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VPN: Security To Go

The changing dynamics of enterprise networking will have a dramatic impact on how security organizations deploy virtual private networks (VPN) over the rest of the decade. Major efforts to integrate heterogeneous broadband-networking environments by using Web services, along with rapid growth of the mobile workforce, are causing many companies to explore alternatives to IPSec-based VPNs.

A recent report issued by Infonetics Research noted that MPLS and SSL are gaining mainstream acceptance and will eventually eclipse IPSec-VPN applications. Analysts say SSL use is projected to nearly double between 2004 and 2006.

Yankee Group analysts reached a similar conclusion. The reason: companies are supporting a growing number of remote-access applications, as more organizations implement strategies to support workers beyond the traditional office environment. A growing number of these road warriors are accessing enterprise-network resources from public or subscription-based hot spots. Yankee Group analysts said these Web-based network-access techniques lend themselves to SSL applications, because SSL enables users to establish connections to corporate resources using any browser.

"By 2006, nearly 70 percent of respondents' mobile workers and telecommuters/day extenders use VPNs," said Jeff Wilson, principal analyst of Infonetics Research. "The two-thirds ceiling that appeared to limit remote-access VPNs when IPSec was the main choice is melting away."

Respondents to the Infonetics survey noted that ease of use and the lack of client software lead the list of SSL VPN drivers by far, but there are others reasons, including the deployment of more Web-based applications and the requirement to work from non-company-owned computers. Other VPN-related trends: