Integrated appliances

Integrated appliances provide an easy way for companies to bolt in capabilities such as network security or analytics, but there are factors that companies must consider in their deployment

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Integrated appliances Appliances and integrated systems provide an easy way to deploy solutions, but the appliance approach may not be the best fit for all companies.
By  Keri Allan Published  November 14, 2012

Integrated appliances provide an easy way for companies to bolt in capabilities such as network security or analytics, but there are factors that companies must consider in their deployment.

Appliances continue to be popular security options for many organisations. Historically firewall/VPN appliances were among the most popular and widely implemented security solutions, but in recent years the Middle East’s IT security market has been moving towards appliances which combine different security functions such as firewall/VPN+IPS and unified threat management (UTM) appliances.

“As security threats become more sophisticated, the importance of powerful and highly integrated security solutions, in which different functions complement each other on a single platform, increases. It is one of the main reasons why companies prefer appliances which combine different security functions,” says Faysal Ayoub, research analyst, Security Appliances, Servers, Virtualisation and Storage Systems, IDC MEA.

“Among other factors are lower total cost of ownership, easier installation, management, maintenance and meeting regulatory compliance requirements. Modern UTM appliances are scalable and are able to adapt to organisations’ needs or changes in corporate security policy. Organisations can choose security functions they would like to use in their UTM appliance and later turn on or buy additional software modules with the necessary security functions such as URL filtering, anti-virus, anti-spam and others.”

A convenient solution, yes, but perhaps not perfect for all?

“By volume the most popular security appliances by far are built for the SMB market and deliver an extraordinary amount of value as they combine many functions into one box. These appliances are very affordable and offer basic protection for businesses that don’t demand best-in-class security.

“Medium to large enterprises are less inclined to buy all-in-one security appliances though since their risk profile and complexity of network design is such that they demand best-in-class solutions,” says Peter Doggart, senior director of Crossbeam Systems.

Even so there are appliances aimed at larger organisations, and there are larger organisations that use them, plus there are other kinds of appliances, focusing on analytical tools etc, which they can benefit from.

Not all vendors agree that appliances only belong in the SMB realm; many believe that they are generally good value for money and deliver reasonable performance for businesses of all sizes.

“They [also] allow organisations of all sizes to securely embrace new trends such as IT consumerisation with social media, Web 2.0 and BYOD,” adds Florian Malecki, senior product marketing manager, EMEA, DELL SonicWALL.

Philippe Roggeband, business development manager for Cisco EMEAR says there is no doubt that these devices raise the security level, however to really bring value, their location points need to be carefully considered.

“Typically, they will be inserted in the ‘sensitive’ points of the network: internet edge, data centre edge, extranet etc. The other key element is their integration in the management platforms and the policy definition process. A lack of consistency may lead to application blockage, or to security gaps.”

For SMBs many experts say that appliances make sense, but for enterprises that are reliant on data they can be restrictive, as you’re dealing with a definite device that is not agile to how the business works. The qualitative value of flexibility can easily outweigh any capital savings at the front end.

However Malecki is keen to show that organisations of all sizes can use appliances well: “Topaz Energy and Marine, a leading UAE oilfield services company deployed our solutions to manage the company’s network and connectivity requirements and it was successful. Another example is Jarir Bookstore in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that faced a redundant Internet connection. The solution increased Jarir’s bandwidth by 3,000% and reduced IT costs by 43%, helping IT managers to monitor web traffic and detect malicious threats instantaneously through real-time visualisation,” he notes.

When it comes to the amount of features, appliances can hugely vary, however they are capable of offering a lot.

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