The two companies made the announcement at the RSA Conference in San Francisco.
The iForce IDS Appliance is a 1U rack-mounted hardware appliance based on Sun's LX50 server platform. The device runs Sun's enterprise-class Solaris OS x86 operating system and will come fitted with Symantec's ManHunt intrusion detection software.
The appliance is capable of performing intrusion detection analysis at speeds up to 2 gigabits per second, said Sanjay Sharma, security segment manager at Sun.
The ManHunt software uses distributed network sensors and a variety of methods to identify threats including protocol anomaly detection, signature detection, traffic state profiling and statistical flow analysis.
The new appliance will offer protection from new "zero-day attacks" and four levels of failover, Sharma said.
While ManHunt has long been available on the Solaris platform, the new appliance offers customers simpler installation and management, as well as a more secure deployment than before, according to Fred Klein, senior manager of business development at Symantec.
Sun and Symantec worked together on the new appliance to fine tune and optimise all of its components for high-speed intrusion detection, Klein said.
The device's drivers, network card and operating systems were optimised for use with ManHunt. In addition, a special build of the ManHunt software was created specifically for deployment on the LX50 platform.
Finally, the Solaris operating system was hardened by Sun engineers, with all components not required by the ManHunt software removed to eliminate possible avenues of attack against the device, Sharma said.
"The fewer lines of code there are, the fewer ways there are to get into the box," he said.
A single install procedure loads both the Solaris operating system and the ManHunt software. Once installed, a single management console can be used to control both the appliance and the ManHunt software.
By taking the vagaries of hardware and software installation and configuration out of the equation, Sun and Symantec are hoping that the iForce will find a home in smaller branch offices where IT resources and technical expertise are in shorter supply, Klein said.
IForce will also meet the needs of Symantec customers who wanted ManHunt ported to an appliance platform while allowing Symantec and Sun to compete in the hot market for intrusion detection and prevention appliances against companies such as Cisco Systems, Klein said.
"ManHunt never had a problem competing technically. The form factor is what we're addressing," Klein said.