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Appliances Galore

Oct 03, 20023 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

What’s more convenient than your toaster? Plug it in, chuck in some bread, push the button, and you get toast. That simplicity, of course, is what vendors hope to call to mind by labeling their security products “appliances.” E-mail, antivirus, firewalls

you name it and somebody is pushing a piece of hardware that promises both high performance and no-hassle setup. And although they may not all be as easy to use as a toaster, Peter Lindstrom, director of security strategies at the Hurwitz Group, says the appliance hype is generally good news. “It’s an indicator that some of these product markets are maturing,” he says, although he points to the Web services area as an exceptionan immature technology where the word appliance is nonetheless being bandied about.

Here are just a few of the latest round of security appliances.

Antivirus Box

Antivirus appliances have been around for a relatively long time. Celestix Networks hopes to push the state of the art in terms of simplicity with the Taurus Anti-Virus F1400, which is a box about the size of a computer speaker with an LCD panel for ultrasimple configuration and installation. According to Celestix’s press material, “even nontechies can have entirely secure Internet and e-mail access in about 15 minutes.” The unit is preloaded with software from F-Secure and screens traffic before it reaches the firewall.

Multifunction Platform

Crossbeam calls its X40S an “open security appliance” into which users can plug up to 10 hardware modules running various applications, including antivirus, intrusion detection and firewall, from other vendors. For race car performance, userswealthy ones, anywaycan load up each module with 2GHz-plus Intel processors and 4GB of memory. Starting at $55,000 for more basic configurations, this is not cheap stuff. On the other hand, though, anyone currently running each of these applications on a separate server might quickly see some cost efficiency.

Although some of the details vary, Lindstrom says other vendors, including Symantec with its Gateway Security line, offer similar products that consolidate multiple security functions onto a single hardware platform.


NetBotz makes appliances of a different ilk. Mount one of its small boxes in a server room or wiring closet and you can remotely monitor temperature, motion, vibration or a number of other physical conditions (depending on which sensors you attach) that could potentially knock out your servers or other critical equipment. All NetBotz units have a standard Ethernet network jack and feed data and video back to a central Web-browser display. The company’s president and CEO, Tom Goldman, offers up a case study of a customer who saved $400,000 in network equipment because NetBotz alerted him to high humidity conditions in a data center. The mere presence of a Web-connected camera, in fact, can offer some payback; the same client reported that theft of power suppliesan intermittent annoyance prior to the NetBotz installationstopped altogether.

Refreshingly, Goldman doesn’t even claim the units incorporate much advanced technology (although he adds that lots of gee-whiz stuff is under development in the company labs). For true appliances, after all, the simplicity is the selling point.