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Networks Associates (NAI) and Internet Security Systems (ISS) today announced an alliance to integrate their technologies aimed at providing better protection for users against increasingly complex security threats.

NAI will combine RealSecure intrusion detection technology from ISS with network fault isolation and performance management software from its Sniffer Technologies division.

In turn ISS plans to combine NAI's McAfee AV technology with RealSecure, as well as developing a managed security services offering. But how this will sit against NAI's managed security services, its part owned subsidiary McAfee.com and wholly owned enterprise equivalent McAfee AsaP?

It's hoped that correlating alerts from the two firms various technologies will give users a better view of attacks against their networks.

ISS and NAI will work together on product development and a joint marketing and sales push. Financial terms of the deal are not disclosed.

NAI has a history of growing through acquisitions, and once harboured plans to challenge system vendors (most notably Computer Associates) with a complete systems and security offering. That plan was abandoned last year when it was forced to restructure its business after disappointing sales. This led to the sale of NAI's Gauntlet firewall and VPN business to Secure Computing in February and the deep freeze of its well- respected, but unprofitable PGP desktop encryption line.

Worse news followed last week, when NAI admitted "it has discovered accounting inaccuracies in its 1999 and 2000 financial statements" which meant those results needed to restated. That decision, the first results of an ongoing internal investigation, comes against the backdrop of an Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation of NAI's accounting practices.

ISS, although its star has fallen somewhat over the last year, has nothing like these problems, but needs to broaden the appeal of its intrusion detection offering.

From that point of view the deal makes good sense, and positions ISS more strongly against competitors like Symantec, Cisco et al who are trying to steal leadership in the IDS segment from it.

The alliance goes so deep that we're tempted to see it as a prelude to a possible merger between the two firms. Perhaps that's the one step that will solve long-standing confusion over NAI's branding? ®

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