Cisco's Chambers urges system-wide security

Cisco's Chambers urges system-wide security

Cisco Systems president and chief executive officer, John Chambers, has told attendees at the RSA Conference that in security, point products just won't do the job.

Security required a system-wide approach, especially as applications and computing resources were increasingly distributed across networks, Chambers said in a keynote address that highlighted hardware and software products Cisco announced at the show. They included five intrusion protection appliances, software for Cisco's routers and switches, a virtual private network (VPN) concentrator and updated software for the company's PIX firewall platform.

The process of identifying and blocking network attacks would work the same way across the appliances, the software and the firewall, the company said.

Attacks are affecting networks too quickly for IT staff or strictly reactive products to respond, and the nature of the threats was changing too rapidly for defenses based just on already identified threat profiles, Chambers said.

"It's going too fast and [getting] too complex, and it is getting harder and harder to get our arms around it," he said. "You can't approach this problem with pinpoint products [that IT professionals have to integrate],' Chambers said.

The system has to be able to identify and adapt to new threats.

"It has to move to an adaptive threat defense, not a reactive threat defense," he said.

Cisco has long advocated an end-to-end systems approach to building networks, one that favours a giant such as Cisco that sells most elements of local and wide-area Internet Protocol (IP) networks.

It was more important to build a complete, manageable system than to save money on individual products, because purchase price made up only 25-35 per cent of total cost of ownership, while support represented up to 50 per cent, Chambers said.

The company would continue to move aggressively into security, a big concern for users that took Cisco and other vendors by surprise around 2000, Chambers said. Cisco wouldl use a three-pronged strategy to keep on the cutting edge of the field.

"The old IBM 20-years-ago philosophy - 'I'll come in late and become number one' - we all know, doesn't work," said Chambers, who cut his teeth in the IT industry as an IBM mainframe salesman in the late 1970s.

"You will see us acquire very aggressively, you will see us partner very aggressively and you will see us innovate probably two-thirds of the products ourselves," Chambers said.

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