NAI leaps into appliance arena

Network Associates Inc. (NAI) has jumped into the security appliance arena with a combination anti-virus, firewall and VPN box.

According to Eric Hemmendinger, an analyst with the Aberdeen Group in Boston, most of the security appliances thus far have been offered by relatively small players and have tended to offer firewall with VPN, but adding anti-virus has been a distant goal.

“The anti-virus embedded with firewall and VPN is a differentiator because nobody else is doing it yet. We know an awful lot of them would like to, but nobody’s doing it yet,” said Hemmendinger.

“Into this mix comes a relative giant in the security industry… Network Associates.”

Zach Nelson, executive vice president of marketing and alliances of NAI, said two versions of the appliance will be available: the WebShield E-ppliance 300 providing all three features as well as the WebShield E-ppliance 100 which is only the anti-virus.

“This device (the 100) uses our McAfee anti-virus technology to stop virus intrusion at the network edge. It scans incoming and outgoing SMTP, HTTP and FTP traffic at the network edge. It also includes content filtering,” said Nelson.

Nelson emphasized that although the appliances are being marketed to all sizes of companies, they are enterprise-scale devices.

“The notion of an Internet appliance brings to mind very low-end devices that scale to around 250 users or so. In both the WebShield 100 and 300, we are delivering enterprise-scale solutions that can support tens of thousands of users and massive amounts of network traffic,” said Nelson.

Announced at the same time was an agreement with Sun Microsystems regarding the products.

“We are embarking on a number of efforts with Sun to bring the E-ppliance products to both corporate and service provider markets. Specifically, we will be shipping a number of Solaris-based E-ppliances… We will also be working with Sun on future E-ppliances to more tightly marry our application software with the Solaris operating environment. Finally, we will embark on joint marketing and sales efforts,” Nelson said.

The WebShield 100 and 300 will also be available with Windows NT, he said.

But Hemmendinger said having Solaris or NT in the appliance is of very little importance because the operating system (OS) of an appliance matters only to the appliance and not to the rest of the network.

“The very appliance nature of it means the OS is not necessarily critical to the decision of do I or don’t I buy this. Having said that, the interesting aspect of Network Associates dealing with Sun and Microsoft environments is they’ve maintained neutrality, and for those who do care about what the OS is, they pretty well have their bases covered,” said Hemmendinger.

Pricing will be announced on the WebShield 100 and 300 when they ship in the fall, but is expected to be around the cost of a firewall only.

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