RealTime IT News

SSL-VPN Goes 'Cookie-Cutter'

Networking vendor SonicWALL (NASDAQ: SNWL) is set to announce an update to its SSL VPN firmware next week. Version 3 of SSL VPN isn't for everyone. It's designed for small and medium-sized enterprises.

As the numbers of remote workers continue to grow the need for secure remote access solutions shows no signs of slowing down. The new SonicWall SSL VPN 3 offering also serves to highlight the continuing multi-year shift from IPsec based remote access solutions to SSL-VPN.

The new offering from SonicWALL shares some technology from its Aventail division that literally invented the entire SSL VPN space, though there are some important differences.

"In the SMB people are looking for cookie cutter," Jon Kuhn, Director of Product Management at SonicWALL told InternetNews.com. "What is the general practice of setting up remote access for security? While the Aventail platform and the SonicWall SSL VPN share ideas on things generally, the features do turn out differently, because one is focused on flexibility and other is focused on cookie cutter ease of use."

SonicWALL's Aventail division had its own major release earlier this year, which targeted the high end of the SSL VPN marketplace. Kuhn noted that there is a high end and a low end in terms of SSL VPN buyers; each group has its own requirements.

"Generally the buyers are looking for different levels of features and performance," Kuhn said.

One of the features that is specific for the SMB space that is included in the SonicWALL SSL VPN 3.0 release is a technology called "Virtual Assist." Kuhn explained that Virtual Assist give a technician the ability to remotely log in and control an end user system.

"We find that's very helpful in SMB business whereas in the larger enterprise business that is not a requested feature on the Aventail side," Kuhn commented.

In version 3.0 virtual assist has been improved with enhanced logging and reporting capabilities. As well there are improved diagnostics capabilities on the remote computer if there is a problem.

Kuhn argued that the Virtual Assist technology goes beyond what an end user would experience by simply using Windows Remote Desktop which does not provide the same degree of tracking, monitoring and reporting functions.

Overall SonicWALL has improved the graphical user interface on SSL VPN 3.0 to align more closely with how device management is performed on the SonicWALL 2000 and 4000 Network Security Appliance (NSA) ast+Increased+series of network appliances.

Analysts have been reporting and forecasting growth in the SSL VPN marketplace at least the past four years. SSL VPN at one point was seen as the logical replacement for IPsec technology VPN technology. Traditionally the two technologies differed in that IPsec required a desktop client while SSL VPN did not.

"You'd think that SSL VPN would be penetrated into the SMB environments by now but we're still seeing growth at both the low and high ends," Kuhn said. "Which tells us that you're still getting more and more customers that are using SSL VPN for the first time that had previously used IPsec. So it's still catching on we expect to see growth for the next 3 or 4 years."