If you look at revenue numbers, Cisco is the clear leader in network security. That said, the company has been far less visible over the last few years -- especially at the high-end of the market in consolidated data centers, wired and wireless carrier networks, and cloud computing infrastructure. This opened this lucrative market to Juniper's SRX and the security duo of Crossbeam Systems/Check Point.
As the saying goes, "never wake the sleeping giant." In an unprecedented series of announcements yesterday, Cisco announced its new high-end security system, the ASA 5585X. Cisco's deepening data center chops are clearly evident here. The ASA 5585X is a 2 rack unit appliance, a small form factor that one-ups the competition in terms of power, space, and cooling but still delivers massive data center performance from 2Gb to 20Gb of throughput. Cisco also demonstrated that it is paying attention to the mobile Internet market by emphasizing that the 5585X can deliver up to 350,000 connections per second -- a metric that will really appeal to wireless carriers.
The ASA 5585X announcement was one of a veritable waterfall of news coming out of Cisco yesterday. Whether you love Cisco or hate it, you have to give the company credit -- all of the announcements were strong on their own, tied together with overall company intitiaves, and supported one another. For example, the ASA 5585X announcement:
1. Balanced security and performance. Beyond announcing a "hot box," Cisco is also reminding the market of its security prowess. The 5585X combines traditional defenses like firewall and IDS/IPS but it also leverages IronPort services for content security, web security, and its security reputation database.
2. Ties into the Secure Borderless Network Initiative. Here, Cisco is highlighting that the 5585X supports AnyConnect, Cisco's "always-on" VPN client. AnyConnect is designed to created trusted client/server relationships, encrypt all traffic, and ease connectivity for mobile workers. By linking these two products, Cisco can compete for network security in the wireless carrier space AND push AnyConnct as a universal endpoint standard.
3. Focuses on the new data center. Cisco can bundle the 5585X into huge deals that also feature UCS, Catalyst, Nexus, etc.
I don't know how the ASA 5585X compares to the competition, but speeds-and-feeds are somewhat beside the point. The ASA 5585X gets Cisco back in the game. Combined with Cisco's growing portfolio, data center experience, and un-matched marketing messages, it will most certainly sell a lot of high-end security boxes.