April 09, 2001, 10:46 AM — Talk about a distributed workforce. More than half of Prudential Insurance Company's 60,000 worldwide workers access corporate network applications and services remotely - from branch offices, storefronts, private offices, customer sites, as well as from home. Until last year, workers dialed in over analog or ISDN lines using AT&T remote dial services. But mounting pressure from company brass eager to cut costs, as well as from employees frustrated with slow connections, meant Ed Mann had to find a better way.
Mann, Prudential's vice president of network technology, had to solve a two-pronged problem. First, he targeted the network side and looked to replace the company's costly outsourced remote dial service with an in-house VPN. Built with Nortel Networks' extranet VPN switches, Mann and his team created a redundant environment between Prudential's New York and Roseland, N.J., data centers with total failover. Security is the tightest, using Triple-DES for encryption and RSA's secure ID for authentication.
"We'll have one of the largest enterprise VPNs when we're finished," Mann says.
So far, the company has migrated about 15,000 users to the system. Mann anticipates a 50% to 75% cost savings with the VPN. "This year, we've already seen savings in the millions of dollars," he says.
Although pleased with the savings, Mann knew the VPN solved only half of Prudential's problem. Faced with ever-increasing availability of residential broadband services, employees were pushing hard to access com-pany systems over their own high-speed connections - a prospect fraught with management and security problems. Mann envisioned thousands of workers securing DSL and cable contracts from a slew of providers, and sought to maintain control over the roll out. He also needed to control how workers were using their connections. "Once the worker is beyond the physical confines of the campus, it's very difficult to set policy and police what people do," Mann says.
As important, Prudential also wanted workers to experience the same work environment in-house as they do remotely and maintain or even increase their productivity. Faced with the challenge of migrating 30,000-plus workers to high-speed residential connections, Mann considered business-class DSL offerings from eight ISPs. But because he demanded service-level agreements for all the remote connections, most competitors were knocked out.