Dell Targets Cisco With SonicWall NGFW Debut

Once upon a time, Cisco Systems Inc. was an unlikely Dell competitor.

But in light of Dell’s years long reincarnation that retooled its focus on software, services and security, among other things, the Round Rock, Tex.-based company is now taking the networking firm and its industry peers head on.

To put it on that path, Dell SonicWall launched its Network Security Appliance (NSA) Series next-generation firewalls (NGFW), a debut aimed squarely at the mid-market and above.

And to gain more territory upstream, Dell is touting a SonicWall appliance fully equipped with performance and advanced threat capabilities. Among other things, the new offering features 10 Gbe connectivity and a scalable, multi-core hardware architecture, along with a low latency deep packet inspection engine, while combining both firewall and Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS).

Perhaps not surprisingly, Dell is trumpeting a slew of advanced features — including 10 GbE SFP interfaces, high availability failover, and high performance SSL decryption – which it hopes will further hone in on medium-sized organizations with functionality usually reserved for enterprise grade network security appliances.

“We used the architecture found in our flagship SuperMassive Next-Gen Firewall line developed for the most demanding carriers and enterprises,” said Patrick Sweeney, Dell executive director, product management. “This new NSA Series provides medium-sized business customers with the same high level of security, control, and performance available to the enterprise, in a solution that also offers our acclaimed ease of use and high value.  We think these products are game-changers as we take on Cisco in the critical mid-market.”

Meanwhile, Dell’s latest SonicWall release represents the next step in a journey that has been underway since the firm acquired the unified threat management firm in the spring of last year.

And safe to say, Dell has been grooming its SonicWall acquisition – as well as its associated channel — for an upmarket entrance. Last September, the hardware turned software and services firm revved advanced certifications around its SonicWall portfolio.

Later that year, Dell revamped its SonicWall Live Demo site with iOS and Android compatibility, while expanding global reach and traffic capacity.

And kicking off 2013, Dell embarked on a concerted campaign to entice more of its traditional resellers into the SonicWall fold – even those who had yet to build out a viable security business.

Now, after six months of laying the foundation, Dell is ready to spar with the network security industry’s leading players. That said, the firm has to find a way to remain credible in a tight and increasingly saturated next-generation firewall market. A Market Info Group report projected that the enterprise firewall market will grow at steady 11.1 percent CAGR to reach $34.7 billion between 2012 and 2018.

But the network security appliance market is tightening. Data from IDC indicates that while the security appliance market is still growing, its decelerating. Factory revenue grew in the third quarter of 2012 at a CAGR of 5.7 percent, down from 6.6 percent during  the prior quarter.

In addition to established NGFW players such as Cisco Systems Inc. and Palo Alto Networks Inc., Dell is up against UTM players such as Fortinet Inc.  and Sourcefire Inc.that are eyeing the mid-market and enterprise with next generation firewall releases.

Where Dell is hoping to make a dent is by aiming for the mid-market and enterprise remote offices – a space that demands heightened performance and threat capabilities but still suffers from lack of budget and staff not unlike their SMB counterparts.

But it’s also a market still largely undefined and typically underserved — and in many ways wide open — which might give Dell the necessary opening it needs to carve out its own niche.