Crossbeam C2: Jack Of All Trades, Master Of One


As securing systems becomes more complex, solution providers are turning to customizable appliances to adapt to an ever-changing threat environment. Crossbeam Systems aims to meet those customization needs with its new C series of security appliances.

Crossbeam manufactures an entire product line based upon C-series technology, which runs the gamut from small businesses to large enterprises. The C2 is the bottom-tier appliance in that series, but is still available with the same security feature set as its big brotherscost for the C2 is kept low because of reduced processing power, bandwidth and failover options.

CRN engineers recently put Crossbeam's entry-level C2 appliance through rigorous testing to see how the appliance stacks up against the threats encountered in today's small business environment.

Out of the box, the C2 provides 350 Mbps of throughput, which should be more than adequate for sites with as many as 75 users. Small packet processing performance bursts to 292,000 packets per second, which makes the unit suitable for protecting small e-commerce sites as well.

With the C2, unified threat management (UTM) is the name of the game. Solution providers can select a combination of best-in-breed security applications to build a high performance, customized UTM device. The C2 is designed to run a number of firewall, VPN, IPS, IDS, antivirus, URL filtering and content-filtering enginesall from major security ISVs. For instance, if a solution provider has an affinity for Check Point Software Technologies' security products, the device can be configured with Check Point NGX and Express CI multifunction applications. One major difference between the C2 and its larger brethren is the fact that the C2 is meant to be deployed with a single UTM engine. Solution providers looking to combine several UTM engines will need to turn to one of the higher-end offerings.

Regardless of which UTM engine is selected, the unit is easy to configure and manage. Test Center engineers configured the device with the Check Point product and found the installation and management to be intuitive. The Web-based management brought an ease to Check Point NGX that has rarely been seen with competing products.

The same can be said for units configured with Trend Micro's antivirus engine. Crossbeam has gone to great lengths to make sure all of the UTM engines are easy to install and manage. That is accomplished by leveraging wizard-based technology that is geared toward the intricacies of each UTM product.

In most cases, installation of a UTM engine follows plug-and-play simplicity, which allows solution providers new to the custom appliance market to jump on board with little concern or headaches. Beyond the previously mentioned support for Check Point and Trend Micro, solution providers will find that UTM engines from Websense, Internet Security Systems, Forum Systems, Sourcefire, Enterasys Networks and Aladdin are all available for installation on the device.

Regardless of the UTM engine selected, clearly identified steps bring the solution provider through a unified management system to deliver new UTM capabilities without increasing the learning curve. This is a very welcomed process, considering the complexity of the underlying products and the nature of dealing with different software vendors.

Another feature to note is the inclusion of four auto-sensing 10/100/1000 ports, which can fuel the upgrade of small or remote-office networks to support gigabit cabling and switches without sacrificing the security infrastructure.

For solution providers looking to enter the managed security service realm, Crossbeam offers the optional SecureShore Network Management System, which can manage as many as 1,000 separate C-series and X-series devices for comprehensive control beyond the initial security deployment. SecureShore provides a method for solution providers to control deployed C-series devices as if they were physically on site. That translates to a process that could be used to build a managed security service without investing in a hosted deployment. In other words, all initial costs are absorbed by the customer and the solution provider can simply bill for monthly maintenance and reportingall accomplished remotely.

For 24x7 operations, all C-series devices support standards-based Virtual Router Redundancy Protocol (VRRP) failover for dual-box redundant deployments. Redundancy can be accomplished without a network redesign and is as simple to implement as the device itself.

All things considered, Crossbeam fuels a market where solution providers can deliver custom security appliances without the headaches associated with the design and assembly of those products. Solution providers simply select a level of performance and UTM features to be delivered and have an instant custom appliance. Furthermore, that appliance can then become part of a managed service offering.

Crossbeam supports its partners with a three-tier channel program that offers margins as high as 20 percent, assigned geographic areas and no initial costs to join.

Partner level is based upon sales achieved and target goals range from $250 thousand to $1 million in sales per year. Partners also can garner revenue from services, upgrades, support, portals, subscriptions and rebates. The company offers heavily discounted classroom training and certification programs for partners. Partners are expected to deliver first- and second-level support to their end customers, while end users also can choose to buy subscription-based support directly from Crossbeam. Both onsite and phone-based support are offered by the company.

Partners heavily vested in marketing can anticipate market development funds in the 2 percent range. The company boasts 100 percent partner retention rates and claims 100 percent of products are sold through the channel.

The company's channel program proves suitable for partners offering both managed services or just selling and installing the company's hardware. Test Center engineers would have liked to have seen a little more effort from Crossbeam to address the needs of security MSPs, such as hardware leasing and specialized tech support. Partner levels are not named, which can reduce marketing opportunities. On the plus side, Crossbeam will build a name for itself with the variety of products offered and the ease with which partners can customize the appliances.