Cisco Expands Security, Collaboration for SMBs

Cisco is rolling out new security, collaboration and storage hardware as part of a $100 million effort targeting small and medium-sized businesses.

With the new SMB-focused solutions, Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) executives say they’re providing features tailored especailly for smaller business. This is not enterprise scale technology retro-fitted for smaller players.

As part of the effort, Cisco is rolling out the Cisco Smart Business Communications System Release 1.4, Cisco Network Storage Systems and the Cisco Spam and Virus Blocker.

The product releases come as Cisco expands its overall focus beyond its core base of large enterprise customers to target a wider swath of technology buyers, including home users and small businesses.

“It’s been on our roadmap to take our product, which was primarily built for the large enterprise and the ISP world and bring it in as a form factor for the small business,” Keith Valory, director of product management in Cisco’s security technology business group, told “But we always felt you can’t just build a product. You also have to have the whole support ecosystem around it.

Cisco announced a $100 million effort in November to tackle the SMB space with support, channel and product resources. Valory noted that the new product releases are the first installment on that $100 million commitment.

The Cisco Spam and Virus Blocker is derived from technology first developed in Cisco’s Ironport division. Cisco acquired IronPort in 2007 for $830 million.

Cisco continues to deliver IronPort technology under the IronPort brand name, but with the new SMB offering will be branding the technology as Cisco.

The product was built from the ground up for SMBs, he added. But what about Cisco’s Unified Threat Management (UTM) devices, which the company offers with other vendors? UTM devices offer the promise of spam and virus protection and are often aimed at the same SMB market as these latest releases.

“There is a always a positioning thing between a UTM product and a purpose built e-mail security product,” Valory commented. “The primary driver is that the UTM devices in the market today don’t stop spam very well.”

Valory claimed that by way of IronPort’s senderbase spam technology, which is a global network for tracking and blocking spam, the Spam and Virus Blocker appliance will be as effective as IronPort’s large enterprise offerings.

“Our small business customers get the same technology that Fortune 500 companies get and that’s something that a UTM today can’t offer,” Valory argued. “UTM is often deployed in firewall mode so the processing required to do anti-spam is difficult.”

Though Cisco is providing large enterprise capabilities to small business, Valory claimed that there are a number of differences. The key factor being support resource that are specifically trained and geared for the needs of small and medium enterprises.

“If one support person has to one minute be helping a big global customer and then switch gears and try and help out a small office it’s a night and day experience,” Valory commented. “I really think it’s just the focus on the small customers as opposed to trying to play both ends of the spectrum.”

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