the Stamford, Conn.-based research firm Meta Group. He added that Cisco is also reinforcing its presence in the security market.

Other Catalyst enhancements include a series of changes specific to the 6500, including SSL services, content switching, IPsec VPN and network analysis modules.

These modules help the 6500 handle encrypted SSL traffic more quickly. They also provide a failover for IPsec VPNs so that, if a device fails, users do not experience a service disruption. An analysis module enables the network to better monitor VoIP traffic, Shalita said.

In addition to the Catalyst upgrades, Cisco announced the availability of a new technology called Smartports, which are software tools that help enterprises deploy enhanced management functionality. The Smartports feature a unified interface, which simplifies the implementation of new security features and other quality-of-service improvements on the network, Shalita said.

The Smartports are an important addition, Kozup said, in part because of the growing number of features admins must manage.

"If you expect users to take advantage of all of these features, you have to provide them with the tools to do so more effectively," Kozup said.

However, he expressed some concern about the Smartports because Cisco has been presenting them as if they were a standalone product. Enterprises today favor a consistent management framework, he said.

In addition, Cisco announced a series of additions to its 10 Gigabit Ethernet XenPak products to allow the use of both copper fiber and multi-mode fiber. This will help make 10 Gigabit technology less expensive to deploy, Shalita said, since companies will not have to upgrade to expensive single-mode fiber.

Overall, this laundry list of announcements serves as an indication that Cisco is making strides at integrating intelligence across the breadth of its network and across its many product lines, Kozup said.

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