OpenReach augments frame relay with VPN

OpenReach Monday announced Frame Relay Plus, a new suite of products aimed at improving security and reliability to the frame-relay systems already used at many business locations by adding VPNs (virtual private networks) based on IP (Internet Protocol).

OpenReach's VPN technology is entirely software-based and allows businesses to install the software on any Intel Corp. x86-compatible PC or server and then connect to OpenReach's own servers to begin using the VPN service, according to Mark Tuomenoksa, chairman and founder of OpenReach. A VPN is a secure method of connecting to remote computers using the public Internet as if it were a component of a corporate network. The software is provided to businesses for free, with OpenReach only charging companies for their bandwidth use, he said. The software will always be given away, he added.

The Frame Relay Plus suite announced Monday is targeted at the roughly 1.5 million business locations that use frame relay for their Internet connections, Tuomenoksa said. Frame relay is an older, costlier method of connecting to the Internet than broadband connections and can be slower and less reliable, he said. The suite aims to offer businesses already using frame relay better speed, reliability and security by marrying OpenReach's VPN technology to existing frame-relay installations, he added.

The first component of Frame Relay Plus, FrameFlow, is designed to speed up traffic on frame-relay networks by offloading some traffic onto a VPN, he said. FrameFlow adds an IP-based VPN box just outside the router, directing bandwidth-intensive traffic to the higher-capacity VPN link and sending the time-sensitive data across the existing frame-relay connection, he said. Adding a VPN in such a situation will add capacity at a lower cost than if it were added to the frame-relay connection, Tuomenoksa added. FrameFlow costs between US$75 and $1,750 per month, depending on usage.

FrameAid, Frame Relay Plus' second component, uses the OpenReach VPN technology to provide a reliable, high-speed backup system for the frame-relay connection, Tuomenoksa said. Most frame relay installations use relatively-outdated ISDN (Integrated Service Digital Network) links as backups in case their frame-relay systems go down, he said. By adding a newer broadband connection to the business site along with FrameAid, businesses will gain a faster, more reliable backup system that is constantly monitored for performance by OpenReach, he added. FrameAid costs $95 per month.

Lastly, FrameGuard offers a security product designed to stop internal information leaks and snooping by adding authentication and a firewall at specific points in the corporate network, Tuomenoksa said. FrameGuard aims to allow companies to protect subsections of their networks, such as the network for the finance department, by keeping unauthorized users from accessing the subnetwork or its data, he said. FrameGuard installs a firewall in front of the subnetwork and uses digital certificates and encryption to protect data, he added. FrameGuard costs $295 a month.

The products are managed through a Web-based administration console which includes performance, upgrade and alert data. Because the system is all software, upgrades can be pushed out to users automatically and free of charge, Tuomenoksa said.

OpenReach's software is Linux-based and requires a 400MHz x86-compatible chip, along with 64M bytes of RAM to run, he said. The products are immediately available worldwide.

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