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Extreme Networks, HP boost VoIP security

Extreme Networks plans to unveil a software upgrade to its security appliances designed to better safeguard VoIP traffic. Separately, HP ProCurve will join the newly formed Mitel Solutions Alliance (MSA) for third party interoperability.

The moves demonstrate the growing importance of VoIP traffic recognition, treatment and protection for switch vendors. The migration to IP telephony is fueling sales of Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) switches to energize VoIP deployments. And the enterprise telephony market grew to $9.6 billion in 2007, marked by a 29% increase in IP phone shipments, according to Infonetics.

That’s why switch vendors are aligning themselves with VoIP companies. Last week, Foundry Networks forged a “strategic” partnership with Mitel under its recently-formed IronPowered Technology Alliance Program; and Enterasys recently unveiled an integration relationship with IP telephony vendor ShoreTel to develop security policies for VoIP traffic generated by ShoreTel equipment.

Security policy is also the core of Extreme’s enhancements coming this week. The company plans to unveil software that incorporates behavior-based rules for its Sentriant security appliance to protect IP telephony and VoIP traffic.

These security rules will help mitigate the threat of malicious users and hackers who attempt to exploit vulnerabilities and breach the IP network, Extreme says. Based on these rules, users or devices that demonstrate destructive behavior when entering the network can be addressed to preserve the quality of voice communications.

A packaged set of rules is available now for Sentriant. With these rules, the appliances will better protect VoIP gateways, SIP servers and VoIP phones, Extreme says.

Protection mechanisms are triggered if a significant amount of traffic anomalies are seen, the company says. Extreme says the new Sentriant software has been certified to interoperate with Avaya, ShoreTel and Siemens VoIP gear.

The enhanced Sentriant appliance will compete with Cisco’s ASA firewall when front-ending Cisco’s Call Manager server; and Nortel’s Secure Multimedia Controller, front-ending Nortel’s Communications Server 1000 IP PBX, says Lawrence Orans, an analyst at Gartner. What sets Extreme apart is Sentriant’s ability to use the Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) to force computers and switches to redirect attack packets to Sentriant and away from intended targets.

“It’s not the typical approach to network access control,” Orans says.

HP/Mitel unite

Security is also a key aspect of the HP ProCurve/Mitel partnership. The companies have allied to ensure interoperability around the 802.1x standard so that ProCurve switches can identify Mitel IP phones, verify them against a Radius database and then grant or deny network access.

HP ProCurve and Mitel products also interoperate using an extension to the 802.1ab standard for link level and endpoint discovery. This is intended to provide improved IP telephony troubleshooting, automatic deployment of policies, inventory management, advanced Power-over-Ethernet capabilities, and location and emergency call service capabilities.

The objectives of this union are similar to those of Mitel’s partnership with Foundry in which the two companies recently completed interoperability, auto-configuration and security testing between Foundry's PoE switches and Mitel's enhanced VoIP handsets.

Mitel has been a member of HP’s ProCurve alliance since April 2007. As of this week, ProCurve is now a member of Mitel’s MSA, which the companies say will now result in products that work better together as well as improved joint support efforts.

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