Cisco Endorses Virtual Private Networks

SAN MATEO (04/10/2000) - As virtual private networks begin to gain mind share with enterprise IT managers as a serious cost-cutting alternative for remote access and site-to-site connectivity, Cisco Systems Inc. this week plans to unveil its VPN line, bolstered by its recent acquisition of Altiga Networks.

The addition of Altiga to the Cisco fold brings strong remote-access equipment to Cisco's existing line of VPN products, including the 7100 and 1700 site-to-site VPN routers and PIX firewall routers. Altiga's products form the Cisco VPN 3000 Concentrator series, which is the centerpiece of Cisco's enterprise remote-access line. Products being rolled out this week include the VPN 3005 Concentrator for small business and branch office locations, the VPN 3000 Monitor, the Secure PIX Firewall 506, and the Secure Policy Manager 2.0.

"Cisco's willingness to buy Altiga is validation for those timid IT managers who didn't think VPN was ready for prime time," said Jim Slaby, senior industry analyst at Giga Information Group, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

"There's been strong technology out there for a while, but there has been trepidation in the marketplace about, 'Is it secure? Does it work?' People hadn't heard enough about big deployments of VPN, and they didn't really believe the cost savings for remote access," Slaby said. "They are starting to believe. Cisco's arrival with credible products [bolsters] the argument that this stuff is for real."

Whereas the market for remote access is now growing, Slaby noted that VPN as a method for linking corporate office locations is poised to take off as well over the next year.

"Remote access is already taking off, but what will be interesting over [the] next 12 to 18 months is Internet VPN for site-to-site connectivity," Slaby said. "Using the Internet as the means for providing the connection between offices should be significantly cheaper, and you already have an Internet connection in that office so you should be able to bring it online pretty quickly."

One network analyst at a veterinary product supply company with 27 branches worldwide said his company relies on VPN for remote access and is moving toward connecting its locations via VPN technology.

"We currently use VPN for remote access and for our clinical pathologists that do blood analyzing, which is a major part of our business," said Craig Darling, a network analyst at Iddex, in Westbrook, Maine. "We are scheduled to go live in [the] next couple of days with a VPN between our location in the Netherlands and our base in Maine, and we are expanding into Australia soon -- we are looking into VPN to solve that issue as well."

"Cost savings is the main sell," Darling said. "We will make use of our Internet connection to piggyback over what we have."

Other issues important with VPN, according to Darling, are security, ease of installation, and how well the products meld into the existing network environment.

The Cisco VPN 3005 Concentrator is available now and is priced at $4,000. The VPN 3000 Monitor is available now and costs $5,000. The Cisco Secure Policy Manager 2.0, also available now, costs $7,500. SecurePix Firewall 506, available in May, costs $1,950.

Cisco Systems Inc., in San Jose, California, is at www.cisco.com.

Virtual reality

Cisco will unveil the following VPN offerings.

* VPN 3005 Concentrator: A remote-access device for small businesses and branch offices* VPN 3000 Monitor: Software for centralized monitoring of concentrators* Secure PIX Firewall 506: A security appliance for small businesses* Secure Policy Manager 2.0: For VPN-optimized policy management

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