3Com has announced the immediate availability in the UK, US and Canada of a new super-switch that combines your normal switch with a firewall, anti-virus, content-filtering and intrusion detection - in short, a network's security all in one box.

The 3Com Security Switch 6200 isn't cheap though, coming in at $25,000 a piece. Unsurprisingly, 3Com is aiming it at medium-to-large businesses.

“The 6200 delivers a cost-effective, no-compromise enterprise security solution that combines proven security applications into an integrated security services switch platform,” is how 3Com's security director Michael Homeier summed it up, before plugging the switch as part of 3Com's "pervasive network" vision/sales pitch, depending on your perspective.

The switch itself is one of the first to come from an alliance between 3Com and security company Crossbeam that was announced at the start of November last year. At the time, 3Com VP Anik Bose explained 3Com's new focus on security, claiming that businesses "don't want a lot of different boxes lying around" and would pay for an all-in-one package.

Whether this is true, or the price level too high, or even if the switch does the job it is supposed to as well as separate security products, only time will tell. From the quotes given on 3Com's press release however, it is not difficult to see where the company sees its product fitting it and what the main concerns are.

"Businesses want to maintain their best of breed approach to network security solutions, but administering multi-vendor environments can be a headache,” says Bob Tarzey of Quocirca. No points for realising the new uber-switch removes this headache, plus "there are potential cost savings" - although they are not spelt out as such.

Here comes Timothy Dorian, 3Com's network security manager: “Configuring the 3Com Security Switch 6200 was quick and simple. Because this device runs on standard applications, the migration was smooth and painless." So that's the installation problems dealt with. He continues: "I believe the 3Com Security Switch 6200 offers an easier to deploy and more reliable way to improve a network’s vulnerability to Internet hackers and e-mail viruses.”

Which might very well be true. 3Com is certainly betting a lot on people wanting simpler security and reckons that adding it to its switches will give it a leg up in its battle with Cisco. Cisco already adds some security in its Catalyst switches but the 6200 offers much more than anything Cisco has on the market.

3Com is still having a hard time hanging onto Cisco's coat-tails and its price undercutting approach has not been as successful as managers expected. Providing differentiated products at a lower price to the market would appear to be the company's 2004 strategy. It still has some way to go to persuading companies to move away from Cisco though.