WorldCom globalizes firewall service

Multinational enterprises that use WorldCom Inc.'s data network services now can get a firewall service at locations all over the world, with central management and quick local maintenance, the company announced Tuesday.

The carrier is globalizing its existing Managed Firewall Service, which has been offered and run only by WorldCom's U.S. operations, to make it easier for multinationals to secure all their offices worldwide. At the same time, WorldCom is updating the service with a new version of Check Point Software Technologies Ltd.'s firewall software, according to Bob Blakley, WorldCom senior manager for security services.

The giant international service provider, beset by legal and financial woes, declared bankruptcy last month but is still operating. The firewall offering is part of WorldCom's set of global data services, which include IP VPN (Internet Protocol virtual private network), other Internet access services and collocation, said Jon Zymaris, director of product strategy and development. Industry analysts see WorldCom's corporate data services as the crown jewels of the company, unlikely to be sold off in a reorganization.

The Managed Firewall Service includes hardware, software and management by WorldCom, all for a monthly fee per box. Previously it was managed solely by the company's security operations center in the U.S. Customers with operations in the U.S. could have WorldCom set up firewalls there for deployment in other countries, but supporting those devices was more complicated and time-consuming from the U.S. than from the local region, Blakley said.

With the new service, enterprises that need firewall support can call on the same contact they use for all network-related issues, he added. In addition, companies located entirely outside the U.S. now can buy the firewall service.

"Historically, we have supported international customers outside the U.S., but it's been deployed out of the U.S. and supported out of the U.S., in English only. What we're doing now is globalizing it. It's about the customer having a consistent experience around the world," Blakley said.

Enterprise IT managers can have WorldCom configure firewalls in all corporate offices based on a single set of security policies, and then request modifications through a Web browser. They also can monitor the progress of those requests and of WorldCom's progress in troubleshooting when a problem is detected, Blakley said. An annual review of the service's security by a third party, which will work directly with the customer, is included in the price of the service, he added.

Check Point's updated software offers many advantages over the earlier offering, most importantly faster performance, tools for easier management and greater scalability, Blakley said. In addition, the service now includes personal firewall software designed to prevent unauthorized users from entering a company's VPN through a remote user's portable computer.

Customers can order the service now. Local support, in local languages, will be set up in Canada, Latin America, the Asia-Pacific region and EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) throughout the remainder of this year.

"We can support it anywhere in the world right now, but in some locations it may be supported out of the U.S. for the moment," he said.

Customers initially can choose among three firewall hardware platforms: the Nokia IP120, IP330 and IP530, all running the Check Point software. WorldCom is considering other platforms to offer in order to meet customer needs, Blakley said.

The service is priced per site, starting at US$1,400 per month, which includes an IP120 and a license covering 250 IP addresses served behind the firewall. The price ranges up to $3,000 per month for an IP530 and an unlimited license.

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