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 newsletter!

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

Tags cisconetwork security

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

Ellen Messmer

Network World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?