Feature

New products ease VPN jam

Lucent and Alcatel have launched products aimed at beefing up their competitiveness in the growing virtual private network (VPN) space

Antony Adshead.

Alcatel has launched a Windows 2000-compatible client for use with VPNs, while Lucent has launched the Springtide 7000 switch, which it bills as being part of its "service intelligent" strategy.

Aimed at service providers and large enterprises, Secure VPN Client for Windows 2000 is designed to work with Alcatel's 7130 Secure VPN Gateways. It will allow remote users of Windows 2000 environments to dial-in using fixed and mobile devices.

Alcatel claims the client software addresses a gap in the market for Windows 2000 VPN users. It is also compatible with Windows 95, 98 and NT4.

Security is tackled using Internet protocol security (IPSec), which is widely used as a standard in VPN security, though each supplier has varying flavours which do not interoperate. IPSec comes into play when a "tunnel" - the "private" connection in the virtual network- is formed. It hides the user's original message header and adds a second temporary header.

Analyst Iain Stevenson of Ovum said, "Deutsche Bank ran tests that discovered 12 different incompatible versions of IPSec. A large corporate will need to buy all one supplier's equipment or demand action on interoperability."

The product is available as a bundled component with the Alcatel 7130 series of VPN gateways.

Lucent's Springtide 7000 switch is aimed at large-scale implementations by telcos and corporates, including VPNs. The switch not only routes traffic but routes it according to customer-configured, policy-driven IP services.

This means that different types of traffic can be prioritised, not just in terms of business importance but also to address technical needs, such as avoiding high latency in voice or video traffic.

Stevenson said, "This method of switching is quite a new development. Traditionally, it has taken skilled staff to manage the prioritisation of traffic so anything that automates this has got to be a good thing."

What are VPNs and how can they save you money?

  • VPNs are essentially the routing of private communication channels - by means of encryption - which run over the public Internet infrastructure. These virtual connections are known as "tunnels"

  • VPNs can be used to provide remote access (at local phone rates) for employees or can be used as a replacement for the wide area network in place of a leased line

  • VPNs can cut costs in comparison to leased lines but can suffer from questionable reliability and performance as they use the public Internet - so latency-sensitive applications could be a problem

  • Large corporates can consider investing in the hardware necessary to run their own VPN, but will have to choose Internet service providers carefully for the public Internet part of the equation to ensure they are guaranteed bandwidth sufficient for their needs.


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    This was first published in February 2001

     

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