CEBIT America: Vendors to Improve on Security Appliances

Four leading security vendors acknowledged that their products lack a unified management approach, but promised to improve the situation in the coming months.

Security management directions were just one of myriad topics debated by Cisco Systems, Network Associates, Nokia and Symantec executives at Network World's Security Showdown this week at CeBit America. A volley of questions — from Network World Editorial Director John Gallant and vendors quizzing each other — shed some light on what customers can expect to see from these four vendors in the near future.

Cisco is creating Web-based automated design tools for question-and-answer input with customers and partners that when used, would produce a network diagram that would map to a security policy for data, storage or video, according to Jeff Platon, Cisco's senior director of product and technology marketing for security.

Gallant queried Platon on Cisco's bewildering management approach to its growing collection of security software, appliances and blades.

Management options include "Cisco Security Device Manager, the CiscoWorks Security Information Management Solution, the Cisco IP Solution Center Security Technology Module for Management and the CiscoWorks VPN Security Management Solution," Gallant noted, and then asked: "Why do you have so many security management offerings, and do you plan to unify all security and device management in one product?"

"The simple answer is yes," Platon said. "We'll get to fewer ones."

Although Platon said he didn't see the embedded device managers going away anytime soon, he acknowledged that today Cisco has two management interfaces for workflow and provisioning, and "we do need to come to a common platform," and that work is underway. But that probably won't happen for another 12 to 18 months.

But the goal, Platon said, is that customers will see a common architecture for different interface types to manage both provisioning and workflow where "policy can be pushed out to a different functional group."

Meanwhile, Network Associates has its own management consoles for its WebShield line of anti-virus messaging appliances and the Sniffer protocol-analysis appliances to which it intends to add IntruVert Networks' intrusion-detection and intrusion-protection systems, which in turn is managed separately today.

Christopher Thompson, Network Associates vice president of product marketing, said a common management platform is a goal — but don't expect it for about nine months.

Nokia's security appliances are based on third-party security software from Check Point Software Technologies, Internet Security Systems (ISS) and Trend Micro. Dan MacDonald, vice president of Nokia, said the Nokia Horizon Manager is intended to "rapidly deploy software, do backups and restore" of Nokia appliances, but can't manage Check Point, ISS and Trend Micro security software running on general-purpose servers.

MacDonald said the best interaction between vendor management consoles is between Horizon and Check Point's management products.

"Check Point does have products that interface with Nokia Horizon Manager with minimum double entry," MacDonald said. There's also effort to improve integration between Nokia and Trend Micro management products, but that will not be available until the third quarter.

Because ISS recently began offering its own brand of hardware appliance without help from Nokia, one question posed asked whether Nokia's partnership with ISS is turning into more of a competition.

MacDonald said the partnership with ISS is solid, but acknowledged there is now "an amount of overlap" in appliances from ISS and Nokia that could have the two vendors fighting for customers.

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