Nokia opens a gateway to security

Nokia Corp. announced last month it has developed four new IPSec VPN gateway systems and other security features for its line of mobile devices.

The VPN development was necessary because today’s workforce is becoming increasingly mobile with people forwarding things like e-mail or business applications to several different mobile devices, said Dan Reis, senior manager for product marketing with Nokia’s enterprise solutions unit.

“The IT [department] needs to be able to manage all of this,” he explained. “There needs to be….a family of devices the enterprise can purchase to deploy to their employees.”

The gateways range from the 75Mbps Nokia 5i for small business to the 590Mbps Nokia 100i for large entreprises. Reis added Nokia is giving enterprise companies the choice of either using an SSL VPN or IPSec.

“The reason we came out with our own IP VPN…is we can build special technology into our own IP VPN to incorporate the same kind of reliability that people expect in a standard cell call,” Reis said. He explained this technology, called Meta-Hop, would allow for a seamless experience in maintaining a voice or data call regardless of what is happening in the backbone of the network.

All of the VPNs are availabe on Nokia’s 9500, 9300, and 60 series of end point devices. Both the VPN gateways and the mobile VPN client are managed with Nokia’s VPN Manager that Reis said would automatically update the system with new security configurations and policies before a user connects to the network. Users of these devices can remotely access such applications as SAP or an Excel spreadsheet on their cell phones.

One analyst questioned whether Nokia’s cellular VPN gateway products can interoperate with enterprise data products, such as a Cisco 6500 edge router, or if customers are locked into an exclusive Nokia end-to-end solution.

“Cellular phones, even if it is an enterprise customer, are a very personal decision. Generally you can’t mandate which company people are going to use,” said Roberta Fox, senior partner for the Markham, Ont.-based Fox Group.

In response to Fox’s questions, Reis said the Nokia IP VPN is designed to meet industry standards and be compatible with routers and other equipment from different companies. As well, Nokia-enabled phones can have VPN tunnels through other gateway products, such as those from Cisco, but Reis said users would not get the resiliency benefits of Nokia’s Meta-Hop technology.

As well, he added the Nokia phones that have the IPSec or mobile VPN client available to them run the 7.0 version of the Symbian operating system.

“Other companies that use this version of Symbian can also run the mobile VPN client and it is up to that company as to whether it will be available on their devices,” Reis said. Fox did applaud Nokia for expanding into enterprise products and adding mobility encryption products is a plus.

“If you see how cellular phones are evolving it is no longer about making a phone call. It can be SMS messages or it could be a picture. What is going across the cellular network can now be information that could have more importance and more risk,” she said. She added that mobile security products like the ones Nokia are offereing are important to markets such as homeland security in the United States.

As well, Fox said she does not believe competitors such as Samsung or Motorola have added Nokia’s type of security products to their wireless sets.

“It is an area Nokia is setting the lead for. It would be interesting to see who will come next because security on the public network is becoming more and more important,” she said.