RealTime IT News

Research: SSL VPNs Set to Grow

The nascent market for secure sockets layer-based virtual private networks is likely to grow in favor of the larger IT vendors, according to a new report from research firm Meta Group.

The growth of the SSL VPN market may also represent a significant opportunity for the SSL certification industry as well.

Meta Group's report said a shift toward presence-oriented criteria will make it tough for smaller vendors to maintain differentiation with their offerings over the next 18 months.

"We expect the larger incumbents from the networking and security markets to continue making significant headway, which will come at the expense of many of the smaller, independent players," said Mark Bouchard, senior program director at META Group. "To some extent, we are already seeing signs of this transition occurring, with some organizations opting to hold off on investments until their favorite or incumbent networking/security vendor can provide a more capable SSL VPN solution."

The promise of SSL-based VPN includes lower costs and easy Web based browser access to a corporate network. SSL is already widely used as a security standard for a broad array of Internet applications, notably financial transactions such as e-commerce and online banking.

IP security , traditionally more expensive and complex, has dominated the VPN marketplace for a variety of reasons, such as its perceived greater degree of security and manageability.

But according to Meta Group's Bouchard, IPsec deployments will be impacted by the growth of SSL VPN systems, though it won't cause them to disappear.

"SSL VPN will certainly put a significant dent in the IPSec market, in particular for remote access implementations. Where IPSec is used for connecting branch offices and such, it should not be significantly impacted," Bouchard told internetnews.com. "Thus, while the availability and maturation of SSL VPN will severely limit use for IPSec in one case, it will not cause its complete demise."

Bouchard said he expects to see SSL VPNs evolve toward improving accessibility to applications without the need to implement a full network connection.

"With the onset of widespread adoption and large-scale deployments during the next two years, the critical requirements will become scalable management functions and greater system performance/capacity," Bouchard said. "As with most other security solutions, vendors that best balance security effectiveness, performance, and manageability -- and in this case, accessibility to applications as well -- will be positioned to dominate the market."

SSL VPN companies positioned for the trend are Juniper and F5 from the public company side and privately held Aventail and Whale Communications, Bouchard said.

"However, other major networking and security vendors are coming on strong and will be significant forces as well within the next 12-18 months (including Check Point, Nokia, and Nortel)."

Juniper Networks and Cisco Systems have started to position themselves in the SSL VPN space. Juniper recently unveiled its new SMB focused NetScreen Remote Access 500 SSL VPN offering and backed it up a few weeks later with a new intiative to improve the security of its SSL VPN offering. Cisco acquired SSL VPN technology vendor Twingo in March.

Stats from Infonetics Research released late last month forecast worldwide SSL VPN revenue to grow by 92 percent by the second quarter of 2005, with an exponential 467 percent increase in annual revenue. According to Infonetics, SSL VPNs only represent 4 percent of the worldwide revenue for the VPN and firewall market, though that number is expected to grow to 13 percent by 2007.

Beyond the hardware vendors, the growth of SSL VPN's may also be a boon to the SSL certification industry.

"SSL VPNs are taking off for all the reasons Meta mentions," said John Adams, executive vice president of engineering and operations at SSL certification vendor GeoTrust. "It is pretty clear to me at this point that SSL is a general purpose protocol that is being used for much more than credit card transactions."

Current SSL certification market leader VeriSign also sees potential in the emerging SSL VPN marketplace.

"The market for SSL-based VPNs, overall, is still small but it is a fast growing area for remote access," Brendan Lewis, VeriSign spokesman, told internetnews.com. "Clearly, any SSL VPN gateway needs a certificate. So we expect this to fuel the demand and growth of our certificate business as well."