McAfee's new network security appliance has Intel inside

NS-series network intrusion prevention appliance pairs Intel hardware and McAfee software, boasts deep packet inspection with 40Gbps throughput

McAfee is best known for its antivirus software and endpoint protection solutions, but it is also a maker of network security devices. A new offering on that front represents the fruits of its partnership with its new owner, Intel: the NS-series network intrusion prevention system (IPS) appliance.

McAfee has long offered IPS appliances, but this is the first one built on Intel technology. Intel and McAfee collaborated closely to develop a unit with higher port density than previous offerings, that delivers 40Gbps throughput with all services running, and that provides protection for an organization both internally and externally, company reps told me.

The NS series is available in three models: the 2U-sized 9100 and 9200 models (which were available in limited release last quarter), and a brand-new 4U model, the 9300. Both have two slots into which can be plugged a variety of network modules, including a 40Gbps interface or up to 16 10Gbps interfaces, as well as discrete management ports. Pricing for the appliance line starts at $165,000; the units are available immediately.

When Intel bought security outfit McAfee for some $7.7 billion in 2010, it puzzled more than a few onlookers. Some believed McAfee was ripe for a takeover, but didn't see the logic in a hardware company acquiring the firm. Others speculated it was a way for Intel to get leverage to enter the mobile device market.

While McAfee unquestionably had expertise, it wasn't clear the brand was worth the multi-billion-dollar price tag. Skepticism about the quality of McAfee's products ran high at the time, and Intel's stock weakened on the announcement.

Nevertheless, McAfee has already leveraged the presence of its parent company. In 2011, McAfee announced DeepSafe, an antivirus and antirootkit technology that made use of the low-level hooks available in Intel processors. DeepSafe has since been added to existing products in McAfee's lineup, such as McAfee Endpoint Protection. But again, few saw the technology as worthy of the price Intel paid for the company.

McAfee itself has made acquisitions since it was acquired. Among them, and most directly relevant to the NS-series announcement, was the purchase of NitroSecurity in 2011. NitroSecurity billed itself as a provider of real-time security solutions to protect against threats, which includes deep-packet inspection and network monitoring technology. Another potentially relevant 2011 acquisition, Sentrigo, gave McAfee technology to monitor databases against outside attacks.

Intel's work with McAfee deserves to be contrasted against the former company's collaboration with the Open Compute Project, which is now working on plans for what it describes as "an open, OS-agnostic top-of-rack switch." That project doesn't even have a reference design on paper yet, let alone an actual implementation.

In the long run it might be possible for that work to be used to create open devices that eclipse Intel and McAfee's proprietary offerings. But there's clearly more at work in devices like the NS series than the hardware design -- it's also about the software, which is a bit more difficult to replace with an open substitute.

This story, "McAfee's new network security appliance has Intel inside," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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