Cisco fights to keep No. 1 spot in network security

Latest tests raise question about Cisco software modules

Cisco's the king of network security, commanding almost a quarter share of the worldwide US$6.8 billion network security market, according to IDC. But can it hold the fort?

Tops in selling firewalls, VPNs, intrusion-protection systems and unified threat management (UTM) gear, Cisco nonetheless fights an ongoing battle to be recognized as best-of-breed as it jousts against Juniper and a host of pure-play security vendors, including Fortinet, McAfee and TippingPoint.

Complicating matters is the fact that Cisco sells a substantial portion of its security wares not as purpose-built standalone gear, such as appliances, but as software integrated-services modules that are installed inside Cisco routers and switches.

While all customer networks have different traffic patterns, there's growing doubt about how well these firewall, VPN and IPS modules hold up trying to handle process-intensive security functions.

"It presents a tremendous bottleneck," says Vik Phatak, chair and CEO of NSS Labs, which has just completed an extensive round of tests of security gear, including that from Cisco, Juniper, IBM, McAfee, and TippingPoint, in its labs.

NSS Labs will publish its findings about firewalls, IPS and UTM early next year, but Phatak says he has concluded that there are clearly performance drawbacks to using the Cisco security functions in routers and switches.

"Using IPS in your router can turn a 60G router into a 5G one or even a 100M bit/sec device," says Phatak. "There are performance bottlenecks." He adds that sometimes security functions simply can't keep up when speeds are high.

But Phatak also points out that the tests of Cisco's standalone security appliances fared quite well against its rivals' equipment in the NSS Labs environment, which included simulation of perimeter, internal network and e-commerce. "TippingPoint, McAfee, Juniper, Cisco and IBM are all 'Grade A,' " Phatak says.

Cisco says the effectiveness of the software-based security modules in routers and switches depends on the use case, and it helps customers work out any problems that crop up. Cisco indicated its network security sales are split fairly evenly between the modules and appliances. And there are no plans to change the integrated security services strategy.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags network securitycisco

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ellen Messmer

Network World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?