Nortel Networks has created a “VPN-ablement framework” that the company says will help service providers offer managed VPN services to enterprise customers.
Based on familiar Nortel devices, including the Alteon SSL VPN platform, the Shasta 5000 Broadband Service Node (BSN), the Contivity IP Services Gateway, as well as the OPTera Ethernet and Passport Multiservice WAN switches, this framework is designed to help carriers win enterprise clients with hosted IP services, said Ed Daugavietis, the firm’s senior manager, VPN product marketing in Brampton, Ont.
“Today we find most enterprises are building their own VPNs. It’s the do-it-yourself model – get some IPSec boxes and configure them to talk to each other over IPSec tunnels.”
Nortel is out to change the status quo, however. “There are some real attractions to going with a managed service model,” Daugavietis said, pointing out that hosted and managed services allow enterprises to focus on their core business functions, rather than network connectivity. “We think the providers have a huge opportunity.”
To help carriers seize the day, Nortel has connected some of its products together to create four new services. The first offering combines the Alteon SSL VPN platform and the Shasta 5000 BSN to comprise a hosted SSL VPN solution, designed to make remote access easier for the enterprise to manage.
This service brings together Shasta’s IP services and Alteon’s clientless remote access capabilities, such that end users need only a Web browser to access corporate applications while out of the office. According to Nortel, the offering, which would be hosted by a service provider, frees the enterprise from infrastructure management and spells a new revenue stream for the carrier.
The second product connects Nortel’s Optical Ethernet switches with its Passport switches, such that carriers can offer an Ethernet “on-ramp” to Passport IP VPNs. This OPTera-Passport combo also provides site-to-site Ethernet VPN connectivity across a Passport WAN.
Daugavietis said this speaks to the service provider’s drive for revenue, while minding its fear of expenditures.
“If you want to do coast-to-coast Ethernet, the cost of fibre rings across the country and lighting fibre can be fairly daunting. We’re saying,… ‘Build your Ethernet VPNs at the edge of the network and hook them into your existing WAN network, and use the ATM WAN as your core network.”
Third, Nortel combined Contivity’s IPSec capabilities and Passport’s IP services, so businesses can rest assured their data is encrypted as it traverses the WAN.
Lastly, the company has amended its Passport switches, adding features like non-stop OSPF to improve control plane switchovers, and “round trip delay measurements” to help carriers design realistic service level agreements (SLAs).
Roz Roseboro, an industry analyst with RHK Inc. in Chicago, said Nortel’s VPN-ablement framework makes sense.
“They’re saying, ‘We understand the service providers are in a world of hurt right now. Let us help you come up with new revenue streams.'”
But Abner Germanow, enterprise networks research manager with IDC in Boston, said the service provider’s chances of success with hosted VPNs depend on the size of the customer as much as the technology.
“The very large enterprise customers tend to be relatively sophisticated, and they also tend to have very large IT departments, very large IT investments and large IT staffs that have the ability to install, maintain and do VPNs themselves….As you get into the smaller companies, you may end up with enterprises with one or no IT people, but they still want protected traffic and they don’t want to deal with the complexity of setting up a VPN themselves.”
Does that mean carriers should focus on the little guys? Not necessarily.
“There are a zillion different kinds of connections that are needed,” Germanow said, explaining that companies with home users and branch offices to manage might find a need for hosted VPNs.
Daugavietis said the prices of products in the VPN-ablement framework wouldn’t change as a result of this announcement. For more information, visit Nortel online at www.nortelnetworks.com.