Citrix buys up secure remote access firm

Citrix Systems is buying Net6, a privately owned maker of SSL VPN technology, for $50m (£27m) in cash.

Citrix Systems is buying Net6, a privately owned maker of SSL VPN technology, for $50m (£27m) in cash.

The acquisition will boost Citrix's stable of secure remote access technology and give the company a foothold in the market for VoIP products.

Citrix will add Net6's SSL Access Gateway and Application Gateway and Voice Office Application Suite to its product line. Citrix plans to use the technology to expand the options for customers who wish to connect remotely to network resources, including applications, data and voice applications.

The SSL Access Gateway will be sold as a standalone product and in conjunction with the Citrix MetaFrame Access Suite, where the SSL access technology will enhance the existing SmoothRoaming feature that simplifies Citrix sessions over mobile devices.

SSL virtual private networks are a popular technology for providing remote users with access to network resources such as e-mail, software applications and network file servers.

Unlike VPNs that use IPsec, VPNs that use SSL are "clientless" in that a separate program does not have to be installed on the remote user's machine. They also rely on the SSL protocol, which is a part of most common web servers and browsers and widely used to secure e-commerce transactions.

Forrester Research analyst Rob Whiteley said Citrix already had an SSL VPN-like gateway with its MetaFrame Secure Access Manager, but the product was only suitable for very large Citrix deployments.

Whiteley said Net6's SSL Access Gateway would give Citrix a way to meet the needs of smaller customers and support remote access for a broader range of applications, such as e-mail. Selling SSL Access Gateway as a standalone product will also give Citrix a beachhead in smaller accounts that might be willing to buy more Citrix products later.

Plans for Net6's Application Gateway and Voice Office Application Suite are less clear. Citrix said it wanted to build a converged voice, data and applications infrastructure to create "the ultimate mobile office".

Citrix envisions mobile workers being able to use Citrix and Net6 technology to access hosted applications, web-based applications and VoIP phone services all from a notebook, desktop or tablet PC.

Whiteley said the technology would eventually help Citrix live up to its new moniker of an "access infrastructure company".

Net6 has proprietary technology that enables its products to capture and encrypt voice traffic lower in the IP stack, which keeps interruptions - or "latency" - to a minimum. However, Whiteley said Citrix still had work to do to unify its Secure Access Manager with Net6 technology and coordinate security policies between the products.

Citrix bought Net6 for its SSL Access Gateway technology. But Tom Craig, senior director of product marketing at Citrix, said the company was also excited about the prospect of entering the VoIP market, and Net6's technology and experienced developers would put Citrix "ahead of the curve" in that area.

"We've said in the past that work is not a place, it's an activity, and this builds on what we've been pitching as a vision," he said.

Citrix expects to complete the acquisition before the end of the year. Net6 will continue operating under the leadership of Murli Thirumale, the company's current president and chief executive.

Paul Roberts writes for IDG News Service

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