Cisco is set to extend its security range, including a new software release of its Adaptive Security Appliance (ASA) product. Also in the works are updates to the Intrusion Prevention System (IPS), Cisco Security Agent (CSA), Cisco Security Manager (CSM), and Mitigation Analysis and Response System (MARS).

The upcoming Version 8.0 of the ASA software will include about 120 enhancements, but perhaps most significantly, its AnyConnect VPN client will now work on a much broader range of platforms, including Windows Vista, Mac OS X, Linux , and Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC Edition. "We're extending this out of the traditional realm of just laptops," said Bob Berlin, a Cisco senior product marketing manager.

Cisco said that it was looking too impove the information-sharing capabilities between its IPS 6.0 and CSA 5.2 software to make the products better able to identify and block emerging threats. Another new feature will allow CSA to assign quality-of-service tagging to network traffic so performance can be boosted on applications such as VoIP.

Using engineering talent it acquired in its 2004 purchase of Riverhead Networks, Cisco has also developed new algorithms that allow the IPS software to better analyse potentially malicious activity on the network. The ISA software will also be better integrated and easier to manage with the upcoming version 3.1 of CSM.

After years of acquisitions, Cisco is just now starting to hook its security products together, said Robert Whiteley, a senior analyst with Forrester Research.

This is critical if Cisco wants to maintain its new position as a player in the security space, he said. "Whether people acknowledge it or not, Cisco is one of the largest security vendors," Whiteley said. "But they haven't had quite as much of an integrated story as you'd see from a [security ] specialist."

Cisco has had a lot of integrating to do. The company has made about 10 security-related acquisitions in the past three years. The company now posts more than US$2 billion in annual security product sales and employs more than 1,400 security engineers, according to Richard Palmer, senior vice president of Cisco's Security Technology Group.

Cisco may be starting to integrate its existing security products now, but it would also like to extend its offerings to address new areas such as data leakage, a hot new area in the security field. "That's certainly an area where we're going to be investing, " Palmer said.

Original story by IDG news service