WhiteHat sheds light on dark VPN tunnels

A data security company from Burlington, Ont. says not everyone wants a one-size-fits-all box when it comes to devices that extend the network. For those with specific virtual private network (VPN) needs, the firm offers a tapered solution.

WhiteHat Inc. last month announced it would be providing support and services for Intel’s 3105, 3110 and 3125 VPN gateways, which the company is offering through an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) agreement.

Intel builds the boxes, while WhiteHat provides support according to the user’s requirements and help with installation, integration and training.

“Our support technicians can take a support call and literally, while on the phone to the customer, dial into that box, diagnose the issue and within minutes, it’s fixed,” said Brenda Wilkins, WhiteHat’s vice-president of sales.

As for the technology, the 3105 has a 733MHz Celeron chip in a 1U form factor and room enough for 100 concurrent tunnels. Wilkins said it’s meant for small offices that want to extend secure connections to offsite employees.

The 3110 is heftier at 3U, however, it supports the same number of tunnels as the 3105. With its Pentium II processor, substantial bulk and a price premium above the 3105, “you’re probably going to see it phased out over the next year,” Wilkins said.

The 3125, for large enterprises, offers a 750MHz Pentium III chip and supports 10,000 concurrent tunnels.

Wilkins said the boxes address the single-mindedness end-users seek. “We’ve got IT managers who don’t want to think for three hours and pine over a manual. They just want a VPN.”

Such was the case of Ruby Khaira, network manager with O&Y Enterprise, a property management firm in Toronto. O&Y switched from a Frame Relay WAN to VPN tunnels to speed communication between its regional offices and headquarters. Three years ago the firm installed 10 Intel 3110 VPN gateways from WhiteHat.

“I didn’t want a box that did everything under the sun,” Khaira said. “We have different servers, different hardware, to do their respective roles.”

But Jim Slaby, senior industry analyst with Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., said most people prefer a more consolidated option than Intel’s VPNs provide.

“My tendency is to believe that consolidation is the trend, certainly with network devices,” he said. “People are layering in those features so you don’t have to have multiple boxes.”

Wilkins said all-in-one devices become single points of failure – if your VPN goes down, so does your main firewall and intrusion detection.

Slaby agreed, “except that if you lose your network connectivity because the VPN goes down, it doesn’t make a difference.”

Khaira also liked WhiteHat’s support. Before the VPN deal, WhiteHat helped O&Y source an ISDN concentrator. That happy experience put WhiteHat at the top of the list when it came time to find a VPN. He added that a less productive incident with another vendor made WhiteHat’s solution seem all the better.

“When we first started this project, we were working with Check Point (Software Technologies Ltd.). But during the installation, we had so many problems…we thought, ‘What’s the next best thing we can use for a…VPN?’ The first thing in our reach was the [3110].”

Slaby said Check Point is one of the big VPN players. Intel, by comparison, scrapes the bottom of the market. “It wouldn’t hurt them to spend some marketing dollars. Intel isn’t exactly top-of-mind in the networking space.”

The 3105 is priced at US$1,995; the 3110 is US$3,495 and the 3125 is US$20,000. WhiteHat’s support comes in three flavours. Silver level offers 8am-5pm (Eastern) telephone support; Gold level offers 24×7 phone service and Platinum level offers customized support. Each tier offers software upgrades. Prices vary, although a WhiteHat spokesperson said Silver costs on average 18 per cent of the order price, while Gold costs up to 25 per cent. WhiteHat sets no price for Platinum since it’s different for every customer. For more information see the Web site, http://www.whitehatinc.com.