NEC releases NT-based RAS solution

NEC Computer Systems Division is positioning its NT-based integrated remote access server solution as a better alternative to most proprietary remote access solutions.

“It provides customers advantage and lower cost of ownership because it integrates into their NT networks,” said Kevin Gray, product manager for NEC in Boxborough, Mass. “They know how to operate the NT environment — they don’t have to dedicate an individual to learning a proprietary system.”

With NEC’s Express5800 Server at the core, the Express5800 Remote Access Server uses an open-system approach based on Intel microprocessors, Microsoft Windows NT Server software and third-party communications applications. It aims to connect mobile users, telecommuters and branch offices to the corporate network, allowing users to access corporate intranets, e-mail, centralized systems and Internet-based information.

NEC boasts the fact that it isn’t a proprietary system eliminates single-vendor dependency, therefore reducing the complexity of deploying remote access applications.

One analyst, however, disagrees that this is a benefit.

John Girard, vice-president and research director for Gartner Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn., said when something goes wrong with a solution such as this, there are many different ways to point the finger, “whereas before, you just had one company to yell at — the company that sold you the dedicated server.”

Girard said there are many products being released these days that are similar to NEC’s solution.

“This is another company jumping on the bandwagon to position their PC server as an access platform using NT,” Girard said.

“This is an attractive strategy for companies that sell PC servers that would like to enhance their sales by selling them for remote access.”

According to Girard, it’s wiser in some ways to buy a remote access product using a “dedicated real-time operating system, fully de-bugged, dedicated to remote access,” such as the Cisco 5000 series or 3Com Corp.’s Total Control, rather than an NT-based solution.

“You want remote access to be something you don’t think about, you want it to be transparent, invisible, and just work all the time,” he said. “And the best way to get that level of service is to buy a product that’s dedicated to doing that — the value-add is not automatic in buying a general-purpose operating system (such as NT) and using it to host communications.”

John Abate, manager of reseller Infinity Technologies Inc. in Mississauga, Ont., however, prefers the NEC solution to the 3Com Total Control product mentioned by Girard.

“The Total Control box is strictly a RAS scenario — a remote access server, whereas (the NEC solution’s) connectivity side is very similar in terms of the RAS, but it’ll give us optional Internet connectivity. And as it is an NT box, we’re also looking at partitioning off some of the connections for faxing capabilities.”

Abate is looking forward to the scalability of the product.

“Our company is growing, our outbound sales force is growing, which is going to mean more requests for remote access from roving sales people,” he said. “So that’s one of the main benefits of this box — as our sales force grows, we can certainly scale boxes as we require.”

The other thing he likes is that it’s what he calls a “full-feature box.”

“Our game plan is to have the initial box up and running in less than a couple of hours,” he said. “So if it can facilitate that, the rest is basically administration on the port, determining which ports do what, who has access to which ports, and segmenting the connectivity options.”

NEC offers both Basic Rate ISDN and Primary Rate ISDN configurations of its Express5800 Remote Access Server. All remote access servers include NEC ESMPRO Server Management Software suite, Traveling Software’s LapLink Enterprise Network Accelerator software with unlimited rights to copy the client software for use with an NEC Express 5800 server, Funk Software Proxy Remote Control software and ImageLAN ConfigSafe software.

Prices for the Basic Rate ISDN servers begin at $17,770, and $23,744 for the Primary Rate ISDN servers. NEC Computer Systems Division in Mississauga, Ont., is at (905) 564-1122.