More powerful Sourcefire IPS line sets stage for next-gen firewalls

Sourcefire Monday announced a new line of intrusion-prevention systems (IPS) that sets the foundation for the company's anticipated foray into the application-aware next-generation firewall market later this year.

The Sourcefire 3D8000 Series of IPS sensors come in three models ranging from 10G to 40Gbps in a form that can be stacked to increase throughput. Individual systems will max out at four times the throughput of the 9900 Sourcefire IPS line, which goes up to 10Gbps and will be phased out over the next three-plus years.

Industry analysts say the strategy that Sourcefire is taking with the new IPS line could give the small but long-time player in the IPS market far more leverage to compete against market leaders Cisco and IBM, as well as the other enduring players in network IPS, including McAfee, HP/TippingPoint and Check Point.

BACKGROUND: What you should know about next-generation firewalls

"This is putting them in a pretty good position and they could move up," says Charles Kolodgy, an analyst at IDC, who says Sourcefire holds about five per cent share in the estimated $1.7 billion IPS market. Cisco and IBM lead the market with roughly 19 per cent and 17 per cent shares, he says.

Sourcefire's strategy to introduce an IPS line that can eventually accommodate the processing demands of a next-generation firewall as well is a gamble that would give the company a chance in markets not available to them before, Kolodgy says.

But Sourcefire is a little "behind in terms of timing," says Jon Oltsik, principal analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. He points out that when it comes to next-generation firewalls that combine IPS with a way to set security based on application usage (as well as traditional port-based control), Sourcefire will face competition, with Palo Alto Networks seen as a frontrunner.

"Check Point and Juniper have played that card" and now it's Sourcefire's turn, Oltsik says, adding that Sourcefire's climb into higher-speed IPS equipment may give it a chance in places where the company wouldn't have been viewed as an option at all before, such as in large data centers. You're more likely to find the Crossbeam platform running Check Point software or Juniper with SRX there, he says.

Sourcefire says when the new 3D8000 Series ships next month it will not initially work like a next-generation firewall, by detecting a wide range of applications in order to set restriction policy based on application usage.

However, the plan is to announce software in the second half of 2011 that will enable customers to upgrade the devices so that they can operate as next-gen firewalls, says Marc Solomon, senior vice president of marketing. Sourcefire is expected to roll out additional next-gen firewall models not based specifically on the 3D8000 line as well.

Sourcefire last fall announced plans to compete in the next-generation firewall market.

In addition to the 3D8000 Series, Sourcefire Monday introduced IPSx, three models of Snort-based IPS appliances designed for network administrators who may not have in-depth security training but are being asked to assist the security group. The appliances boast a simpler GUI and fewer configuration options than previous Sourcefire IPS models, and range in throughput from 250M to 1Gbps. Kolodgy says the IPSx line appears to be oriented toward the small- to mid-sized (SMB) business in particular which often lack the IT security expertise and staffing that large enterprises enjoy.

Sourcefire also released its IPS 4.10 software, adding a new GUI, and detection for applications such as Facebook, Windows Media Player and Google Toolbar as well as Apple, Android and BlackBerry mobile devices.

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

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