Recent vendor activity shows networking giants are branching out beyond their traditional core competencies onto security-centric terrain, and it could foreshadow a major change in the networking industry landscape.
In just the past year, several top networking companies have made major acquisitions to tap into the security market: Cisco Systems Inc. acquired Protego Networks Inc., Juniper Networks Inc. purchased NetScreen Technologies Inc. and 3Com Corp. bought TippingPoint Technologies Inc.
Cisco is leveraging its $65 million acquisition of Protego in December to enhance the management of its Network Admission Control (NAC) strategy, which seeks to enforce a uniform set of security policies on end-point devices and enable customers to build self-defending networks. Protego developed hardware and software to provide system administrators the ability to spot, isolate and fix network security problems.
Protego's technology also closes off portions of a network during an attack, and remediates in the aftermath of an attack. Until the acquisition, Cisco's security features depended on third-party products.
Juniper hurdled into the security market last year when it acquired NetScreen for $4 billion in stock. The move enabled Juniper to use NetScreen as the basis for a new security products group, and has helped set the stage for a network security battle with Cisco.
The NetScreen security appliances and software provided network- and application-level protection.
George Hamilton, a senior analyst with Boston-based research firm Yankee Group, said NetScreen has augmented several areas of Juniper's security strategy, including its firewall, antivirus protection, denial-of-service and attack prevention, MPLS VPNs, SSL VPNs and intrusion prevention.
The latest networking company to snap up security technology was 3Com, which purchased TippingPoint for $430 million in cash late last year.
The deal adds TippingPoint's UnityOne line of intrusion prevention system (IPS) hardware and software to 3Com's set of enterprise security products.
TippingPoint's technology protects users' networks from a variety of threats, including denial-of-service attacks and infections from worms and viruses.
The UnityOne appliances inspect network traffic at high speeds, identifying attacks aimed at software applications, routers, switches, servers and other network infrastructure. The accompanying UnityOne Security Management System allows companies to centrally manage and control IPS appliances across the network, according to TippingPoint.
TippingPoint is now operating as a wholly owned division of 3Com. Kip McClanahan, president of 3Com's TippingPoint division, said in an interview at Interop 2005 that 3Com can now deliver secure, converged networks to the enterprise market due to TippingPoint's integration into its portfolio.
Later this year, he said, 3Com will introduce a blade version of the TippingPoint system that will be integrated with its switch products, combining switching and intrusion prevention in one unit.
Laura Taylor, president and CEO with Cambridge, Mass.-based professional services firm Relevant Technologies, said it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish networking vendors from security vendors.
Taylor indicated two reasons why networking vendors are gearing up on security: leveraging current customers to saturate them with more products and offering the one-stop-shopping customers respond well to.
She said the blurring line between networking and security products creates both possibilities and predicaments for many users. For instance, Taylor said boxes acting as routers, switches and firewalls are now available, but they have their share of advantages and disadvantages, which differ from one organization to the next.
Taylor said it's necessary to weigh the pros and cons when evaluating products that combine networking and security functionality because newer and bigger combination products don't always translate to better performance and functionality.
Note: This article originally appeared on SearchNetworking.com.