According to Burton Group report,Cisco Security: Features and Futures, released today Cisco has spent a lot of time and effort improving security and integration features within its core products yet management of networks for secure operations is increasingly untenable for even the best-run enterprises.

And that's putting it lightly. According to the report's author and Burton Principal Analyst Fred Cohen, when it comes to security Cisco's products are adequate at best and behind-the-times.

"They're not best-of-breed in anything as far as I can tell," said Cohen. "For any security related function you can find a product better than what Cisco has ... it's easier to manage; it works better; it's more efficient; it works over a broader range of circumstances; it's more secure ... in every case."

In the 40-page report, which evaluates security features within Cisco's enterprise products, Cohen does point out that "the availability of, and ability to, integrate security features directly into infrastructure provides a strong feature set."

However, while Cisco provides many features and is increasingly moving toward standardization of security capabilities, there are few if any areas where the company has taken leadership position, he said. With $5.6 billion in Q1 sales, Cisco is basically the 900-pound-Microsoft of the network hardware space and, it would seem, has just as many security problems.

"We know with Cisco's products you cannot manage the network to the level of precision and accuracy necessary to be as effective as you should be able to be with the technology that's there," said Cohen.

In other words, switch on all the available security features and the device's performance slows to a crawl.

"Everywhere you look in the space Cisco is broad but not deep; is functional but not high-quality; is manageable, sort of, but not well managed," he said. "In every one of those (market) slices there's someone going at them with a faster, more effective, more efficient, standards-based system" that works better.

Cohen believes this situation will eventually change but it may take awhile since Cisco's own internal change process is generally three-years long. But, with no serious competitors in sight, it would appear, at least for now, the company has the time. Juniper Networks, Cisco's nearest rival, is about one-tenth its size.

"When you look at this you say somebody (at Cisco) has to get their head out of the sand there and ... learn about what it really takes to build the next generation of products that meet the performance and security and other infrastructure requirements and understands that there's real competition out there," said Cohen.