Lightning strikes UK with secure access product

A Swiss company with a palm-sized router, which runs a firewall on embedded Linux, plans to take on Cisco in enterprises across Europe
Written by Peter Judge, Contributor

A Swiss access router maker has launched in the UK, with products that are smaller and 50 percent cheaper than those of the market leader, Cisco, and include firewalls and encryption. The company also announced £1 million of new funding from ex-Telinco executives, one of whom, Peter Randall, joins the company as chief executive.

"Everyone needs corporate class security," said chief Randall. "Despite the delays, broadband is patently happening, and security is becoming more important." Lightning quoted analyst expectations of $14bn in a few years for the access security market. Randall plans to restructure the company, which has made routers since 1992, and lead it into profitability by the middle of next year. Opening sales offices in European companies including the UK, is part of this plan.

Lightning's MultiCom range includes a firewall running on embedded Linux, and encryption with Ipsec, so IT managers can use it to replace multiple boxes at remote workers' offices. It will secure and share an Internet or other WAN connection, handling DHCP for local systems, and can support a virtual private network (VPN) link to the corporate net, said the chief technical officer, Beat Brunner. The box also includes management software to configure multiple routers remotely.

A recession is a good time for low-price competition to attack complacent market leaders like Cisco, said Randall. "The attitude that no one ever got fired for buying Cisco is changing," he said. "Recession is an opportunity to move people away from big brand names by offering better value." The move depends on establishing good customer references, and convincing users that the company itself will still be around - here Randall makes heavy use of the company's Swiss origin which should boost a perception of "quality".

Lightning's current customers include Swisscom, France Telecom and leading edge Swedish IP carrier Utfors. Randall

The most recent router, the SpeedSurf is palm-sized and costs £260. It currently includes the firewall, and will have the VPN function added earl;y 2002.

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