Cisco upgrades its VMS monitoring apps

Cisco Systems Inc. recently unveiled CiscoWorks VPN/Security Management Solution (VMS) 2.0, a suite of applications for monitoring and configuring virtual private network (VPN) and secure IT infrastructures.

VMS 2.0 includes Cisco Secure Policy Manager (CSPM), Cisco VPN Monitor, Cisco Resource Manager Essentials and Cisco Intrusion Detection System (IDS) software for protecting servers and networks. All of the applications are Web-based so net managers can monitor and troubleshoot security from a browser.

One of the notable updates to this package is the IDS host sensor, which offers host-based intrusion protection, detection and blocking of malicious activity against servers, said Amrit Patel, manager of product marketing for Cisco in San Jose, Calif. Although communications through a VPN are secure, Patel noted that they can be vulnerable at edge points.

“An enterprise might stretch its firewall over the Internet to a virtual point where their partner is, but unless that partner connection is protected via a firewall this isn’t a complete solution. So [VMS 2.0] really does complement managing firewalls, and monitoring and managing security access at the virtual private network’s termination points,” he said.

According to the company, another key component of the VMS 2.0 is the Cisco VPN monitor, which provides customers with a dashboard view of all VPN resources on the network, and now supports Cisco’s 1700, 2600 and 3600 series routers.

With its new graphical user interfaces, and a few extra features, the VMS 2.0 is a clear attempt to bring some focus to Cisco’s security and VPN monitoring story, said Joel Conover, a Green Bay, Wis.-based senior analyst for enterprise infrastructure with Current Analysis.

“What they’re doing here is incremental upgrades to a number of products and some bundling. A lot of these things didn’t exactly mesh together so to get them to sit side by side they had to do some improvements to things like the host sensor, and some upgrades to get the CSPM integrated into the larger Cisco Works framework,” Conover said.

According to Patel, VPN and security managers are often so focused on maintaining security that they overlook the requirements that need to be in a solution. These often-overlooked features include the ability to do a blanket-wide software update to all of the security enforcement points, or being able to look at the ports that give you information about rogue users – either users that have broken into the device, or valid users that are making out-of-bound changes, he said.

“One of the things that we did with the bundle was to include Resource Manager Essentials. [This tool] really talks to the basic nuts and bolts that you absolutely need to have in terms of doing software distribution management, change audit tracking, inventory management and reporting, and device credentials management,” he said.

Although Cisco may still be seen more as “the Internet company” than “the security company,” Patel said that in the last two years it has – with its remote firewall management and host-based intrusion detection – built a large portfolio that puts it in a good competitive position toward the incumbents in the security field.

Conover agreed, explaining that both the substance and style of Cisco’s partnerships with boutique firms and security specialists give its solutions “a holistic approach to managing security.”

“What’s kind of interesting is that Cisco goes to the specialist and says, ‘How can we integrate your technology better with ours?’ Unlike Microsoft (Corp.), Cisco doesn’t take the iron rod to them to get its will, it bends its products and polices to fit where it makes sense,” Conover said.

VMS 2.0 is available now. The list price is $12,552 for a version that supports up to 20 enforcement points, and US$20,000 for an unrestricted version.