N+I: Nortel to beef up VPN line

Nortel Networks Corp. next week will unveil the latest updates to its secure networking lineup, including new remote-access management software, a higher performance Contivity VPN (virtual private network) platform and software that expands an enterprise's ability to ensure every remote connection is safe.

The enhancements, demonstrated Tuesday at the Networld+Interop (N+I) trade show in Las Vegas, constitute the third phase of Nortel's Secure Routing Technology initiative, kicked off last year. They are meant to help companies easily secure ever larger numbers of remote offices and users trying to reach central sites by a variety of methods.

With the Contivity 5000 platform, Nortel will boost data throughput at the top of its Contivity line to 400M bps (bits per second) from 180M bps in its previous fastest product. That means it is designed to process as much as 400M bps of traffic with 3DES (Triple Data Encryption Standard) encryption. Though it supports the same number of simultaneous VPN tunnels -- 5,000 -- as the existing top-end product, more traffic can go through those tunnels, said Nick Pegley, vice president and general manager of Enterprise IP Services at Nortel. The platform also has routing, firewall, bandwidth management and QoS (quality of service) capabilities. The devices can be clustered behind a Nortel Alteon load-balancing platform, with a single IP (Internet Protocol) address, so VPN demand can be spread across the devices.

The capabilities of the Contivity line also will get a boost with a new release of software, Contivity 4.8, which will let administrators put even tighter restrictions on access to a VPN. In addition to a login, a password and a piece of client software, they will be able to require that a client system be configured in a certain way and be currently running the critical software, such as antivirus software. That will help prevent interlopers breaking into a system by changing its characteristics -- for example, turning off a required client firewall -- after being admitted to the network. The system will check clients periodically and administrators can set the time interval at which the checks take place, said David Passamonte, a senior engineer at Nortel.

Also coming to the Contivity line will be Remote Access Manager software, which can help enterprises make sure their traveling employees always have the best available source of dial-up access and can easily select it. The software can maintain lists of local access numbers for multiple carriers, which can be updated with new information about prices and service levels. Users can be presented with a choice of access numbers for their location, along with ratings as to its price and quality, said John Doyle, director of product marketing for corporate edge services.

Details of pricing and availability for the Contivity products were not immediately available.

Nortel executives also outlined a new addition to the BayStack line of enterprise switches to be announced next week, the BayStack 470-24T 10/100 desktop Layer 2 switch. It has 24 10/100M bps Ethernet ports and two Gigabit Ethernet uplink ports, and as many as eight of the devices can be stacked to aggregate 192 ports and 16 uplinks. It also features QoS (quality of service) features to support delay-sensitive traffic such as VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) voice calls. The switch will ship by the end of May.

Also coming by the end of May will be BayStack Operating System Switching Software, a single software image to be used on the BayStack 470-48T, 470-24T, 460 24T-PWR and Business Policy Switch. When the software image is loaded on a switch, it can recognize the characteristics of the switch and adapt to its particular requirements, according to Nortel. Providing a single software image across a set of products is a trend taking place across Nortel, with future plans for other offerings such as a single image for all VoIP platforms, executives said.

At N+I, Nortel also announced a Visitor-Based Networking set of product offerings for hotels, convention centers, airports and enterprises that want to provide temporary connectivity to visitors and mobile workers. It combines elements from Nortel's Passport, Shasta and BayStack and wireless LAN products so those venues can provide a variety of types of services, such as corporate VPN service and IP-based voice calling. Visitors will be able to sign up for those options through a Visitor-Based Networking Internet portal and initiate billing for them using the Visitor-Based Networking e-Commerce Module.

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