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Cisco Releases 6.2 Version of PIX Firewall Family

With the IP virtual private network (VPN) market on the verge of a highly anticipated upturn, Cisco Systems today announced new advancements in its charge to corner the market for small office/home office enterprise.

The company released a 6.2 version of the PIX Firewall Operating System with added security features for next-generation networks. Cisco also went public with a seventh version of its SAFE Blueprint for IP telephony, based on Cisco Architecture for Voice, Video, and Integrated Data (AVVID), and the PIX OS 6.2 version for deploying VPN networks for small and medium businesses.

The new PIX 506E and 515E firewall platforms are improvements on Cisco's popular PIX 506 and 515 firewalls and have been redesigned with significantly higher throughput for branch office environments using broadband connectivity. The 515E comes with increased throughput of up to two and half times that of its predecessor.

"The platforms that are being released today have to do with providing a significant level of products in the marketplace and reconfirming our commitment to the small office/home office businesses," said Tom Russell, director of marketing for Cisco. "We have also set out to ease the deployment of VPN security appliances and have taken a pretty aggressive look at the best practices for securing IP telephony."

According to market forecaster IDC, "IP VPNs have taken their place as a mainstream wide area network option for business." IDC predicts that the IP VPN market will make an unprecedented leap between now and 2006, ballooning from a $5.4 billion market value in 2001 to $14.7 billion over the next four years. IDC's research has recorded a significant increase in supply and demand for IP VPN services as more companies implement and expand on current systems.

"Cisco is committed to delivering integrated network protection by offering best-in-class security products and services," said Richard Palmer, vice president and general manager of Cisco's VPN and Security Services group. "The significant advancements made to Cisco's market-leading PIX Firewall family, and the availability of the SAFE Blueprint for IP telephony demonstrate this commitment, offering customers a migration path to secure, cost-effective converged network environments."

The new and improved SAFE Blueprint is among several Cisco-generated IP telephony blueprints for integrating security solutions throughout any business network infrastructure, and according to Cisco, SAFE can meet the needs of different network sizes and next-generation IP telephony and wireless technology.

In what company officials call "A big win for remote office environments," Cisco will also release a 6.2 version of its PIX Operating System (OS) for VPN and firewall deployment. New features include PPP over Ethernet protocol, ISP compatibility in small office/home office networks, and the same unified VPN client framework found in other Cisco VPN solutions. New LAN-based "failover" features are designed to increase the PIX Firewall's resiliency while at the same time overcoming the distance limitations that impair many current firewall solutions, according to Cisco.

The PIX OS also comes with improved IP telephony and multimedia services that include Port Address Translation, and several options for communication with Cisco IP Phone and Cisco IP SoftPhone products.

Cisco's new firewall family and its SAFE Blueprint are available today. The release of the PIX OS will be held off until the end of this quarter.