Its important to keep banging the drum over and over on major issues, so heres some more banging about interoperability.
Connectathon 2001 is coming up March 1-8 in San Jose. This event, started by Sun in 1986, offers vendors a place to plug their boxes into each other and see if they can get them to work.
This year, the event includes testing of IP Security devices in the areas of authentication headers, encapsulating security payload, Internet key exchange and, well, lots of others. Theres even a category called "other goodies."
The reason to care is that the more of this testing that goes on -- and, more specifically, the more successes vendors have -- the better for those of you setting up VPNs. The less you have to worry about whether Vendor As equipment works with Vendor Bs, the easier things will be for you. Plus, you will have more flexibility in shifting from vendor to vendor without ripping out your current investment.
The one drawback of all this testing is that vendors almost never release the results. They regard these events as a tool toward interoperability, and at some point along the way, no matter what vendor it is, their interoperability will be lacking. And publicizing that is not good public relations.
But when you are shopping around for a VPN-equipment provider you might bring up Connectathon and ask whether they participated and how well they did. They might be more forthcoming with potential paying customers than they are with the general public.
It might also help deliver the message: interoperability is key.