Expect more security buys

One key networking industry trend to watch for in the year ahead is the continuation of a security buying frenzy on the part of the sector’s leading equipment manufacturers.

December alone saw both 3Com Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. swallow up smaller-fish security players with the aim of folding those offerings into their overall portfolios.

In Cisco’s case, the target was Protego Networks of Sunnyvale, Calif., which builds a “threat migration” product called Mars. The technology analyzes network topology data, as well as information from a customer’s existing security products, and offers administrators a way to pinpoint trends and trouble spots across the network. Cisco bought Protego for a price of US$65 million and will roll the company’s expertise into its Security Technology Group.

Meanwhile, 3Com was laying down US$430 million to pick up TippingPoint Technologies Inc. of Austin, Tex. Tipping Point puts out a line of hardware appliances under its UnityOne brand that detect nefarious traffic on a LAN and at the network edge.

The offering is based on TippingPoint’s Threat Suppression Engine architecture, which, according to the company, enables traffic classification and rate shaping. Algorithms are generated and baseline “normal” traffic, allowing for automatic thresholds and throttling so that mission-critical apps are given a higher priority on the network, the company says. The company also offers a security management platform, which can allow an enterprise to administer and configure as many as 1,000 UnityOne systems.

The acquisition strengthens 3Com’s security portfolio by adding to the technology it already develops jointly with Huawei Technologies. Don’t be surprised if these types of security purchases keep occurring on a frequent basis throughout 2005.

Because threats to the network continue to adopt new forms and are constantly reinventing themselves to look for new ways into the enterprise environment, new solutions are also constantly being developed.

Usually, the answers are not being provided by the big players like 3Com and Cisco, but rather by startups whose sole purpose in life is to address one or two small parts of the overall security quandary. Hand in hand with the equipment vendors’ security pushes will come a continuation of another trend that really began to take hold in the second half of the year just past: users can expect to hear a lot more messaging and marketing from the larger vendors aimed at the executive level.

It seems that tech vendors have latched onto the idea that to evangelize their mantras to a more ubiquitous level, the ear of the CxO must be gained.

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