There's some early optimism about the information technology industry as the world steps into 2011. For one thing, the global network security market is expected to be on the rise, according to estimates from IDC, which forecasts a return to the growth of pre-recession levels this year.The global network security market, described as hardware and software with functionality that includes firewalls, VPNs, intrusion prevention and detection, and multi-purpose security known as unified threat management, is expected to show revenues of $8.16 billion in 2011. That's 8.1% more than 2010 revenues, which are reckoned at about $7.54 billion, according to November forecasts by IDC. While final numbers related to 2010 are still being compiled, 2010 is regarded as a year of revenue stabilization for the network security industry after the painful year of 2009, which saw revenues drop almost 1% from the year before to about $7.16 billion.Also read: Network World's 2011 Outlook packageIDC's network security market forecast anticipates that software will grow at a faster rate than hardware and that software-based solutions "will make up over 26% of the market by 2014," when the market is predicted to reach about $9.5 billion. Still, hardware-based appliances are expected to see the lion's share of revenues at $6.58 billion in 2011, growing to an expected $7 billion in 2014.IDC also forecasts that network security revenues will increasingly be derived through sales of hypervisor-ready solutions for virtualization, growing from roughly $256.1 million in 2011 to $413.3 million in 2014. In addition, software-as-a-service, described as a type of security provided where "the management of the network security resides in the cloud and there are some features that are also performed in the cloud," is expected to account for market revenue of $170.2 million in 2011, growing to $259.4 million in 2014.The IDC report "Worldwide Network Security 2010-2014 Forecast and 2009 vendor shares" doesn't predict the top security vendor in terms of revenue for this year, but indicates Cisco has held the top slot in the past, followed by Check Point, Juniper, McAfee and IBM.Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.