Watchguard has launched a new family of high-end firewalls that reflect the movement of the market towards providing application-layer security as a standard feature.

The Firebox X Peak series is a significant step up for the company and has what the company calls "intelligent layered security" (ILS), designed to block worms, viruses, and Trojans, halt DoS and DDos attacks, port scanning attacks, and block the effects of malformed packets and other traffic.

According to Watchguard, this means that a single device can be used to block a number of types of attack that would normally require separate systems, such as e-mail protection and Web security. Infected attachments can be blocked before they reach the desktop, while SMTP, FTP, HTTP and DNS traffic can be monitored for a range of threats.

As is the norm for Watchguard products, the Firebox X Peak is built on a single "modular" platform where customers can enable specific features for an extra charge. The top-of-the-range X8000 has 1Gbit/s throughput, a 400Mbit/s VPN, and has its ten ports configured as 3 x gigabit and 7 x 10/100.

The other two units in the series, the X6000 and X5000, feature identical application-layer security, but have lower performance ratings of 700Mbit.s and 400Mbit/s respectively, while the X6000 has only a single Gigabit port with the X5000 using 10/100 interfaces only.

The advantage of this approach is that customers can upgrade the performance capabilities of the lower-range firewalls in the family if they need to do so at a later date, without having to buy a completely new product.

The X Peak boxes also feature WAN load sharing, failover, and port segmentation features for creating separate logical networks to which individual policies can be applied. VPN tunnelling throughput is rated up to 10,000 for branch office or mobile users.

The X8000 comes in at $9,990, which the company claims undercuts rival, mostly Gigabit, systems from SonicWall, Fortinet, Netscreen and Cisco. In fact, it is fairer to say that this space becoming more and more competitive as it evolves. The X6000 is priced at $7,990 and the X5000 $5,990.

The company has also announced a new gateway anti-virus and intrusion prevention service available as a subscription. Designed to complement the Firebox X Peak’s ILS filtering, the service is designed to block the new wave of security risks that come through P2P applications such as AIM and MSN Messenger.