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Security appliances move to centre stage

More companies are buying more expensive security appliances. What it means, says IDC, is that appliances have proved themselves in branch offices, and are now being installed in core networks

Sales of high-end security appliances have surged in the third quarter of 2003 as enterprises install them in their main networks, having seen lower-end devices prove themselves in branch offices, according to the latest figures from analyst firm IDC. Companies are also waking up to the fact that security appliances can be much easier to manage than software.

Some 20 percent of these cost over $25,000, compared to just 10 percent in the second quarter, according to IDC's figures. "Until now we have been saying [security appliances] are perfect for small enterprises and branch offices," said Carla Arend, research analyst for European security products and strategies at IDC. "But now for the first time we are seeing them increasingly sold to large enterprises." There are several reasons, said Arend: reduced complexity, lower installation costs, easier management, easier troubleshooting and lower cost of ownership compared to buying software alone.

"It is easier to select products when you're dealing with appliances," said Arend, "[especially when] people are used to buying networking hardware already. It is also easier to integrate many appliances, and there is some very good support for appliances in the channel. As enterprises have tested them in branch offices, they now trust them in the core network of their main offices. There are hardly any installation costs and they are very rapid to deploy."

Cisco and NetScreen continue to dominate the market for security appliances, said IDC, and both companies have seen revenue growth of over 20 percent compared to the same period last year. Of the big players, Nokia has fared the worst, losing market share both in terms of units and revenue. While it is now number two for revenue, with 15.1 percent of the market, it is comes fifth in unit shipments, with only 6.8 percent of the market, behind Cisco (27.7 percent), NetScreen (20.8 percent), SonicWall (13.2 percent), and WatchGuard (12.1 percent).

Western Europe now accounts for a quarter of security appliance sales, with 43,303 units generating $97.2m worth of shipments in Western Europe during the quarter. The market grew 22 percent in the third quarter of 2003 against the third quarter of 2002.