Tasman debuts integrated router

While Cisco Systems Inc. and Juniper Networks Inc. gear up for a fight over integrated WAN routers, Tasman Networks Inc. is looking to jump into the fray with new boxes that combine access with security and other services.

Tasman says it plans to have new routers out by mid-2005 that integrate a variety of network services on top of basic T-1/T-3-based WAN connectivity. Integrating technologies such as firewall, VoIP, intrusion detection and prevention, and VPN into a single box can make a WAN less costly to deploy and easier to manage than installing services on separate appliances.

This month Tasman, a low-cost competitor to Cisco in the WAN router market, plans to announce integration of new services into its routers, such as intrusion detection, intrusion prevention, VoIP and Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet. The firm already offers VPN and firewall capabilities in its routers. It plans to integrate new services in software on its routers, which are based on standards-based computing and telecom components.

“We have a lot of computing headroom on our routers to run these additional functions at full wire speed, we are going to migrate a lot of appliance functions into the router,” says Paul Smith, president and CEO of Tasman.

Tasman sells low-cost, standards-based WAN routers and other network gear. In October, it introduced a T-1 WAN router with VPN and firewall capabilities for about US$1,000; comparable products from Cisco, Nortel or Juniper can cost two to three times that. Tasman is the latest among several vendors — including Foundry Networks Inc., Enterasys Networks Inc. and 3Com Corp. — to come out with plans for integrated WAN boxes.

This software-based approach differs from rival Cisco, which has more than 75 percent market share. Cisco this fall introduced a line of Integrated Service Routers, which are boxes that provide WAN routing and VoIP acceleration, VPN encryption and intrusion-detection technology as standard features in hardware. Cisco — which used to implement such services in software or with add-on modules — says that building such functions into the guts of a router improves performance and leaves room for expansion with more features.

Enterprise users want more features than just routing in their routers, whether deployed in software or hardware. A recent survey of 350 IT professionals by The Yankee Group showed that more than 50 per cent of users would like to have services such as VPN, firewall, load balancing and VoIP integrated into a single device — whether it’s a LAN switch or WAN router. Survey respondents said reducing costs of acquiring and managing multiple appliances was the main factor for wanting integrated devices.

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