Virtual private network market coming of age

By Tim Greene, Network World |  Networking

LAS VEGAS -- At long last, the VPN market is starting to mature, at least judging from vendor and customer activity last week at NetWorld+Interop 2001.

With more than 30 VPN equipment makers and service providers pushing their wares, conference attendees were trying to decide which gear and services to buy or how to enhance their existing VPNs. They weren't just trying to figure out if they were interested in the technology.

"2000 was the year of VPN education, and 2001 is the year of making it happen," said Nick Frankle, director of product support for Lockheed Martin Global Telecommunications VPN services.

Another attendee, Rick Major of Utah State College at Logan, said VPN technology has become so accepted that professors and staff at the school requested it by name. "They said they specifically wanted a VPN," the system specialist said.

Those seeking the newest in VPN technologies weren't disappointed last week, as vendors displayed VPN/firewall boxes that can protect sites connected to the Internet with gigabit links, and service providers offered VPN services for the first time or beefed up existing services.

Among those already sold on VPNs is Anthony Browser, a network analyst for the Legislative Data Center, which provides network services for the California state legislature.

He is gearing up to replace 172 $600 T-1 lines that now connect legislative offices with a VPN based on $60-per-month DSL lines. And though the cost savings will be dramatic, Browser said his organization moved cautiously to VPN technology.

"We wanted to take a year to look at it first. Before we offer a new service we want to make sure it works," he said.

In The Air Data, a Las Vegas service provider, was shopping at the show for VPN gear to support a wireless remote access service for lawyers in the courthouse district of Las Vegas. The company has spent a year researching gear for its network, which it hopes to have up and running this summer.

"You'll still have break-ins with VPNs, but you will with any technology. Hackers are pretty ingenious," said David Henry, In The Air Data's CTO.

VPN vendors are responding by augmenting their products with intrusion detection and other security. Check Point Software's entire display at N+I was dedicated to its hardware partners -- companies that add Check Point's VPN-1/Firewall-1 to their intrusion-detection gear, for instance -- and to service providers that manage customers' network security.

Some hardware vendors say alliances with VPN companies are a must. Storage products vendor Nishan is making sure its hardware works with offerings from VPN companies.

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