Turnkey Linux package eases VPN installation

Network professionals will be able to more easily set up and configure Linux-based VPNs in branch offices with software, services and hardware from OpenReach Inc. and Penguin Computing Inc.

OpenReach and Penguin announced last week a turnkey Linux VPN package consisting of OpenReach software and services, and Penguin PCs. The package lets users easily and quickly install and configure a VPN in remote locations that may not have IS support. The package is a follow-on to an agreement announced last month that OpenReach would to distribute its software on Penguin computers.

The VPN package could help Penguin further differentiate itself from its larger, better-known rival VA Linux Systems Inc.

The OpenReach Gateway Software includes an agent that runs on the customer's remote PC and communicates with management, monitoring and authentication software located at OpenReach's network operations center (NOC). The agent software runs on Penguin's 1.75-inch-high rack-mounted Celeron processor-based PC. The NOC, in turn, communicates with the customer's network and offers firewall, management, authentication and access to the company's network.

Each VPN Gateway server includes two 10/100M bit/sec Ethernet connections that attach it to the network and communications equipment. The OpenReach software is based on IP Security (IPSec) technology and uses 168-bit Triple-DES to secure traffic over a public network.

"With OpenReach you buy a service provider type offering that gives you VPN capability," says Eric Hemmindinger, an analyst with the Aberdeen Group. "The thing that makes the OpenReach alternative different from ISPs is [that] the service provider doesn't deliver to you a preconfigured device that has everything on it."

At least one user likes the turnkey package so far.

"Putting VPN capability into each of our remote offices has been painful in the past," says Peter Souza, director of IT for Polaris Venture Partners of Waltham, Massachussetts. "With OpenReach software and Penguin hardware, we are able to quickly install VPN services. Venture partners just need to take the hardware out of the box and plug it in." Polaris has numerous VPNs scattered around the remote offices of its partners.

OpenReach uses FreeSwan, an implementation of IPSec and Internet Key Encryption for Linux, and a firewall called IPchains that it has enhanced with graphical interfaces and extra security features.

Interest in VPN services, such as those OpenReach provides, is high. Customers spent US$1.2 billion on VPN services in 2000, and that is estimated to grow to $8.8 billion in 2004, according to market research firm IDC. Customers spent $1.8 billion on VPN gear last year and are projected to spend $7.2 billion in 2004, IDC says.

Remote client software will be available in the future for users who want to access the VPN from the road.

The OpenReach software and server costs $1,400 and is available immediately. Prices vary for the VPN service and depend on the speed of the connection to the Inter. Service for a branch office with a T-1 line would start at $200 per month.

Both companies will sell the OpenReach VPN Gateway. www.openreach.com; www.penguincomputing.com

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