NetScreen turns to SafeWeb for SSL VPNs

Security v. Convenience

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

NetScreen Technologies Inc has outlined its response to the emerging market for SSL-based extranets as a complement to IPSec VPNs, partnering this week with SafeWeb Inc, one of the startups that is focusing on that market,

writes Kevin Murphy

.

Emeryville, California-based SafeWeb has been selected for NetScreen's Global Security Alliance. The two companies will co-sell each other's products, with some technology integration work likely on the horizon.

This year, companies such as SafeWeb, Neoteris Inc and Aventail Inc have been pushing SSL-based tunneling extranets as a way to reduce the management costs involved in regular IPSec VPNs, which require client software to be deployed and maintained.

The idea is that you sacrifice some security for convenience, deploying a VPN for mission critical remote users and an application proxy, accessed with SSL tunnels and an unmodified web browser, for more general purpose remote users.

"In a given enterprise there are X percent of mobile workers that need hardcore access into databases and ordering systems," said NetScreen director of corporate marketing Chris Roeckl. "Some users need access to a smaller set of applications such as email."

Check Point Software Technologies Ltd, NetScreen's main competitor, has distanced itself from the SSL-VPN space somewhat, although it did turn on some SSL tunneling features in its VPN-1 earlier this year that go some way to address it.

The problem with SSL is that the administrator has no control over the access point. A remote worker could access the corporate services available to them from an internet café with who-knows what kind of malicious software installed.

"[It's] the classic question in implementing a VPN," said NetScreen's Roeckl. "It's really up to the customer to figure out what level of security they feel comfortable with."

The deal with SafeWeb is not exclusive. Roeckl said the company usually partners with two vendors in any given market. Neoteris seems like a likely choice if NetScreen wants to sell another firm's SSL product too.

Roeckl did say, however, that a certain level of technological integration - most likely of the SafeWeb SEA into NetScreen's management tools - is a possibility, though nothing definite has been decided.

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