Aventail enhances SSL-based remote access gear

Aventail Corp., which only recently introduced a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) appliance for Net-based remote access, is now enhancing it with software to reach more types of applications.

As initially described by the company, its EX-1500 appliance would give remote end users with Web browsers secure access to Web-enabled corporate applications hosted behind a firewall. To access non-Web applications, a separate client called Aventail Connect had to be pre-installed.

But now Aventail is making available a Java client, dubbed Aventail OnDemand, that automatically uploads to the end user upon authenticating to the EX-1500.

Some competitors, such as Neoteris, already use Java to expand the number of applications their SSL remote access gear can reach, says Michael Suby, senior research analyst with consulting firm Stratecast Partners.

Another new feature that comes with the EX-1500 is support for Microsoft’s Server Message Block (SMB) and Common Internet File System (CIFS) to allow accessing this type of files over the Web. The device also includes a new mini-portal called ASAP WorkPlace that can be customized for different user groups. So one group might have a portal that shows access to only e-mail but others might have one that shows access to Lotus Notes as well.

The EX-1500 box represents a new direction for Aventail, which previously sold this technology as part of a managed service. Over the past year or so, though, start-ups including Neoteris, Aspelle, Netilla and SafeWeb, have started selling similar devices, putting pressure on Avential to do so as well, Suby says. Established IPSec VPN vendors including Check Point and Nortel have also started offering SSL remote access capabilities in their remote access gear.

Aetna has used Aventail’s managed service, but is buying a box now that one is available, says Kevin Sweeney, director of information systems for the insurance company. “We’re not in a position where we want to outsource our security. [The EX-1500] lets us control our security,” he says.

He says the Java capabilities will help out where Aetna offers limited access to other businesses, but where browsers are insufficient. “Web browsers don’t cut it to do client-server applications,” he says. Aventail offers a full client for remote machines but it is not always easy to deploy it to partners, Sweeney says.

The EX-1500 costs US$20,000 to US$60,000 depending on the number of users and features it supports. The OnDemand option costs extra, but Aventail declined to break that out.

The company is online at www.aventail.com.