Check Point raids SSL VPN party

Late entrant looks to secure top billing

Check Point Software has launched its first serious assault on the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) virtual private network (VPN) appliance market.

Called Connectra, the appliance integrates technology from Zone Labs to check that devices connecting into a corporate network are free of spyware or Trojan infection. The security vendor has also announced the addition of an extra layer of Web defences, dubbed Web Intelligence technology, for its gateways, such as VPN-1 and the new Connectra appliance. This is designed to improve content inspection of streaming media applications, among other things.

SSL VPN market heats up

Vendors are jockeying for position in the SSL VPN market, which is expected to grow strongly, albeit from a small base, Analyst firm Infonetics forecasts the SSL-based remote access market will exceed $600m by 2006. The technology scores over earlier IPSec-based VPN technology because it eliminates the need to install client software on worker's machines. SSL-based VPN (clientless) technology uses the security functions built into Web browsers to reduce the cost and complexity of providing secure access to remote users.

The segment has been a hive of activity in recent months, with Symantec, F5, NetScreeen (since acquired by Juniper) buying into the segment. By far the most significant of these forays was NetScreen's $265m acquisition last October of market leader Neoteris.

Check Point sat on its hands through all this activity, relying on partners and an ageing software client for a mosdest presence, despite claiming its intention to be number one in clientless remote access. But now the Israeli vendor has come out all guns blazing.

Managing the back end

David Aminzade of Check Point agreed that the company is late to the SSL VPN party but claimed it hadn't missed much. "SSL VPN has been a tiny market - $20 million worldwide - that's peanuts. However that's changing and the technology is becoming core, so we're building it into our products," he said.

Other vendors have sold SSL VPNs as stand-alone appliances but Check Point is integrating the technology into its management framework and tying it into improved back-end security. "We're giving customers the choice between IPSec and SSL VPNs", Aminzade said.

Check Point Connectra will be available worldwide by June, starting at a pricey $10,000. Web Intelligence technology is also available as an add-on product to Check Point's VPN-1, starting at $5,000. An SSL VPN client addition to VPN-1 (called SSL Network Extender) will be available for $2,300 and upwards from June.

As with its InterSpect internal security appliance, the hardware for Connectra comes from Dell. The launch of improved Web security technology completes Check Point's three-legged security strategy (Web, perimeter and internal) security announced last November. ®

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