SonicWall And Aventail Have Big Plans For VPN Security - InformationWeek

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SonicWall And Aventail Have Big Plans For VPN Security

With its planned $25 million acquisition of Aventail, SonicWall aims to become the market share leader in Secure Sockets Layer VPNs.

SonicWall, a provider of data backup and recovery, has large ambitions to fill a gap in network security with this week's planned $25 million acquisition of Aventail, a privately held provider of secure remote access.

SonicWall and Aventail will aggregate their technologies into a common platform for network security, offering businesses an "alternative to premium-priced Cisco products," said Evan Kaplan, CEO of Aventail, in an interview. Both companies have complementary Secure Sockets Layer VPN offerings, which provide remote access to a company's network via any Web browser.

SSL VPNs offer many advantages over IP Security VPNs because they're easier to deploy, use, and support. SSL VPNs are also more secure than IPsec in some respects and better suited for controlling access, according to a November report by research firm 451 Group.

Businesses are demanding that the cost of networking get in line with the declining costs of other IT services. SonicWall is responding by lowering the initial cost of its appliance, by providing its software as a service on a subscription basis, and by making its appliance easy to use and manage, said Patrick Sweeney, VP of the network security business unit at SonicWall, in an interview. The company claims its approach beats out competitors, such as Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks, which also have SSL VPN products. Cisco and Nortel have been slow in their implementation of new features, according to 451 Group.

In a similar move, Microsoft last year acquired Whale Communications, a privately held provider of secure access technology. Whale built its SSL VPN based on Windows and offered integrated Microsoft products before the acquisition.

More than 2.5 million people worldwide use Aventail's remote access technology; large customers include IBM, DuPont, PetSmart, and Sanyo. SonicWall has the No. 1 unit market share -- in terms of unit shipments -- for SSL VPN appliances, the No. 1 unit share for unified threat management, and the No. 1 revenue share for security appliances in the small and medium-sized business segment. "With this acquisition, SonicWall could become the market share leader in the SSL VPN space," said Sweeney.

What has some industry experts concerned is the lack of product overlap between SonicWall and Aventail, since their SSL VPN offerings use two different platforms. "I'd suspect that they'll use Aventail as their primary platform, but take a SonicWall-style pass on ease of use, and then bring it down to lower-end hardware platforms," said Jeff Wilson, an analyst at Infonetics Research. The Aventail platform has better SSL VPN functionality when it comes to client integrity and mobile device support, Wilson says.

Neither company is talking specifics about plans for future products once the acquisition is completed. But network access control is a "natural progression," Wilson predicted. NAC provides access control with network access servers and encompasses security measures like firewalls, anti-spyware, and antivirus. In addition to SSL VPN, it makes a lot of sense for SonicWall and Aventail to introduce a combined NAC appliance.

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