Cisco is teaming up with Microsoft and Intel to form a new industry axis.
The Cisco Security Enterprise Alliance initiative brings together the major PC hardware, software and networking players in an attempt to draw up a specification for network and desktop security.
"It's a gang of three, if you like," said Simon Poulton, technical marketing manager at Cisco UK. "Microsoft, Intel and Cisco naturally go together.
We're joining the Wintel party."
He said the alliance would give Cisco greater mindshare. "It will make customers more aware of networking issues, so they don't just see us as a piece of string hanging out the back of a PC," Poulton said.
Mark Hassall, NT product manager at Microsoft UK, said: "Cisco is a major player on the WAN, and we're a major player on the LAN. It's an obvious match."
Hassall denied the deal was an attempt to tie users into the proprietary standards of Microsoft and Cisco. "Our objective is to make NT Server as open as possible," he stated.
The main aim of the Cisco Enterprise Security Alliance is to improve network security and ease of management. At present, there are too many different ways of dialling into a network to make a unified security approach feasible, argues Cisco. For example, users can dial into a network using Cisco Secure or Microsoft's Remote Access Service, or a plethora of other products. "In the fullness of time, we will have a single server holding a single database, so it doesn't matter how you dial in," said Poulton.
"This will make the network both more secure and easier to manage."
However, the resulting system will only work on Cisco networks.
There is also some doubt over whether the system will be standards-based.
Although Cisco claimed it will work on industry standards as far as possible, it noted "there is no overall standard now on security". Poulton said he expected the standards bodies to follow Cisco's lead and adopt elements of its technology into any forthcoming standard.
The other members of the Cisco Enterprise Security Alliance are: Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, RSA Data Security and Verisign. Poulton said rival network vendors like Bay Networks would not be excluded should they wish to join.
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