The options are broadening for all-in-one devices for the branch office. But the question is not so much whether to use these tools - it\u2019s whose tools to use and when?This week, Nortel will make its secure router product line available (based on technology from the Tasman acquisition). Last month, NetDevices started selling its services gateway for small branch offices, and Juniper announced its unified threat management devices.Vendors are rightfully focusing on creating, enhancing, and sizing consolidated devices for branch offices. As we speak to IT executives, we see many shifting their focus from the data center to the branch office. Their data center consolidation projects are well underway or winding down, and now they need to focus on how to deliver predictable application and network performance to branch office employees.Back to the questions at hand: When does it make sense to use consolidated devices? For any new location, it\u2019s a no-brainer. Like newer technologies such as VoIP, the business case is compelling. Rather than installing a separate firewall, router, switch, network optimization device, and VPN, companies can save on hardware, as well as the operational costs for installation and ongoing management.NetDevice\u2019s SG-4, for example, performs firewall, IDS\/IPS, VPN, switching, and routing functions for a list price of about $8,000. When totaled as point products, capital costs could be $10,000 or more, depending on brands or models. Separately, each point product would take about four to six hours to install - that's two to three times longer than it would take to install a consolidated device. It doesn\u2019t take long to see the value.Prices for Nortel\u2019s Secure Router product line vary; the line (4 products) targets small, midsize, and large locations. The prices for the three smallest products fall well below $8,000 (exact prices are unavailable), but they\u2019re priced to be more attractive than buying appropriately sized point products for the size of the branch office.Where the decision isn\u2019t as clear is with existing branch offices. I will discuss the cost issues and benefits of consolidated devices in next week\u2019s column. Until then, let me know if you\u2019ve run into challenges determining the value of consolidated devices, whether implementing them in a greenfield location or an existing site.