Security, voice over IP support, PoE the top trends in routers, switches

Products that combine security and routing are becoming increasingly popular with corporate IT departments, most of whom buy all of their switches and routers from one manufacturer, according to a recent survey.

Infonetics Research, a Campbell, Calif.-based market research firm, recently surveyed 300 medium and large organizations planning to buy routers and local-area network switches.

The “top emerging technology” identified in the router market was the integration of security features, such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems.

Firewalls are “pretty much standard” on low-end routers, said Matthias Machowinski, Infonetics’s directing analyst for enterprise voice and data.

“It’s a lot easier to manage one box than six or seven,” said Marie Hatter, senior director for network systems marketing at San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Systems Inc., whose products include the Integrated Services Routers (ISRs) and the Adaptive Security Appliances, which combine switching, firewalls and virtual private networks (VPN).

SMB IT managers wear several hats

Other products on the market include the M120, a 10 Gigabit per second multiservice edge router with VPN, made by Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Juniper Networks Inc.

Last month, Juniper introduced nine versions of its Secure Services Gateway (SSG) line, which includes branch office routing and several security functions, including firewall, VPN, intrusion prevention, anti-virus, filtering and spam detection.

The SSGs, which Juniper calls unified threat management (UTM) devices, are really security appliances with routing functions included, said Chris Spain, Juniper’s senior director for enterprise product solutions.

A key feature of the SSG is the role-based administration, which allows security staff to change security settings and network managers to administer connectivity settings without having access to security, Spain said.

For small to mid-sized businesses, it’s important to make routers easy to use, because IT administrators “wear multiple hats,” said Joe Manuelle, vice-president for Americas and International at Adtran Inc., a Huntsville, Ala.-based equipment manufacturer.

Adtran’s recently-launched NetVanta 3400 Series routers include firewall, access control lists and IPSec VPN support. The 3348 model includes power over Ethernet so it can support IP phones.

Support for voice over IP was one of the top emerging trends in LAN switching, according to Infonetics’s user survey. Machowinski said manufacturers are including power over Ethernet because telecom administrators want their IP phones to continue operating in the event of a power failure.

The other top emerging trend in switching identified by respondents to Infonetics’s survey was support for the 802.1x wireless security standard.

802.1x support is a “critical” feature of LAN switches, said Darren Hamilton, category business manager of ProCurve for HP Canada.

“Security is not one of these things that you address once and be done with it,” Hamilton said.

Cisco d0minates the market

HP’s security architecture, dubbed Adaptive Edge, is designed to allow administrators to set security polices and have them enforced by devices at the network edge, so that devices like notebooks or IP phones that do not meet the security criteria are not granted access.

When asked to rate switch manufacturers, respondents to Infonetics’s survey gave HP high marks for support.

Hamilton said ProCurve products have a lifetime warranty, and HP promises to replace switches or modules the following day, without charging for an “extended contract.”

The top manufacturer, according to Infonetics respondents, was Cisco, which is the vendor of choice for 68 per cent of the switch respondents and 87 per cent of router respondents. The second and third most popular switch vendors were 3Com Corp. and HP, which were chosen by 16 per cent and 15 per cent of respondents respectively.

Last month, Marlborough, Mass.-based 3Com introduced its Unified Switch for small to mid-sized businesses, which has 24 Ethernet ports and support for 802.11 wireless networks. Wireless security features include support for the Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 standard and rogue detection.

The ports can connect to desktop devices, IP phones or wireless access points, said Howard Rubin, 3Com’s senior marketing manager, wireless.

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