Cisco settles on a VPN client

After more than a year, Cisco Systems Inc. has finally chosen a single PC client to support its three VPN (virtual private network) product lines, but it will take yet another year until the client supports all Cisco VPN equipment.

Cisco VPN Client 3.0 is the chosen software, known as the unified VPN client, and it will enable remote PCs to dial in to VPNs that are based on any of the three Cisco VPN product lines. The software is available now, but works only with the Cisco 3000 series VPN equipment. Within 12 months Cisco VPN Client 3.0 will also work with Cisco IOS-based VPN gear, as well as Cisco 5000 Series equipment, the company says.

The company wound up with three different clients because its VPN product line was developed in sections and through acquisitions. The 5000 series gear comes from the acquisition of Compatible Systems last year and the 3000 series comes from the purchase of Altiga at the same time. The IOS-based VPN gear uses a client made by SafeNet (formerly IRE) called Cisco Secure VPN Client, and the Cisco 5000s use Cisco VPN Client for the 5000 Series.

Cisco VPN Client 3.0 is a modification of the existing 3000 series client. It differs in the way it performs some of its functions, but the functions themselves have not changed. The new version also adds support for Microsoft Windows 2000 VPN features, so the client can successfully connect to VPNs based on Windows 2000 Server VPN capabilities.

Cisco has imbedded VPN Client 3.0 in two appliances designed for small offices. Both named Cisco 3002, they provide a hardware platform that handles VPN processing, relieving branch-office PCs from having to do so. The 3002 comes in a dual-Ethernet model that connects to the WAN router and the LAN behind it, and it comes in an eight-port Ethernet switch version. The dual-Ethernet switch costs $995 and the eight-port switch model costs $1,195.

Both these appliances and the client software are manageable from a central site setting policies such as whether the client can connect to the VPN and the general Internet at the same time. Also, the remote clients and appliances can draw from a pool of IP (Internet Protocol) addresses used by the VPN. Policies set on a Cisco 3000 VPN server, for instance, would be pushed to the remote clients.

This story, "Cisco settles on a VPN client" was originally published by Network World.

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